What have we learned in the first four weeks of the season, and more importantly, how have the results so far affected the college football futures odds?
September is behind us now, and action continues to heat up of collegiate gridirons across the country. The action we've seen during the first four weeks of the schedule has not only provided us with some spectacular finishes and stunning upsets, but it's also served to send some ripples through the college football futures odds as we head towards the second season of the Division I playoff system.
Still sitting at the top of that chart is defending national champ Ohio State, the Buckeyes fetching roughly a 2/1 return after going off around 7/2 back in the summer. Those odds have tightened despite what has been a disappointing return against the spread so far, just 1-3 ATS. One of those spread defeats was very close to becoming the season's biggest upset, a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois as nearly five touchdown favorites on the College Football Odds.
Ohio State dives into conference play this weekend with a trip to take on undefeated Indiana, but while we know the Buckeyes have a target painted on their back as the defending champions and conference rivalries have a way of producing unexpected results, it doesn't appear they'll be tested until just before Thanksgiving. That's when they play a Michigan State squad that has from No. 5/6 in the preseason to No. 2 in the latest polls.
Speaking Of The Spartans...
Anyone that remembers my preview of the Big Ten back in August will recall that I wasn't that high on the Spartans being able to unseat the Buckeyes and represent the East Division in the Conference Championship. Michigan State has begun with four consecutive wins on its nonconference slate, but it's tough to find one that really impresses.
College football bettors are certainly not impressed with what the Spartans have done, unless they've been fading Mark Dantonio's troops up to now. Michigan State has failed to cover a single spread, including the 31-28 victory at home over Oregon that served to propel the Spartans up behind Ohio State in the polls. Still, they've seen their futures odds for a national title cut almost in half, from 18/1 in the preseason to 10/1 currently.
I'm still not sold on this team, especially since their forte has long been defense and that unit ranks 77th in total yards per game allowed and a disconcerting 108th on the passing side of the equation though even with one of their games coming against run-oriented Air Force. The Spartans still have three tough conference roadies at Michigan, Nebraska and the aforementioned Ohio State.
Who Has The Upper Hand In The SEC?
Another team that has seen its NCAA football futures odds shrunk is Georgia, the Bulldogs also on my preseason list of teams I expected a falloff from. The Bulldogs were going off at 30/1 to win the College Football Playoffs in July, and after four one-sided wins -- covering the spread twice -- they are now 20/1. Mark Richt & Company will get to prove they are for real this weekend with a home matchup vs. Alabama.
While we're talking the SEC and Crimson Tide, Nick Saban's squad has to win out to have a shot at both a conference championship appearance and playoff invite. Even with the upset loss to Ole Miss, the Tide remains exactly where they were in the preseason, 8/1 to win it all.
Mississippi and LSU might be the best two picks from the SEC to win the College Football Playoffs. The Rebels had a bit of a letdown vs. Vanderbilt a week after topping Alabama, but still provide a solid 25/1 return on futures after starting the season at 30/1. Down in Baton Rouge, the Tigers are presently 20/1, roughly where they started the year, and have Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette plowing over defenders like a man amongst boys.
The wildcard in the entire playoff question just might be Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have already suffered a few key injuries, and we'll know more about them after this week's battle against Clemson, but their odds have fattened up to this point at 33/1 after being 20/1 choices in August.
However it plays out, you can find the latest previews and free college football picks right here at SBR.