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NCAA Football 2017-18 Futures Odds and CFP Prediction 

SEC(29 titles) @ Big Ten(39 titles)

  • Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta, GA
  • When: January 8, 2018 8:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Alabama (+275), Ohio State (+600), USC (+700), Florida State (+700), Penn State (+1400), Michigan (+1600), Auburn (+2000)

With due respect to chalkboard passing-game wizards like Mike Leach or Bobby Petrino, the gridiron is most often conquered by those who boil things down to utter simplicity. For instance, Vince Lombardi took over a team in Green Bay which was running plays like “Green Seven Fake-Toss Grace Pop,” and put in a playbook with calls like “42.”

John Madden, a more recent common-sense Zen master, has a favorite saying – it’s never as bad as you think it is when you lose, and it’s never as good as you think it is when you win. Those words are not always heeded by bookies and bettors, who seem driven by recent results as if last season’s wins and losses could “carry over.”

The Oklahoma Sooners are T-5 on the Bovada Sportsbook futures board as potential 2018 College Football Playoff champions, based on a promising-if-flaky 2016-17 – but the program’s scandal-plagued QB, Baker Mayfield, is not a 100% sure bet to begin the season free of courtroom headaches. Similarly, Houston enjoys the shortest odds of any non-P5 school after a nice campaign, but has lost its star quarterback Greg Ward to graduation.

Among the more forward-thinking odds, Alabama is viewed as an almost-prohibitive favorite at (+275). Ohio State (despite getting whomped in January’s CFP) is at (+600) with USC and Florida State enjoying a 7/1 chance to win it all…according to the bookies.

MSB, however, sees the most value in another eastern powerhouse.

Our favorite problems

Alabama Florida Betting Lines

In late 2016, Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide looked to have the most dominant defense on any level since the 1985 Chicago Bears. ‘Bama could have won several contests by punting on 1st down and letting their crushing ‘D do all the work. But in the national championship loss to Clemson they learned that in today’s landscape, at some point you have to score points in bunches.

Tide QB Jalen Hurts ran for a go-ahead touchdown on his final play as a freshman, and loyalists are excited about developing a dual-threat field general. But Hurts struggled against good secondaries, averaging only 5.2 ypa against top-10 defenses. There is also no guarantee that Saban’s defense will continue its amazing level of dominance, since size and talent are only one part of that equation. Strangling defenses like last season’s are rare and usually temporary – the Baltimore Ravens fielded a fine ‘D in 2002 but nothing like the unit that won the previous Super Bowl by itself.

The other top schools on the futures board will have conference-issues. The Big 12 simply isn’t what it once was, making any wager on Oklahoma a fool’s errand. Florida State must out-play Clemson and Louisville over 12 weeks; Ohio State will have Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin to deal with in what might be the strongest Big Ten in recent memory.

Finally, USC’s starting QB Sam Darnold is being touted as one of the top NFL draft names before the season even begins. But Shield scouts do not care if Darnold wins a championship for Southern California, they only care if he can memorize 200 plays and throw a 15-yard down-and-out consistently. The Trojans must contend with Washington – where genius HC Chris Petersen finally has a roster to back up his brains – and schools like Oregon and Stanford which can play spoiler in any given season.

Clawing out a new path to January

Wager on the Auburn Tigers to win the 2017-18 College Football Playoff and get a 50% sign-up bonus from Bovada Sportsbook. 

Don’t look now, but the Auburn Tigers may have just hung the Moon.

The SEC is still the biggest, fastest and most talented conference in college football. But its fanatical recruiting has, over time, turned the QB position into a weakness. Potential quarterbacks are sought at younger and younger ages, with assistants absurdly roaming Middle School halls looking for early commits. But it’s hard to tell how an athlete will handle the Peach Bowl when he’s 13 years old. That’s how Alabama wound up with a below-average passer trying to out-gun Clemson’s DeShaun Watson in January.

Auburn, meanwhile, has arguably been one solid, consistent QB away from winning another SEC Championship and possibly the CFP. A fine defense and outrageously-productive rushing offense has been enough to knock on the door – but underwhelming play at the most important position has kept Gus Malzahn’s program from besting its top SEC rivals.

Enter Jarrett Stidham. The junior has transferred to Auburn from McLennan Community College after leaving Baylor as a freshman, and has the potential to set Tiger Nation ablaze. In limited action with the Bears, Stidham shined with an accurate passing arm and speedy legs. His well-toned 6’3″ frame can also withstand the pounding of SEC linebackers on designed carries.

Yes, the conference has seen its share of transfer-passers in recent days. But none are as proven on an elite NCAA level as Stidham…and few have had his supporting cast.

And remember what happened last time the Auburn Tigers started a Juco transfer at QB?

Worth the wait

When in doubt, MSB recommends skipping favorites on futures’ boards and instead sinking your teeth into a bet with a real payoff. After all, there’s no such thing as a coin-flip or sure-winner future, so you might as well pick odds that promise a hefty jackpot.

But at (+2000) there is simply no better wager in the offing than the Auburn Tigers in 2017-18. Adding a puzzle piece is one thing – turning the most crucial position from a liability to a strength is quite another. It could mean that Auburn ends up a favorite in the Iron Bowl this December…for the first time since “Superman” flew away to Carolina.

Take Stidham and the Tigers for a handsome potential payday.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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