I've always had a strong affinity for futures odds, especially as they related to college football. The Big Ten odds always come out mid-summer, usually during or just after the slew of preview magazines gets properly digested, but I've always thought the bookies bring a stronger game. Sure, Steele & Co. put their money where their mouth is in terms of predictions -- no one likes an expert who proves every year they aren't very good at their job, but at the same time that risk is only indirect. It's typically analysis and information first, and Steele is the first name you think of precisely because of the homework he puts in. If he puts in the sweat and is at least somewhat right along the way, well that seems to make the magazine worthwhile.
Oddsmakers have no such luxury. A bad line means a bad business, and so it's be right or get hammered. Sure, they're dealing with most of the same info as the "experts", and sure popular teams are probably taking a little extra juice on average, but there's a pretty real risk/reward model here the magazines don't share.
It's for these reasons I find this worthwhile, or at least the best we can do in August.
An interesting note before we get started, as posted above the division championship odds:
Team selected needs to win the division and advance to the conference championship game.
This isn't specifically targeted at Ohio State -- it appears above every division odds sheet -- but there's only one real way this can actually happen: a team is barred by the NCAA form playing a bowl game and, therefore, from appearing in the Big Ten conference championship game.
Does this affect Ohio State's odds? Probably not. And it would seem to void the whole division anyway: if Penn State finishes second in the group but goes to the championship game by default, they didn't fulfill the first half of the above. So in that regard we have no added elements below.
On with the Big Ten division championship odds (all numbers from BoDog). Leaders (That's Us) Division:
Ohio State 2/1
Penn State 43/20
Ohio State gets both Wisconsin and Penn State at home this year, which of course is nice. Penn State must play both Wisconsin and Ohio State on the road; not as helpful. It also probably means Vegas would call Paterno's team the second best in the division seeing as how they're just a hare behind Ohio State even with that compounded disadvantage.
This is also a story of two divisions -- Illinois, Purdue and Indiana are well behind the pace.
And the the Legends (That's Them) Division:
Michigan State 4/1
Much has been made of Nebraska's first draw, but it's misleading. Sure they have to travel to Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan, but only one of those teams is in their division. Yes, they all count but a loss out of the group is much less damning, in part because doing that but winning in-division means you hold the tiebreakers. Michigan State and Iowa are both at home.
And your Big Ten odds to win the whole thing (Legends in italic):
Ohio State 5/1
Penn State 11/2
Michigan State 10/1
Some pretty fun things start to happen when you look at parity:
- If you add the "place" (Nebraska = 1, Wisconsin = 2, ect....I know, very scientific) you get Leaders 39.5, Legends 38.5.
- The Leaders clearly have more "top tier" teams (3), but everyone but Minnesota could reasonably expect to win the Legends group.
- The median odds of each group -- you have to average the #3 and #4 spot of each -- reads Leaders +152, Legends +160.
National championship time:
(9) Wisconsin 20/1
(10) Nebraska 25/1
(11) Ohio State 25/1
(18) Penn State 30/1
(23) Michigan State 50/1
(26) Iowa 65/1
(28) Michigan 75/1
Why Wisconsin jumps Nebraska here I cannot say. Both have relatively straightforward OOCs: Wisconsin takes on Oregon State, Nebraska has Washington; both Pac-12 schools fall right in the middle of the conference odds (6th and 7th, respectively). This is either a macro thing with a lot of eyes on Wisconsin or, and we're reaching at this point, Wisconsin might be projected to have some advantages against the top-odded national teams that Nebraska does not. What those advantages might be I can't really speculate on right now.
Parity seems to strike again here as well. The theme is probably that the Leaders will probably be the harder division to win -- you're talking about three teams in the top 20 compared to just one for the Legends -- however the Legends give you more consistent tests.
The other thing to note is the lack of title contenders. For all the talk about Wisconsin and Nebraska, they both fall behind: three SEC teams, two Pac-12 teams, and one member each from the Big "12", ACC and field of non-BCS players. The Big Ten is deep this year, but once again seems to lack a real media darling to ride. What is especially troubling for the ESPN hype-machine is that there's not even a clear #1 to focus on now that we're flipping Big Ten and MNC odds around.
And one more note:
(1) Oklahoma 9/2
(2) Alabama 11/2
Who knows what happens in the AP, but Alabama might not repeat as the #1 ranked team going into the Penn State game like they did last year. It'll be close, though.
And a walk through the Heisman Odds:
(T4) Denard Robinson (QB Michigan) 15/2
No surprise there. Your OOC special:
(6) Trent Richardson (RB Alabama) 10/1
Still, easily replaceable, probably the 10th best player on the team. And this, probably a throw-away bet:
(T15) Kirk Cousins (QB Michigan State) 35/1
Here is something interesting, and more proof that Wisconsin isn't recruiting as much as cloning their skill players every couple of years:
(T31) James White (RB Wisconsin) 80/1
(T31) Montee Ball (RB Wisconsin) 80/1
And the rest:
This feels per usual for the Big Ten, minus the ridiculous Pryor line. Denard fits the bill, although you first have to bet that Hoke will even put him in a situation to win it, and then of course that he will perform. This has been the best player on the best team award for a while now, and Michigan is not projected to be the best team. That's probably all you need to know about someone from the Big Ten winning the Heisman.
Your other conference championship odds go like so:
SEC Odds To Win - Alabama (9/5)
ACC Odds To Win - Florida State (3/2)
Big 12 Odds To Win - Oklahoma (4/9) -- Texas is third.
Big East Odds To Win - West Virginia (9/5) -- Pitt is third.
Pac-12 Odds To Win - Oregon (2/1)
MAC - Toledo (13/4) -- Temple is third, Eastern Michigan dead last at 40/1.
If you've heard any tips about a horse, fill us in.