Defending National Champion Ohio State is the biggest favorite to win its conference. Is there anyone in the Big Ten capable of upsetting those NCAA football futures odds?
There have been teams lined out as heavy favorites entering a college football betting campaign in the past, Alabama in recent years certainly qualifying as such. It's been a while, though, since I've seen one as big of a favorite on the NCAA futures odds to win it all as the Ohio State Buckeyes this year.
The structure change the College Football Playoff brings to the table for consideration on the wagering front definitely calculates out well for Urban Meyer's troops in 2015. There's no bigger favorite to win its conference than Ohio State, currently set as -350 to -400 chalk venturing out for a range of sports books charted by SBR's live college football odds.
The Buckeyes are an even stronger -1000 to take the Big Ten East Division, so just reaching the conference championship seems assured at the very least, right? And winning a Power Five conference title as defending nationals champs is a double-JJ Gold lock to go into the 2015 playoffs, right?
Buckeyes Should Finish Regular Season Unbeaten
Well, let's think about this for a while. When a team is minus-odds to win its conference or division, as Ohio State is, not to mention 3/1 to win it all with the next closest teams pegged at 8/1, there aren't many obstacles expected to be in its path. That notion certainly holds true for the Buckeyes, their schedule a big part of the reason why they're so heavily favored.
Urban Meyer's bunch does draw a tough season opener on the road at Virginia Tech, a game which will be played under prime-time lights to end the first week of the 2015 college football slate. But despite the spread dropping since initially going out (from 14 points to the 10-11 range), I don't believe this game will be even that close as the Buckeyes roll by 20. The next time Ohio State is presented with even a hint of a challenge will be mid-October when Penn State comes to Columbus, the Nittany Lions capable of pulling off the unexpected though I'm not counting on any upset.
Ohio State's toughest two games will be its last, hosting Michigan State at home on November 28 before traveling to Ann Arbor to face Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend. The Spartans are the closest thing to a challenger the Buckeyes have in the Big Ten East, presently drawing a +500 return on the college football futures odds, but I'd like them a little more if they were catching OSU in East Lansing.
A rivalry game like Ohio State-Michigan always presents its share of upset scenarios, one of them for the Buckeyes being they should already have their ticket punched to the conference championship in hand by the time this game rolls around. That could lead to a letdown of sorts in the season finale, but I still believe Ohio State leaves Ann Arbor with a perfect 12-0 record.
West Favorites Beginning New Coaching Eras
Having represented the West three of the past four seasons, it's no surprise to see Wisconsin (+175 to win division) favored to win the group and head to the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5 once again. Making such an accomplishment all the more impressive is the fact the Badgers would do so under a third different head coach.
Helping to make the accomplishment very likely is a conference schedule that finds Wisky avoiding both Ohio State and Michigan State during the regular season. Paul Chryst's tenure at Madison gets underway with a toughie, facing Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Texas on the first Saturday, but he should have a pretty deep squad to take him through the league slate despite losing several high-profile players to the NFL Draft.
Wisconsin will have tough road trips to Nebraska (Oct. 10) and Minnesota on the final Saturday of the regular season, and those two excursions will test the Badgers' ability to potentially roll through conference fixture unscathed. The Cornhuskers (+185 to win division) are the next-closest team on the NCAA football futures to deny Wisconsin a West title, and are also under a new coach in former Oregon State chief Mike Riley. The Golden Gophers (+250) have to begin the season hosting TCU plus face an early-November trip to Ohio State, but get the 'Huskers, Badgers and Michigan at home.
It all should come down to the longest-running rivalry in Division I football, Wisconsin-Minnesota on November 28 to determine who loses to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship. I'm afraid that once again, that will be the Badgers.