We’re almost a month away from the first kickoff to the 2015 college football season. While there are several gripping storylines coming in, the most popular topic has been every facet of the defending national champion Ohio State.
Questions like: Can they repeat? Who starts at quarterback? What is Cardale Jones tweeting about? Who can beat them? What’s their lowest spread going to be?
Already the most popular wager at just about every sportsbook is to win the title again at 3-to-1 odds. Bert Osborne and Jimmy Vaccaro at the South Point thought they would take things further with options by offering a prop on whether or not the Buckeyes would go undefeated – including all 12 regular season games, the Big Ten title game, and both playoff games.
The South Point opened NO as a -1400 favorite with YES coming in at 10/1 odds. Within five days the only action they had received was on the YES, and it came in like an avalanche, which dropped the price down to -900/+500.
The 10/1 odds on YES appeared to be much better than taking 3-to-1 to win the national title because if one happens the other is most likely. Should Ohio State lose this season, they might be a tough sell to even make the Final Four. That’s due to both a weak Big Ten and a non-conference schedule that includes a road game at Virginia Tech to open the season and home games against Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
The Buckeyes don’t even play Nebraska or Wisconsin with its toughest games likely coming as 13.5-point home favorites against Michigan State (Nov. 21) and then a week later at Michigan where the Buckeyes are -14. A defeat in either would be awful timing in the rankings, making one-loss teams like Baylor, TCU, Alabama, Auburn or Notre Dame look far more attractive because of better schedules.
MGM Resorts sportsbooks posted Ohio State’s season win total at 11.5. If parlaying the OVER winnings into the moneyline of the next three games, where they’ll be about -500 in the Big Ten title game and -240 in the national semifinal and then maybe -200 for the championship, the payout would be about +380.
If you parlayed the money of all 15 Ohio State games each week, the payout would be greater than 10-to-1. So the value right now on the South Point prop rests entirely with the NO at -900.
The sharp money has been watching since it was posted. They are going to let the small money keep banging away at the YES. The South Point gets so much risk they’ve got to drop it more, similar to the way they play the wait game on Floyd Mayweather fights. When the number gets to -750 or -800, they’re going to get some big money taking NO.
If I had to pick one game where I thought they were in the most danger it would be the last game of the regular season at Michigan where Jim Harbaugh has been using Ohio State as a psychological motivation tool all summer with his new players. Harbaugh has a way with kids, such as taking over a 1-11 Stanford squad in 2007 and beating top ranked USC, 24-23, as a 39-point underdog.
Then, of course, there is the danger of just having targets on their backs all year. In the final three games last year, coach Urban Meyer was able to use the underdog role to their advantage. This year, coaches like Nick Saban or Art Briles get to play that role should they meet in the playoffs.
Last week news came out that Braxton Miller is taking himself out of the quarterback race and will be moved to an H-back/wide receiver similar to the way Urban Meyer used Percy Harvin at Florida. It’s a smart move for Miller just because he wasn’t going to be a QB at the next level so why not get some early training en route running and up his earning potential in next year’s NFL Draft.
Now the big question remains, who will start at QB, junior Cardale Jones or sophomore T.J. Barrett? I think we’re going to see both play quite often. Maybe not the same way Meyer used Tim Tebow and Chris Leake at Florida, but enough to where both get plenty of playing time, and maybe even both on the field at the same time.
The thing that is so attractive with Jones, besides three straight big game performances last season as underdogs to win the national title, is he stretches the field so much further than Barrett. Defenses have to respect his arm, which can sling the ball 70 yards in the air with unbelievable accuracy.
However the season ends up for Ohio State, it’s going to be fun either way watching it unfold.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].