2013 College Football Predictions
The End of the BCS Era
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
The long wait for the end of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is finally upon us, as the 2013-14 season will mark the final time players, coaches and fans have to endure the pain of an imperfect playoff system in college football.
Following this season will we get a four-team College Football Playoff selected by a committee … er, wait. Okay, maybe the pain of an imperfect playoff system isn't quite over yet, but just about everyone can agree that even a bad four-team playoff will be better than the BCS.
The BCS will host its final BCS Championship at this year's Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on January 6th, 2014. With the end of the BCS in sight, the biggest question remaining for college football to answer this season is whether or not the Southeastern Conference (SEC) will run their consecutive BCS title streak to eight in a row.
With the start of the regular season just a few weeks away, let's take one last look at the BCS futures odds and breakdown the 2013 futures odds for each conference in college football. All of the odds listed are available at Bovada Sportsbook.
American Athletic Conference (AAC)
Odds to win AAC: SMU 25/1
Formally known as the Big East, the league has had so much turnover in teams the past few years that it chose to re-brand itself as the American Athletic Conference (AAC … not to be confused with the ACC)). The good news for the new AAC is that they have a legit BCS contender in LOUISVILLE, a team that beat the SEC's Florida in the Sugar Bowl last year and one that returns Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater at QB and eight starters on defense.
The problem is that picking the Cardinals to win the inaugural AAC title comes at a heavy price, specifically 4/7 odds. Big East holdovers CINCINNATI and RUTGERS have solid talent back, but the Bearcats have a new coach in Tommy Tuberville and the Scarlet Knights have most of their "tough" conference games on the road. Since I'm not betting on futures to take the chalk every time, my pick for the AAC champ is newcomer SMU at longshot 25/1 odds. The Mustangs have a proven QB in Garrett Gilbert (former Texas QB), 10 returning starters and no Louisville on the schedule … which gives them the best chance to topple the Cardinals if you ask me.
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
Odds to win Atlantic Division: Florida State 1/1
Odds to win Coastal Division: Virginia Tech 13/4
Odds to win ACC: Virginia Tech 7/1
Is this the year that CLEMSON finally puts all of that NFL-ready talent together for an entire season and a run at an ACC title? With Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins headlining 12 returning starters for the Tigers, at least the oddsmakers think so, listing Clemson as the favorite to win the conference.
But I still think FLORIDA STATE has more talent back, especially on defense where technically only four starters return, but guys like Mario Edwards, Jr. and Timmy Jernigan saw plenty of action as youngsters and are ready to leave their mark on the Seminoles program. I also like the fact the Seminoles return four starters along the offensive line, which will help while they break in new QB Jameis Winston. I'll take FSU at even money to pull off the win at Clemson and earn the Atlantic Division.
But I'm going to go out on a limb and take VIRGINIA TECH to win the ACC Championship for two reasons, defense and schedule. Tech returns nine starters from a defense that was real good a year ago (22.9 ppg), and they somehow don't play either Clemson or Florida State. The Hokies can almost backdoor their way into the title game and get a shot at a BCS Bowl with a win in the championship.
Big Ten Conference
Odds to win Leaders Division: Ohio State -500
Odds to win Legends Division: Northwestern 4/1
Odds to win Big Ten: Northwestern 10/1
For the record, I will not lay huge odds to bet on OHIO STATE to win the Leaders Division. But with all of the talent that Urban Meyer has inherited and accumulated in a few recruiting seasons, I don't expect any one else in the division to give them much of a challenge. WISCONSIN has a chance, but with no real QB the Badgers won't have enough to compete with the Buckeyes for a bid to the title game.
The Legends Division is the opposite story, with multiple teams including MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN STATE, NEBRASKA and NORTHWESTERN all with a chance at the automatic title game bid. With 17 returning starters from a 10-win team, I'm going to take a chance at a high reward pick and go with the Northwestern Wildcats to win the Legends. In the title game the it will be a Braxton Miller-vs.-Kain Colter QB showdown with a late Venric Mark punt return sparking the Wildcats upset.
Big 12 Conference
Odds to win Big 12: Baylor 12/1
The race to the Big 12 title this season is wide open, with TEXAS (2/1) and OKLAHOMA STATE (5/2) drawing the role of early favorites in the chase. The Longhorns have QB David Ash and 18 other starters from last year's 9-4 team, and the Cowboys return 14 starters from an 8-5 team, so experience is helping them this year.
OKLAHOMA has probably the best all-around team with an offensive line that is good and deep and playmakers at running back (Damian Williams, Brennan Clay), but the transition from Landry Jones to a full-time Blake Bell at QB is going to be rough.
Off the radar a little is BAYLOR, who will return the most dangerous running duo in the conference in Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin to lead the most dangerous offense in the league. The Bears have had issues with playing defense, but at least they're experienced with eight starters back. The defense will also benefit from the addition of DE Shawn Oakman, a transfer from Penn State that sat out last season. Baylor is great value in a wide open league at 12-to-1.
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Odds to win C-USA: East Carolina 4/1
I won't bore you with a lot of details about the Conference USA season, but with teams coming and going from this conference all the time it's lost a lot of it's luster (if it had any sparkle to begin with). The C-USA is likely to be a two team race this season, between two conference mainstays TULSA and EAST CAROLINA.
The Golden Hurricanes won the title last year running the ball out of the spread, and with three of their top four running backs returning you can expect the same recipe. The problem is that they lost all but three players off the defense, something that could cost them the title game.
The Pirates have 18 starters back, including steady QB Shane Carden and electric RB Vintavious Cooper. East Carolina also gave up playing defense at times last season, which is why new coordinator Rick Smith (S. Fla.) was brought in to get some production. The change will help, so will playing Tulsa at home in November, so I'm taking the Pirates to win the title.
Mid-American Conference (MAC)
Odds to win MAC: Buffalo
With national games on ESPN on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the MAC has turned into a very exciting (cough … no defense) league to watch and wager on during the season. One of the best things about the MAC is the fact that it's usually a wide open title chase, and aside from everyone picking NORTHERN ILLINOIS to remain on top, in my opinion there are four or five other teams that have a legit shot at the MAC Championship this season.
Of course the Huskies return QB Jordan Lynch and their entire offensive line, but that's about it on both sides of the ball from a team that was embarrassed by Florida State in the Orange Bowl last year. Did I mention they lost their coach Dave Doeren (N.C. State) too … yeah to much to overcome for a repeat for me.
My pick for the MAC is a huge sleeper, the BUFFALO BULLS. The Bulls had major injury issues on last year's 4-8 team, but the positive result of last year is that 19 starters return to the team with players with experience behind them too. Plus, the defense could turn into the best in the league because Buffalo has two of the best corners in the conference in Courtney Lester and Najja Johnson, and linebacker depth to boot.
Mountain West Conference (MWC)
Odds to win MWC: Utah State 11/2
The Mountain West has a new look this year with two, six-team divisions and a conference game to determine a champion, which is good because the MWC is a deep league in 2013. In the past this league was BOISE STATE's to lose, but the Broncos only return nine starters and the rest of the league has caught up to them.
FRESNO STATE has another Carr at QB (Derek Carr) and second-year head coach Tim DeRuyter has turned the Bulldogs around in a hurry. With 15 starters back from a team that went 9-4 it was really hard not to pick them here, but I'm going to go with my gut and take MWC newcomer UTAH STATE to win the conference title. I know they lost head coach Gary Anderson (Wisc.), but former WAC MVP Chuckie Keeton is back at QB, so are all five O-lineman and seven starters off a defense that led the team to an 11-2 season last year. There's a lot to like about the Aggies still, and at 11-to-2, they are a great value too.
Odds to win PAC-12 North: Stanford 9/2
Odds to win PAC-12 South: Arizona 13/4
Odds to win PAC-12: Stanford 9/2
The PAC-12 Conference starts the year they way they have the past few seasons, with everyone chasing to keep up with OREGON and STANFORD. The Ducks did lose head coach Chip Kelly to the NFL, but with the talent Kelly amassed at Oregon (cough … illegally?), I think my wife could call plays for the Ducks and they'd still score 70 points a game. But even with all that flash and dash coming out of Eugene, I'm still picking Stanford to win the North. Kevin Hogan emerged as a primetime QB late last season, 13 other starters return from last year's, the Cardinal defense is still outstanding and head coach David Shaw offers the stability that I'll put my bankroll on.
The South is wide open, but I think UCLA is the class of the division. The Bruins have QB Brett Hundley back to lead the offense, and the defensive front-seven could be tops in the PAC-12 this year and should be enough to help them get past their rivals from across Los Angeles in the South.
Southeastern Conference (SEC)
Odds to win SEC East: Georgia 5/4
Odds to win SEC West: Off the Board
Odds to win SEC: Georgia 4/1
The giant distraction at TEXAS A&M over whether Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be suspended or not for selling autographs has futures betting on the SEC off the board at most sportsbooks. With no end in the near future, it's hard to predict how long you'll have to wait to get action on the SEC West in the preseason.
It doesn't really matter much, because everyone and their brother are predicting a third-straight title for ALABAMA. With 14 starters back including QB A.J. McCarron, and a recruiting pool deep with talent, it's really hard not to like the Crimson Tide … until you look at the heavy odds. That's why I'm putting my unit on GEORGIA. The Bulldogs were arguably one play away from toppling mighty Bama last year, and with Aaron Murray and most of the offense returning they might be good enough to score on Bama. I'm just not sure they can outscore Bama.
The final BCS crystal football will be handed out in January and I'm looking at an Alabama-vs.-Stanford game for the title.
Short Favorite: Alabama Crimson Tide - 5/2
The Tide are going to be hard to stop, even though I think a three-peat will be very hard to pull off. It's worth doubling up if they can do it.
Middle of the Road: Stanford Cardinal - 16/1
Stanford has a great defense that they will ride all the way to the title game, the biggest question is whether they can score enough to beat the SEC.
Longshot Prediction: Louisville Cardinals - 16/1
Louisville should, check that should, be undefeated at the end of the regular season and it could be hard to keep a team without a loss out of the BCS. Pressure to add the Cardinal could be a lot, especially if Ohio State, Bama, Stanford and Oregon all have a loss due to much harder schedules.
Be sure to check out all of my college football picks each week of the season. They're always FREE!
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