By: Travis Pulver
Everyone loves a good underdog. We love to see one of college football’s big dogs get taken down a peg by someone that wasn’t supposed to put up a fight. But what is even better is when an underdog takes down all the big dogs and wins the national championship.
It makes for a more entertaining season for the fans, and a more profitable one any gamblers that chose the right longshot during the preseason. The hard part, of course, is figuring out which longshots might have a real shot.
What qualities should you look for?
There must be some talent on the team, but not too much and few (if any) superstars. Too many star players will mean fans will have expectations for the team resulting in shorter odds. But their need to be enough potential stars to warrant thinking a team could win it all.
Does anyone fit the bill in college football this season?
National Championship Odds: Are Any Longshots Worth Betting On?
Before going further, it may be necessary to discuss how to identify a longshot team.
Their schedule must be a tough one, too. Since the team will not be on the radar of voters and the public in the preseason, they will need a chance to prove their worth by taking down multiple top 25 (preferably top ten) teams.
Their odds are going to be longer, of course. But how long do the odds need to be to make the team a ‘longshot?’
If you are looking for an exact number, it will likely vary from one person to the next. Some would say odds need to at least +2000, which would make most college football teams longshots (all but six according to the odds at (DraftKings).
That would also mean LSU was a longshot last season with +2500 odds in the preseason. If that is as long as you want to go, then give Notre Dame (+2800), Texas A&M (+3300), and Oklahoma (+3300) some serious consideration. However, each team has its faults.
Notre Dame’s offense should be fine, but the defense only has five returning starters. For the Aggies to do it, Kellen Mond will have to be this year’s Joe Burrow. The Sooners lot their best defensive players to the NFL. It remains to be seen who they will have at quarterback this season— or if he’ll be good enough to make Oklahoma contender.
So, how high should you aim? The higher, the better, of course, because everyone wants to win more while risking less. But realistically? The biggest longshot to win it all this millennium was Auburn in 2010 (+5000), followed by Ohio State (+4000) in 2014.
There are certainly a handful of teams with similar odds this season that may be worth betting on:
Auburn Tigers +5000
Oregon Ducks +5000
Penn State +5000
USC Trojans +5000
All four have talented rosters and tough schedules, but not so tough that they have any room for error. However, should they win out and go through the regular season undefeated, they could make it into the conversation.
If you are interested more in a team with really long odds:
Michigan Wolverines +6600
The defense should be in good shape this season with a lot of veteran talent coming back. But the offense is going to need to do some work. It needs a new quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh has struggled to find a good one while at Michigan, and four of five offensive line starters. But if they can win out and be undefeated heading into the Ohio State game, should they beat the Buckeyes, they could have a resume worthy of a title shot.
Giddy Up! What Cowboys and Rebels Can Make an Impact on the National Championship Odds
Oklahoma State Cowboys +10000
The offense could be one of the most explosive in college football this season. They will need a couple of guys to step on the offensive line, but the skill position guys are among the best at what they do. As for the defense, it was good-but-not-great by Big 12 standards last season, but it will need to be better for the Cowboy to have a shot.
It would help if their non-conference schedule were tougher. As is, the Cowboys will likely need a dominant, undefeated season to have a shot at the playoffs and the national title.
Ole Miss Rebels +15000
What makes these guys interesting is new head coach Lane Kiffin. If he can add an efficient and productive passing game to what was already an excellent run game, the Ole Miss offense could be fun to watch– and tough to beat this season.
There is talent on both sides of the ball. If Kiffin can work his magic on the offense, with a loaded SEC-West schedule, if they can win games, they will be in the conversation.
TCU Horned Frogs +25000
Had TCU gone 6-1 instead of 1-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, their preseason odds would be drastically different. But while freshman Max Duggan showed a ton of potential at quarterback, he made lots of mistakes. He has to take a giant leap forward if TCU is going to have a chance.
But his rebuilt offensive line will need to be better than last season’s group. A running back will need to step up and become the go-to guy for the offense. As for the defense, despite losing a few guys to the NFL, this season’s unit should be solid.
NCAA Betting on the National Championship Conclusion
So—who should you bet on?
If you are asking who you ‘should’ bet, on the answer is easy—no one. None of these longshot teams are expected to be in their conference championship picture, let alone the national one. But longshots have been known to emerge and surprise the masses from time to time.
If Lady Luck were to smile down on any of these teams, it would sure be nice to get money down while the odds are as long as they are.