After a Covid-affected 2020 season, college football is looking to re-establish some sense of normalcy in 2021. One thing remains normal in college football is seeing the usual suspects occupying the top positions in the preseason poll. Here’s a look at the top 10 ranked college football teams in America to start the season (odds to win BCS Championship):

1. Alabama (+260)
2. Oklahoma (+650)
3. Clemson (+525)
4. Ohio State (+700)
5. Georgia (+650)
6. Texas A&M (+2200)
7. Iowa State (+2800)
8. Cincinnati (+8000)
9. Notre Dame (+6600)
10. North Carolina (+5000)


Deciding on a BCS National Champ

Obviously, there is a precipitous drop from #5 to #6 in the odds. That presents an interesting quandary for sports bettors who are thinking swinging for the fences for a higher odds alternative makes sense.

For a little perspective, only five different teams were crowned NCAA National Champs in the last 10 years. The list includes Alabama (five times), Clemson (twice), Ohio State, Florida State, and LSU.

It’s worth noting that prior to 2014, the Champion was crowned based on a points system that included the polls. In 2014, the NCAA instituted an actual playoff system that let teams decide the issue on the field.

To qualify for the BCS playoffs (four teams), the NCAA uses power rankings. Among the things the NCAA uses to calculate power rankings are season records and strength of schedule.

A lot of teams might end up with a record of 10–1, which results in the strength of the schedule coming into play. There’s the rub for sports bettors who might be tempted to bet on a team like Cincinnati at +8000. They might well have a fine football team, but they only have two games scheduled against current top 25 teams. It will be near impossible for them to qualify for the BCS playoffs unless they run the table with blowout wins. Then, they have to count on every other team having at least one loss. Under that scenario, they might squeeze into the BCS rankings high enough for a playoff spot. It’s not likely to happen.

Therein lies the problem for a lot of good teams with aspirations to win the BCS Championship. They can’t win the title if they can’t reach the playoffs.


Betting on a BCS National Champ

Based on the information we presented above, betting on longshots to win the title is a bad bet. The +8000 on Cincinnati might look good, but the team’s real odds should be +15000.

There is one interesting betting option on the board. The Iowa State Cyclones are coming off a strong 2020 season that included a big win in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. During the regular season, they actually upset Oklahoma, proving they could play with anyone in the country. Of course, that was last year.

Amazingly, they are returning 20 of 22 starters, including all 11 members of a very strong defensive unit. Their offensive line was among the best in the nation. Also, they return a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in Junior RB Breece Hall. Last year, Hall rushed for 1,572 yards and 21 TDs.

Iowa State should have no problem qualifying for a BCS with a least four ranked teams on their schedule. All of this adds up to a good value bet at odds of +2800. While it’s hard to imagine Iowa State beating two teams like Clemson and Alabama in a row, this is a good football team. They already proved they can play with the best last year.

For what it is worth, Alabama is loaded once again. Meanwhile, teams like Clemson and Ohio State have a little retooling to do. Alabama is going to be a tough beat on the way to the title.


Early Season Wagering Opportunities

Like the rest of the sports betting community, bookmakers will be guessing when they set lines for the first two weeks. That sets the table for betting opportunities should some of the lines end up skewed.

From a betting perspective, bettors should be looking to avoid early-season games with huge point spreads. A strategy worth considering is looking for close lines where one team might have an experience edge over the opponent. Some teams might be returning 16 players from last year while the opponent is returning substantially fewer. The experience edge matters in the first couple of weeks until teams obtain their identity.

It’s kickoff time and here’s hoping for a great season.