As the football season fast approaches, college football handicappers know who the favorites are. The idea from here is to find the right long shot to use for sports picks to win from the Power 5 conferences.
Let's face it, it is unlikely all the favorites will win, as we saw with Oklahoma last year from the Big 12. With the SEC and Pac-12 looking more competitive at the top of those conferences, the favorites are not a shoo-in at sportsbooks.
Here is a look at one team from each of the major conferences who might have a real chance to shock the world.
ACC - Virginia Tech
Florida State (+200) and Clemson (+280) are the obvious choices, but Virginia Tech deserves to be in this conversation. Both the frontrunners look to be a bit weaker than in recent years and the Hokies defense is set to be its best in the last couple of years, instead of the often over-hyped version we have witnessed recently.
Senior quarterback Michael Brewer has to play much smarter than last year and chances are he will having a better offensive line and more weapons than what has been seen in Blacksburg for roughly four seasons. At +600 at Hertitage.eu and a favorable slate, Virginia Tech might we worth considering against the college football odds.
Big Ten - Michigan State
I know, you are rolling your eyes since Michigan State is the second choice to win the Big Ten conference, so they are hardly a long shot. I cannot argue to severely other than to say Ohio State is such a prohibitive favorite at -260, compared to the Spartans at +800. Besides Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan all having new head coaches and flaws, so nowhere else to turn.
QB Conner Cook comes into his senior year and the offense should hum all season. Somehow the defense will come together and the front seven has a chance to really be special. Yes, there is the matter of winning at Columbus, but stranger things have happened in late November.
Big 12 - Oklahoma State
Not going to get much of an argument TCU (+180) and Baylor (+250) deserve the accolades from the Big 12. But don't go to sleep on the squad from Stillwater at +700. Coach Mike Gundy finally has a quarterback he can depend on in Mason Rudolph, which should lead to the passing game being back to normal for the Cowboys. The defense returns seven starters and has playmakers.
The Big 12 back-loaded all the top teams to face each other (unlike the SEC who schedules FCS opponents) and Okie State in the month of November has TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all at Boone Pickens Stadium. If the Cowboys are good enough, the table is at least set for success.
Pac-12 - Arizona State
For the first time in several years, Oregon is not favored to win the conference, they are the second choice at +275, with USC at +225. The Trojans have the most amount of talent, but doubts still surround Steve Sarkisian and if he's good enough to make great in-game decisions.
Arizona State is at +800 and returns a senior quarterback with good experience in Mike Bercovici and a very good runner in D.J. Foster. Coach Todd Graham always puts together a strong offense and with nine starters back from a defense which finished sixth in the Pac-12, it's not a stretch to think the Sun Devils could step up. With home games versus USC, Oregon and in-state rival Arizona, there could be a lot of excitement in Tempe.
SEC - LSU
Alabama (+300) and Auburn (+475) are the top two choices out the SEC West and Georgia is the second overall pick and favorite coming out of the SEC East at +450. However, for college football picks, LSU is a prime sleeper at +800.
You know the Tigers will be able to run the ball and they will have athletes all over the field. Coach Les Miles has stated a more aggressive LSU defense is a high priority, causing more turnovers and sacks with his new coaches on that side of the ball. It is given the Tigers will have a thumping ground attack and what could elevate LSU is if QB Anthony Jennings becomes a average passer and can make the third down connections. They will have Auburn at home and be at Bama the first week of November and just maybe Bengal Tigers fans will be celebrating.