The kickoff of the 2008 season still is weeks away but there are at least a couple of good reasons why college football betting should be near the top of your wagering playbook right now.
For starters, it's never too early to begin researching the upcoming gridiron campaign, which begins with 14 games on Thursday, Aug. 28. More importantly, sportsbooks already have future book lines posted, asking gamblers to wager on which university will be crowned the Bowl Champion Series (BCS) national titleholder in Miami, January 8, 2009.
Sure, some future book lists are drenched with vigorish, but savvy bettors understand that a swig of bitter juice this summer may be worth the discomfort if you can taste the fruit at the end of the vine come January. That's because while betting an individual team may have some value in and of itself, the real advantage is in holding a ticket on a live team for the BCS title game.
In that regard, bettors need not pick the winner of the BCS game, just one of the two participants. If you have the favorite in futures, then you can assure yourself a solid payday by betting the underdog in the championship game. You can take the points and possibly win twice-if your future book favorite wins but does not cover-or opt for the dog on the money line, where you'll only win once, but the return on the underdog will be greater.
If you hold a future book ducat on the BCS underdog, then a profit can be assured by betting the favorite on the money line.
Of course, before any of this college football betting manipulation can take place, you have to identify a likely candidate (or three) for the BCS title game. Like last year, it's unlikely that the championship game will feature an undefeated team and, as was the case last season, even a team with two defeats could play for the title.
With that in mind, let's look at some early contenders (future book odds in parentheses):
Southern Cal (3/1): The Trojans have some huge holes to fill (seven players were drafted in the first two rounds) but Coach Pete Carroll has shown an ability to quickly reload and this year should be no different. What's more, USC gets all its toughest foes—Ohio State, Oregon, Cal, Arizona State and Notre Dame—at home, where they're 35-1, straight up, since 2001.
Florida (13/2): Sixteen returning starters, including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow auger well for the Gators making a strong rn at their second national title in three years. The schedule is favorable with top opponents LSU and South Carolina forced to visit The Swamp and Georgia on a neutral field in Jacksonville. Still, getting through the SEC minefield unscathed won't be easy.
Ohio State (8/1): The Buckeyes return 19 starters from last year's BCS runner-up, the most of any team in the top 25. Their defense is rock solid but Ohio STate has a September trip to USC that could derail their title aspirations, if only temporarily.
Oklahoma (10/1): Sam Bradford, the NCAA's most efficient quarterback last season, returns, as do a doszen other starters, and the Sooners meet all their most challenging opponents including Texas Tech, Nebraska and Kansas, at home. Missouri is ot on this year's schedule and, as usual, the game against Texas in Dallas, Oct. 11, will go a long way in deciding each team's future.
Georgia (10/1): The good news is that the Bulldogs, who finished ranked second nationally a season ago, return 17 starters. The bad news is that they have the third most difficult schedule in college football this year, paying top 25 teams LSU, Auburn and South Carolina on the road and Florida on a neutral field. Win three out of four and Georgia could be in the title game.
Texas (12/1): Given a brutal schedule that features games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri and Kansas, we think 12/1 is a little light for a team that returns just 11 starters.
Virginia Tech (15/1), Missouri (15/1), LSU (18/1), West Virginia (20/1), Auburn (20/1), Clemson (20/1), Wisconsin (30/1), Illinois (30/1), Tennessee (30/1) and Kansas (33/1) all have appeal as college football betting future book longshots who could surprise in what looks like a wide-open race to the BCS title.