The Florida State Seminoles are favored in the betting market to repeat as national champions, but their road to the championship game will be more difficult due to the first college football playoff. Should sports bettors back the Seminoles in the futures market? Is there any value?
Florida State is the betting favorite at +324 odds to win the 2015 NCAA Championship Game at Pinnacle Sports—more than half the price of the Alabama Crimson Tide (+652), who is the second choice in the market.
A lot can happen from mid-May to the first week of the regular season, which is why I wouldn’t advise sports bettors to back the Seminoles at this price, especially since Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston continues to make news off the football field.
Dominant in 2013-14
The Seminoles were clearly the best team in college football a season ago in winning the BCS Championship over the Auburn Tigers, as they averaged 51.6 points per game offensively and allowed just 12.1 points a contest—both figures ranked first nationally.
Florida State won its first 13 games by at least two touchdowns, which led directly to becoming the only program to win a bowl game in each of the last six seasons.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher is expected to welcome back 14 starters combined on offense and defense—seven on each side of the football. Winston has an opportunity to surpass his tremendous numbers from a season ago, considering he’ll be protected by four returning players on the offensive line—a group that has combined for 113 starts since arriving in Tallahassee.
On the other side of the football, FSU will be led by junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., who posted a game-high three tackles-for-loss in the national title game.
Owning the conference
The Seminoles have won their last 15 games against ACC opponents—forcing 36 turnovers and registering 35 sacks over that span. Florida State will likely continue its dominance due to having seven players returning from the 2013 Coaches All-ACC 1st or 2nd Team Offense, while the rest of the conference welcomes back just five.
Winston will have numerous players to target, with tight end Nick O’Leary leading the nation in yards per catch at the position in 2013, while wide receiver Rashad Greene ranks fourth on the school’s all-time reception list.
It’s difficult to fully comprehend a team’s strength of schedule this time of year, but Florida State will play Oklahoma State and Clemson in two of its first three games of the season. The Seminoles will also face a major challenge in hosting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in mid-October, while going on the road versus the Miami Hurricanes a month later—before ultimately finishing the regular season against the Florida Gators in Tallahassee.
Fisher will need to keep his locker room motivated from the opening bell, as one loss could easily turn into three or four, considering a good portion of the roster has already reached the pinnacle of collegiate athletics. The playoff format may actually help Florida State—allowing it to recover from a heartbreaking loss that most defending national champions endure the following season.
I'll be looking to back other teams to win it all in the coming months—readers should take a similar approach in preparing college football picks.