The college football season kicks off in late August, which means those betting pigskin have already started sizing up the potential contenders for the CFP Championship and the best handicappers are on the game.
Regular names like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are high atop the futures odds board, but if you really want to make some serious coin at the end of the college campaign, these three live long shots could be worth a wager to win it all in 2018-19.
Penn State Nittany Lions (+1,200 to win CFP Championship)
The Nittany Lions were a very live long shot last season and looked like they might make a run at a playoff spot before the wheels fell off the PSU bus with back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan State in Weeks 9 and 10.
Gone is star running back Saquon Barkley, but Penn State retains quarterback Trace McSorley and has some great weapons around him, like RB Miles Sanders and WRs Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Brent Pry continues to get the most from his players, who may not be of the Ohio State or Michigan pedigree, but hold their own against the Big Ten heavyweights.
The schedule is set up well for the Nittany Lions in 2018. The Buckeyes and Spartans come to Happy Valley this year, with the toughest road test being a trip to Michigan in Week 10. This is a very well-coached team and James Franklin and his staff could be flirting with a playoff spot if they take advantage of those key matchups.
Texas Longhorns (+2,000 to win CFP Championship)
The Longhorns enter Year 2 under head coach Tom Herman, and that can only mean bigger and better things for Texas football. Last season, the Horns played up to their competition, taking Oklahoma and Southern Cal to the brink, but then suffered a letdown against lighter foes – like losses to Maryland and Texas Tech. With Herman’s systems firmly in place, there should be more consistency from this program in 2018.
Texas continues to be rich in talent, notably on defense where it ranked 30th in points against last year. The Longhorns’ stop unit also did some damage of its own, leading the country in non-offensive touchdowns with seven scores on the season. With a surplus of talent in the secondary, bettors can expect more fireworks from the Texas defense when opponents look deep.
The Horns 2018 slate starts with a revenge game against Maryland – a matchup that could really propel Herman’s squad in the right direction out of the gate. They have some tall tests in three road games at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma for the Red River Rivalry in Week 6, but with such a turnover in talent in the Big 12, Texas may slide into the top spot and a playoff berth.
Arizona Wildcats (+10,500)
You want long shots? You got one in Arizona. The Wildcats aren’t the favorite to win the Pac-12, and sit about fourth in the conference championship odds. But Arizona is worth a look simply because it may have the best player in college football on the field. Quarterback Khalil Tate took the country by storm last season, jump starting the Wildcats’ attack with his dual-threat set and quickly rising up the Heisman odds in the process. This year, Tate is sitting at 14/1 – tied as the fourth overall favorite to win top individual honors.
Arizona begins the Kevin Sumlin era after the failed Rich Rodriguez project. Sumlin made Texas A&M one of the most dangerous teams in the country and has plenty to work with, thanks to a bevy of rushing talents, a proven offensive line, and – of course – Tate, who totaled 14 passing touchdowns and ran in another dozen scores in just eight starts.
The Wildcats schedule doesn’t ease the team into action, with BYU and Houston in the first two weeks. Arizona can build some serious momentum if it can escape with wins in those games. It has road games at Utah, UCLA, and Washington State but gets to play host to USC in Week 5, Cal in Week 6, Oregon in Week 9, and rival Arizona State in the season finale.