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The college football season is about to kick off in a matter of weeks. With that said its time to handicap the field and take a look at a couple of the early favorites, some teams that will give you more bang for your buck and a couple of potential sleepers. All lines are from bodog.com. Starting with the Favorites:
Oklahoma returns eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense. It should surprise no one that Oklahoma is the early favorite to win it all and is the preseason number one.
Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles are both preseason candidates to win the Heisman Trophy. Last season Jones threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns. Bryoles, Jones top target had 1,622 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. You should expect both Jones and Broyles to put up similar numbers, especially with a shaky running game this year. Oklahoma will have to find a way to replace DeMarco Murray who graduated. Roy Finch looks like the early favorite to replace him. If Finch is the starter he should have easy sledding as Oklahoma returns all five offensive linemen from a year ago.
The defense of the Sooners does have a few question marks, but overall is very good. The defensive line returns three starters from a year ago and the linebacking core boost one of the best linebackers in the country in Travis Lewis. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, Lewis is going to miss the first two months of the season with an injury. The secondary of Oklahoma has the most question marks as they need to find a replacement for Jamal Flemming, who dropped out of school.
The Sooners are a safe bet this season. They have a fairly easy schedule with only two tough tests. One of those tough tests will come week two when they travel to Florida State, a team they crushed a season ago. If Oklahoma can beat Florida State, it should be smooth sailing until their last game of the season when they go to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State.
If Bob Stoops is going to get rid of the nickname “Bob Oops” than this is the team he will do it with. If you bet $20 the payout will be $90.
Once again Alabama is a favorite to win the BCS National Championship. This years team however is a big question mark and its at the quarterback position. AJ McCarron and Philip Sims are in a battle for who will be the starter. I believe McCarron will win the battle.
Whoever wins the battle, their job will be a bit easier as they have Trent Richardson in the backfield. Richardson has shown glimpses that he can be a star. Now he will get the chance to be the man and he will have to be the man if Alabama is going to navigate through a very tough SEC.
Alabama like Oklahoma returns all five starters on the offensive line, which will provide Richardson with plenty of running room and should give plenty of time whoever the quarterback is.
Defensively Alabama has one of the best linebacking cores in the country with Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. If both stay healthy the front seven of Alabama will be scary. The secondary also looks solid. The Crimson Tide have had a few injuries at the cornerback position, but Mark Baron and Robert Lester are shaping up to be one of the best safety tandems in college football.
All of Alabama’s toughest test come at home as they host both Arkansas and LSU. It will come down to their game at Auburn on Nov. 26. If they get through that game, they very well could finish undefeated.
At 11/2 odds, a $20 bet will win you $110.
There is a whole lot of hype surrounding this Florida State team. Understandable, they return 16 starters and the ACC is weak this season.
EJ Manuel takes over for Christian Ponder this season. Manuel has started six games for Florida State posting a record of 4-2 in that time. Manuel has the ability to pass and run and has a good supporting cast around him. Chris Thompson returns to the backfield and has the potential to rush over a 1,000 yards this season. The wide receiving core is loaded with talent, but to this point the production has not matched the talent.
Defensively Florida State is stacked. Brandon Jenkins is one of the best defensive linemen in the country after posting 13.5 sacks last season. FSU also trouts out one of the best cornerback duo’s in the country in Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes.
Florida State’s schedule is very manageable. Their toughest game will be against Oklahoma which will be a home game. If they get past the Sooners they should run the table. Even if they lose to Oklahoma they will reach the ACC Championship game and should finish the year with only one loss, which would have them in contention for a National Championship appearance.
At 10/1 odds Florida State will pay the best out of the top three favorites. A $20 bet would win you $200.
The biggest question surrounding Wisconsin this season was who was going to play quarterback for the Badgers? Well they solved that question in a big way by landing former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson.
Last season Wilson threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns and is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Adding Wilson to the mix gives Wisconsin one of the most complete offenses in the Big Ten. Behind Wilson will be James While and Monte Ball. Both are excellent backs and will split the carries this year. Last season they combined for 2,048 yards and 32 touchdowns.
The loss of defensive end J.J. Watt leaves a huge whole on the line for Wisconsin. If someone can fill the void he left they should be solid. The secondary will be the strong point as Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry return to anchor a team that made it to the Rose Bowl last season.
The Big Ten will be competitive this season, but overall Wisconsin’s season is not too difficult. They get Nebraska and Penn State at home and have to travel to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Michigan State game will be their most challenging game this year.
At 18/1 odds a $20 bet will win you $360.
If I am betting on a long shot to win it all South Carolina is the team I am looking at the hardest. They are favorite to win the SEC East, have the best running back in the country and one of the best receivers in the country.
Fifth year senior Stephen Garcia is back and under center for the Gamecocks and if this team is going to make a run for a national championship then Garcia will have to keep his head on straight. Garcia has been suspended twice in the past year, but he has talent after throwing for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Lining up behind Garcia is Marcus Lattimore, the best running back in the country. As a freshmen Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. Not only do the Gamecocks have Lattimore, but they have Alshon Jeffery. Last season Jeffery had 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. Jeffery and Lattimore are both Heisman candidates.
Defensively South Carolina has some playmakers. Defensive end Devin Taylor had 7.5 sacks last season and they also bring in the nation’s top recruit in Jadeveon Clowney. The defense is a bit shaky in the secondary, but that is ok because the front four will get plenty of pressure on the quarterback this season.
South Carolina’s toughest test will come on Nov. 5 when they play at Arkansas. They is their only tough road game all year. Luckily for them they get to play Auburn, Georgia and Florida at home. They do travel to Mississippi State, but I do not see them having much trouble with the Bulldogs.
With two Heisman candidates this is a low risk high reward bet. A $20 bet will win you $500.
WVU has a new coach and that coach is Dana Holgorson. If you don’t know who Holgorson is then you will soon. He was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech. Everywhere he has went his offensive has produced and in a big way.
Holgorson loves to pass the ball, a lot. He has the quarterback in Geno Smith where he can throw the ball 40 plus times and be successful. Last season Smith threw for 2,567 yards and 23 touchdowns and this season those numbers should jump up to around 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. WVU returns all their wide receivers for the most part and they have a lot of talent at the position. Smith’s former high school teammate Stedman Bailey is the guy to watch, he has great chemistry with Smith and all the tools to be a star. The running game is a question mark after losing Noel Devine. As of right now it looks like a true freshmen will take over at running back. But overall this is not terrible because WVU is going to throw the ball 50 times a game.
Last season WVU finished 3rd in defense. This year they will have to rebuild after losing seven starters. Defensive end Bruce Irvin returns to anchor the front three and Keith Tandy will be roaming in the secondary. WVU runs the 3-3-5 which confuses a lot of teams. It may take a few weeks for this unit to come together, but Jeff Casteel has proven to be on of the best coordinators in the country.
If WVU can get by LSU, who they play week four in Morgantown than this team could run the table. The Big East is a weak conference and their road games are at Syracuse, Rutgers, Cincy and USF. All four of those road games are very winnable.
In a bad conference WVU is an intriguing bet. A $20 bet will win you $600.
Here is a team that went 11-2 last season and returns their starting quarterback and both running backs. Yes they are a long shot, but they have the pieces to make some noise.
Last season Kirk Cousins passed for 2,825 yards and 20 touchdowns and will have some weapons around him. In the backfield Edwin Baker returns after rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sophomore Le’Veon Bell also will see carries after he rushed for 605 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshmen.
Defensively the Spartans line will be their strong point as Jerel Worthy and William Gholston look to anchor the front four. The secondary will also be solid as Michigan State returns both their starting corners in Trenton Robinson and Johnny Adams, who combined for seven interceptions last season.
Michigan State’s schedule is pretty tough. They have to go to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa. They also play Michigan and Wisconsin at home. Michigan State surprised a lot of people last year. Don’t expect them to creep up on teams this year as they will get everyone’s best shot.
A $20 bet would win you $1,200.
Hey they are the defending national champions so why not take a flyer on them?
Everyone know’s they lost Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, but there is still some talent on this Tigers roster. The talent starts at running back with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Dyer is poised for a breakout year after rushing for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns as a freshmen. McCalebb also looks to have a big year as he averaged 8.3 yards a carry a year ago and had nine touchdowns. If Barrett Trotter can manage games for Auburn and not lose them, then they could make some noise.
On defense the big question is who will replace Fairley? The Tigers only return one starter on the defensive line and that is Nosa Eguae. The secondary like the line also has questions as Neiko Thorpe is the only returning starter in the secondary. Gene Chizik is known as a defensive guy so he will be tested with this young group.
The Tigers have a great rushing attack and Gus Malzahn is one of the best offensive coordinators in the game. With that said their schedule is very difficult. They play at South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU all within a four-week span. They also end the season with Alabama at home. Some young players will have to step up and fast if the tigers are going to repeat.
A $20 bet will win you $2,000.