An Early Take on the 2016 College Football Playoff and Heisman Odds

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Twenty-one days from tonight, in exactly three weeks, the college football season kicks off with a Thursday night slate of games. There are only two Top 25 teams in action, #10 Tennessee and #23 Louisville, taking on Appalachian State and Charlotte, respectively.  Not exactly a murderer's row of matchups.

And you know what? That's fine by me! Because even college football mismatches make for good college football, especially when we've been waiting since the second week of January. Finally, our long national nightmare is almost over. College football season is upon us!

And you know if there is college football being played what that means, right? Yes, kids, that means we have GAMBLING on college football! YES! YES! YES! (I am making the Daniel Bryan "YES! YES! YES!" arm raise while I type that.) 

As the season gets closer, I will be doing some more specific previews on teams and conferences, and of course, once the season starts, I'll be giving you my Best Bets on individual games each week (so that you can go the opposite of my picks, and make some serious coin). For now, though, Bovada has been kind enough to give us the College Football Playoff and Heisman futures odds for the upcoming season, the appetizer on the gambling buffet.

Let's start with the odds on who will take home the title this season, with a few of my observations after the odds below:

                                                     1/13/16       2/15/16     Current Odds 
Alabama                                         7/1              7/1                   6/1
LSU                                                 14/1            14/1                  7/1
Clemson                                        15/2            15/2                17/2
Michigan                                       12/1             15/2                 9/1
Ohio State                                     12/1              6/1                  9/1
Florida State                                 16/1            20/1                10/1
Tennessee                                      22/1            14/1                12/1
Oklahoma                                      14/1            14/1                16/1
Notre Dame                                   14/1            16/1               20/1
Stanford                                          14/1            16/1               25/1
Georgia                                           33/1           33/1               33/1
Oregon                                            22/1           33/1               33/1
USC                                                  33/1           33/1               33/1
Florida                                             33/1           40/1              40/1
Mississippi                                     22/1            20/1              40/1
TCU                                                  33/1            33/1              40/1
Washington                                    66/1           50/1              40/1
Auburn                                            50/1            33/1              50/1
Baylor                                               12/1            16/1               50/1
Michigan State                               33/1            25/1              50/1
UCLA                                                40/1            33/1              50/1
Houston                                           33/1            50/1             66/1
Iowa                                                  33/1            66/1             66/1
Louisville                                         50/1            50/1             66/1
Oklahoma State                             50/1            50/1             66/1
Texas                                                 75/1           100/1            66/1
Texas A&M                                      50/1            66/1            66/1
Arkansas                                          50/1             75/1           100/1
Miami Florida                                 66/1            75/1           100/1
North Carolina                               50/1            66/1           100/1
Utah                                                  66/1            66/1           100/1
Wisconsin                                       50/1             66/1           100/1
Boise State                                     100/1          100/1           150/1
Nebraska                                         50/1             75/1            150/1
Arizona State                                100/1             75/1           200/1
West Virginia                                  75/1           200/1          200/1
Washington State                         66/1            100/1          200/1
BYU                                                 100/1           200/1          250/1
Maryland                                       100/1           200/1          250/1
Arizona                                           100/1          200/1          300/1
Mississippi State                          100/1          200/1          300/1
Penn State                                      100/1          200/1          300/1
Virginia Tech                                   75/1           200/1          300/1
California                                       100/1           200/1          500/1
Georgia Tech                                 100/1           200/1          500/1
Missouri                                         100/1           100/1           500/1
Northwestern                                100/1          200/1          500/1
South Carolina                               66/1           100/1          500/1
Iowa State                                       OTB             OTB          500/1
Pittsburgh                                       OTB             OTB          500/1
Texas Tech                                      OTB             OTB          500/1

Okay, thoughts...

1. You can already see what the de facto regular season "playoff" games are forecast to be just by looking at the top of the stack on here:

Alabama at LSU, 11/5
Clemson at Florida State, 10/29
Ohio State at Oklahoma, 9/17
Michigan at Ohio State, 11/26
Tennessee at Georgia, 10/1
Stanford at Notre Dame, 10/15

2. Notre Dame is very interesting at 20/1, especially considering they started at 14/1, then went to 16/1. That would seem to indicate that the public is losing confidence in the Irish. But a lot of times, it's about schedule, and while Notre Dame doesn't duck any "name" teams, the fact that they construct their schedule years in advance (meaning teams that looked good in, say, 2010 may not look as good now), combined with their pact with the ACC to play five ACC games each season, all adds up to a very winnable slate of games, even for a team that sent multiple high draft picks to the NFL last spring. Notre Dame's schedule includes six home games, three neutral site games and only three true road games — Texas to open the season, NC State in October and USC to close out the schedule. 

3. With Chad Kelly as their quarterback, and the hex they seem to have over Alabama, I really wanted to fire on Ole Miss at 40/1 — then I looked at their schedule. Florida State, Alabama and Georgia, all before the calendar even flips to October. So I just put my 20 bucks back in my pocket and quietly walked away. 

4. Allow me to translate the odds trajectory of Baylor since the end of last season:

January, odds at 12/1: "Art Briles will have his QB back, we can win this thing!"
February, odds at 16/1: "Oooooh, the odds moved to 16/1...there could be value here!"
May, Art Briles fired: "Oh crap...ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!"
Today, odds at 50/1: "SELL, MORTIMER...SELL!!!!"

5. I'm not saying Houston is going to beat Oklahoma on September 3, but if it does, that's about as live a 66/1 ticket as you could be sitting on one week into a college football season. I'm just saying. 

Okay, let's examine the Heisman odds now...

                                                                       1/19/16   6/30/16   Current Odds
Leonard Fournette (RB LSU)                      5/1           9/2              4/1
Deshaun Watson (QB Clemson)                9/2           5/1              9/2
Christian McCaffrey (RB Stanford)           5/1           11/2             11/2
JT Barrett (QB Ohio State)                         10/1           12/1            12/1
Dalvin Cook (RB Florida State)                 12/1           12/1            12/1
Baker Mayfield (QB Oklahoma)               10/1           12/1            14/1
Nick Chubb (RB Georgia)                           12/1           16/1            16/1
Chad Kelly (QB Mississippi)                      12/1           16/1            16/1
Josh Rosen (QB UCLA)                               OTB          16/1            16/1
Royce Freeman (RB Oregon)                     12/1           20/1           20/1
Bo Scarbrough (RB Alabama)                   OTB          20/1           20/1
Samaje Perine (RB Oklahoma)                  12/1           25/1           25/1
Calvin Ridley (WR Alabama)                      12/1          25/1           25/1
DeShone Kizer (QB Notre Dame)             OTB          28/1           28/1
Malik Zaire (QB Notre Dame)                    OTB         28/1           28/1
Joshua Dobbs (QB Tennessee)                   16/1         33/1           33/1
Brad Kaaya (QB Miami)                               25/1         33/1           33/1
Patrick Mahomes (QB Texas Tech)           OTB        50/1           33/1
Lamar Jackson (QB Louisville)                 OTB         50/1           50/1
Trevor Knight (QB Texas A&M)                 OTB        50/1           50/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Baylor)                       OTB         28/1          OTB

1. Keep in mind that, up until the past two seasons (Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, teammates in Nashville now, by the way), the previous handful of Heisman winners going back to Mark Ingram in 2009 hadn't even been on the board to start the season. (RG3 was a long shot to start 2011, but other than that — Ingram, Newton, Manziel, Winston — all off the grid.)

2. Fournette is a delightful player, but just atrocious value at 4/1, especially when you consider that his "marquee" game is going to be against a Nick Saban-coached defense. Fournette may win the award, but 4/1 is not an enticing odds number.

3. Why was Josh Rosen off the board in January? That just looks weird. Wake up, Bovada. 

4. I'll be interested to see what happened to the odds of the winner of the Notre Dame QB battle. Both Zaire and Kizer are 28/1 right now, so baked into that number is the unknown of who will be starting. Along the lines of what I outlined above about Notre Dame, whoever is the starter will be facing a very manageable schedule with some highly recruited, albeit inexperienced, weapons. 

5. If you're putting money on Pat Mahomes to win the Heisman, then you may as well fire a sawbuck on Texas Tech at 500/1 to win the whole thing. Get greedy.

6. No Greg Ward, huh? Okay then...

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.    

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