October 17, 2021

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The Education Specialists

College football odds: Ole Miss, Oklahoma State among undervalued teams entering 2021 season

The appeal for college football stems largely from its volatility, but even 2020 was a little too much. Win totals? You had to throw ’em out because teams weren’t playing full schedules and games were being reshuffled or canceled weekly. Couple in COVID-related absences, and betting on college football was a frustrating, often fruitless endeavor. 

The pandemic may still be ongoing, but college football feels more normal heading into the 2021 season as the wagering waters have calmed somewhat. So with Week 0 less than a month out, let’s take one more look at some championship game futures for undervalued teams that offer substantial payouts. Of course, none of these teams will be favorites, even in their own divisions, but with a few breaks they might overachieve enough to win their conference title. 

Championship odds below provided via Caesars Sportsbook. 

Odds to win ACC championship: +3000

Look, the ACC is Clemson’s to lose. Everyone gets that. But with so much attention on North Carolina and Miami (FL) as dark horses out of the Coastal, the Hokies are flying under the radar. This team returns a bunch of All-ACC caliber dudes, including defensive end Amare Barno as well as defensive backs Chamarri Conner and Jermaine Waller. The defense has a chance to be sneaky good after taking its lumps in 2020. The offense also has a terrific group of pass-catchers coming back, too, with Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson and tight end James Mitchell all averaging more than 15 yards per catch a year ago. If it all comes together for QB Braxton Burmeister, who is a ridiculous athlete, that offense is going to be tough to slow down. 

Virginia Tech’s toughest regular season games — vs. North Carolina in Week 1 and Notre Dame in October — are at home, and it misses Clemson altogether. The Coastal in general gives teams an easier path to the ACC Championship Game, and I’d much prefer the Hokies’ odds vs. Clemson in a one-off game than I would to finish above the Tigers in a division race over the course of a full season. Plus, there’s a real now-or-never feel to Justin Fuente’s time in Blacksburg, so an unexpected run to the ACC title would help take a lot of heat off his seat. 

Big Ten: Iowa 

Odds to win Big Ten championship: +1200

Landing on Iowa as the Big Ten’s undervalued team is more a process of elimination than anything else. Taking anyone out of the Big Ten East not named Ohio State wouldn’t be prudent, which shifts focus to the West. Wisconsin is +900, which is a good payout if you’re going to bet against the Buckeyes. However, the Badgers are the preseason favorites to win the West and their odds feel about right. 

That leads us to the Hawkeyes. They don’t get Ohio State in the regular season and play Penn State at home. The scheduling breaks may prove beneficial because Iowa has to replace some big names off of last year’s team that won six straight to end 2020 — namely left tackle Alaric Jackson and defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon. That’s going to be a challenge, but by now Iowa has shown it can at least reload in the trenches. The offense needs some more consistency out of quarterback Spencer Petras, and I really wonder about the ceiling of this team, but could eight or nine wins be enough in the West? Sure. And at that point, it just needs to be your day in the Big Ten title game. 

Odds to win Big 12 championship: +1200

Getting the Pokes at +1200 is a nice payout for a high-floor program that seems to do better when there’s less preseason hype. There’s a lot to like with this team, too. The defense returns pretty much everyone, and it projects to be among the Big 12’s best, front-to-back. The key will be finding a replacement receiver for Tylan Wallace. I’m less concerned about replacing Chubba Hubbard at running back and QB Spencer Sanders is a difficult player to stop because of his legs … but he needs to improve on his ball security and decision-making. 

There are some tricky road games — Texas and Iowa State in back-to-back weeks will be tough — but the Nov. 27 finale vs. Oklahoma is circled. Given the Sooners’ departure to the SEC, I’m actually a bit terrified of what Stillwater might be like that night. The emotions feeding into the burning desire to pull the upset will be at a fever pitch. 

Odds to win Pac-12 championship: +1200

On paper, Chip Kelly’s return to college football has produced underwhelming results. He’s 10-21 in three seasons at UCLA without a winning season. But anyone who watched the Bruins in 2020 should have noticed a marked improvement. Now, with some patience running thin on Kelly’s time in L.A., pegging UCLA as a long-shot Pac-12 champ is about belief. Do you believe the Bruins, returning one of the most experienced teams in 2021, were closer to 6-1 than 3-4 in 2020? Do you believe Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the kind of quarterback that Kelly needs to make the necessary jump? Do you believe the critical, late-game mistakes can be fixed? Do you believe that USC is too unreliable and that Arizona State may have major NCAA problems coming down the pike? 

There are surer options for undervalued teams, obviously; for example: Utah at +700 seems like a steal. But I like the potential volatility of UCLA. If Oregon and Washington are traditional bonds, the Bruins might be Dogecoin. 

Odds to win SEC championship: +2500

Alabama is now terrorizing college football and winning national championships with absurd offenses. So who better to make a surprise run to a SEC title than the man who helped Nick Saban transform the Crimson Tide: Lane Kiffin. The Rebels can — and will, for better or worse — sling it around as much as any team. Quarterback Matt Corral is the conference’s top returning passer and should have his eyes on a 4,000-yard season. 

The defense, meanwhile, has a lot of seniors, but it’s debatable whether that’s a good thing after the Rebels finished [/checks notes] 13th in the SEC against the pass in 2020. It’s worth noting, though, that Kiffin and his staff came to Oxford right when COVID-19 hit, which didn’t allow for a full offseason. Still, Ole Miss finished 5-5 and gave Alabama a heart attack. This year, the Rebels miss Florida and Georgia out of the SEC East. If you have to pass your way to Atlanta, there are worse teams to take a flier on than Ole Miss.