With a turbulent 2020 season in the rearview mirror and spring practice around the country in the books, it’s time to turn the page toward the 2021 college football season.
Things will be a lot more normal next season. All FBS teams will start their seasons generally in the same timeframe. No more conference-only schedules. No more Notre Dame in the ACC. Fans in the stands. Normalcy.
Betting on college football was already difficult. But those added variables — plus the lack of accessible information about player availability amid a pandemic — made the 2020 season even more of an adventure.
If you feel like you have a good feel for what’s to come in 2021, BetMGM has already posted conference championship odds for the Power Five leagues.
Below are the title odds and some thoughts on the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.
North Carolina: +700
NC State: +1800
Virginia Tech: +2500
Florida State: +3500
Boston College: +6600
Georgia Tech: +6600
Wake Forest: +8000
It’s no surprise that Clemson is a significant favorite to win the ACC. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have won six consecutive conference titles with four College Football Playoff appearances and two national championships sprinkled in.
D.J. Uiagalelei is in line to take the starting QB duties from Trevor Lawrence. He showed on the road against Notre Dame last fall that he has plenty of juice to keep the Clemson machine rolling.
North Carolina, in Year 3 under Mack Brown, has one of the best QBs in the nation in Sam Howell, while Miami returns D’Eriq King. With the ACC returning to a divisional format, we could see those two teams duking it out in the ACC Coastal with the chance to upset Clemson in an ACC title game.
Ohio State: -150
Penn State: +600
Michigan State: +5000
Will uncertainty at the quarterback position for Ohio State open the door for others in the Big Ten? OSU has won the last four Big Ten championships, the last two with Ryan Day as head coach and Justin Fields at QB. The competition to replace Fields will be one of the biggest storylines in the sport entering 2021.
Could a team like Penn State or Michigan move past OSU in the Big Ten East? Or will a Big Ten West team like Wisconsin or Iowa claim conference supremacy? If you think this is the year for one of those schools, there’s pretty good betting value on the board.
Iowa State: +300
Oklahoma State: +1000
West Virginia: +3500
Kansas State: +3500
Texas Tech: +6600
The rest of the Big 12 may have missed its opportunity. Oklahoma lost its first two conference games in 2020, putting its conference title streak in serious jeopardy. In the end, the Sooners won six straight and got into the Big 12 title game, where they knocked off Iowa State 27-21 to win the conference for the sixth consecutive season.
The Sooners are again the favorites to win the Big 12 in 2021, but Iowa State is going to be a popular preseason pick. The Cyclones may have lost the conference championship, but they went to a New Year’s Six bowl game for the first time and reached the nine-win mark for just the third time in program history. Virtually all of ISU’s top contributors are returning in 2021.
Another Big 12 storyline will be Steve Sarkisian taking over for Tom Herman at Texas. At UT, Sarkisian inherits one of the top young running backs in the nation in Bijan Robinson.
Arizona State: +500
Washington State: +2000
Oregon State: +5000
The Pac-12 played the fewest games of any of the Power Five conferences. Oregon won the conference title, but only did so after Washington was unable to play in the Pac-12 title game because of COVID-19 cases.
The Ducks and Huskies are the favorites in the Pac-12 North, but it’s USC that is the preseason betting favorite. USC lost a lot of talent to the NFL but returns Kedon Slovis at quarterback and plenty of other experience on offense. Oregon lost QB Tyler Shough to transfer, but transfer Anthony Brown worked his way onto the field late in the year at quarterback and looks to be the guy in 2021. Washington has depth, especially on defense, but is still a bit of a mystery with Jimmy Lake as head coach.
Another team more than deserving of a look is Arizona State. ASU played only four games after a lengthy COVID-19 layoff, but ended up combining for 116 points in its last two games. Jayden Daniels, the team’s junior QB, has first-round potential. Also: UCLA, entering Year 4 under Chip Kelly, having the fifth-best odds at +800 caught my eye.
Texas A&M: +600
Ole Miss: +1800
Mississippi State: +12500
South Carolina: +15000
Even after having six of its players picked in the first round (and 10 players picked overall), Alabama is still the betting favorite to win the SEC. The Crimson Tide have won the SEC in five of the last seven seasons, including last year’s undefeated, national championship triumph. You’re getting nearly even money at -105 at this point in the offseason. There are far worse investments you can make than projecting Nick Saban’s program to win the SEC.
In addition to Alabama, Georgia is going to attract a lot of action. Once USC transfer JT Daniels became the starting QB, the Bulldogs showed legitimate offensive firepower. Couple a potentially high-powered offense with one of the best defenses in the country, and it’s easy to see why Georgia is already attracting so much preseason attention.
From purely an odds play, Texas A&M could be worth a shot. The Aggies finished No. 5 in the final CFP rankings last fall and have a ton of talent returning. The big question mark, though, will be the replacement for QB Kellen Mond. And if you’re projecting a big bounce-back year from LSU, I wouldn’t hate throwing down a few bucks on the Tigers at +1200.
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