College Football Futures

BY foxsports • August 1, 2014

College football crowns a national champion every year. Much like death and taxes the annual coronation is an absolute despite the controversy that leads up to the event. Over the years it's grown difficult to argue that the best team didn't win the title even if Mark Dantonio feels otherwise. During the BCS era we've witnessed a number of pre-season longshots work their way into the national title picture disproving (to a certain extent) the generally accepted notion that college football is dominated only by the heavyweights.

Now don't confuse the point here, I'm not talking about it being a fair fight for the Boise States of the world but rather using national championship futures to validate a real rags to riches story. Auburn's near miss last year can only be described as Cinderella-esque considering the Tigers opened at prices north of 250-1 in the offseason and were available at a price of 9,999-1 after losing to LSU in the middle of the season. Even Florida St started the year at 30-1 before proving their dominance en route to a perfect season paying handsome dividends for their supporters.

I spent the last few days walking (who am I kidding, driving) around town collecting college football futures from the largest books operating on the Las Vegas Strip. The differences in prices on certain teams are staggering, even among those considered prohibitive favorites with the inside track to the national semifinals. For instance a quick walk from Wynn to MGM can return bettors an extra $150 per $100 wager if you believe Florida St repeats as national champions. If betting favorites isn't "your thing" and you're the find a needle in a haystack gambler, try this on for size. Clay Travis' man crush Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders are available at an absurdly low 80-1 if you bet them at any MGM property whereas that same Texas Tech side could be found at 500-1 by making the trek to LVH Superbook. Of course when Tech finishes the season 7-5 both tickets will pay the same but that's not the point I'm trying to make here.

While all these odds are always subject to change, below is a complete list of college football futures on the Strip. The best price on each team is denoted by an asterisk, allowing you to spend that extra cab fare on a $37 cadillace margarita from Fat Tuesdays.

When it comes to finding a value pick, seasoned bettors know as much work goes into finding the optimal price as does X's/O's or schedule analysis. For those unfamiliar with how the future book works it's relatively straightforward. Every casino prices teams accordingly based on not only the money they've taken into their pools but also the clientele. The end goal for oddsmakers is to maximize revenues by carefully driving action towards certain schools while deterring you from betting others. The industry term for this is called "taking a position" and you see exactly that occurring on the aforementioned FSU. LVH has the Seminoles listed at 3 while MGM has them at 5 implying LVH is more than content to have bettors avoid playing FSU in their sportsbook. Think of the optimal market as a perfect supply and demand model: bets come in on one team forcing operators to raise the prices on others creating a scenario where it doesn't matter which team wins the national championship they'd turn a similar profit regardless. Unfortunately this doesn't happen nearly enough and various books elect to only shorten teams odds raising theoretical hold percentage as you see on the chart above. Theoretical hold is the percentage of every dollar wagered the book keeps (47% = .47 on the dollar). The lower a sportsbook's theoretical (or take), the better it is for the player. However, this doesn't mean a higher hold market can't offer the best prices on certain teams (see FSU). It pays to be as conscientious shopping for futures tickets as it does for that next new car you purchase. Do your homework, put some legwork into it, and you'll find yourself with Notre Dame at 75-1 rather than the cut-rate price of 12. Now the real challenge: finding the actual ticket you'll get to cash come January 12.

  Caesars MGM Wynn Cantor LVH
Florida St 4 *5 3.5 4 3
Alabama *6 *6 3.5 *6 *6
Oregon 6 *7 5 6 6
Auburn 9 7 12 *17 10
Oklahoma 6 6 8 9 *10
UCLA 10  15 *20 12 10
Ohio State 8 6 7 8 *12
Georgia  13  18 20 *27 15
Baylor *30 *30 20 22 20
LSU 15 15 12 *20 *20
South Carolina 20 25   *45 20
Michigan St 22 15 25 26 *30
Wisconsin *35 25 *35 *35 30
Ole Miss 50 40 *85 55 40
Florida  25 18 *60 *60 50
USC 30 25 22 40 *50
Stanford *60 25 24 30 *60
Clemson *75 50 *75 65 *75
North Carolina 175 125 *200 100 75
Notre Dame 25 12 28 50 *75
Washington 65 50 *125 100 75
Arizona 125 *200 150 150 100
Arizona St 75 75 *100 60 *100
Field 80 50     50  *100
Iowa 100 80 *125 90 100
Kansas St 100 75 *150 80 100
Michigan 40 22 75 75 *100
Mississippi St *175 *175 125   100
Missouri *100 30 85 60 *100
Nebraska 40 30 50 80 *100
Texas 28 22 50 60 *100
Texas A&M 45 35 75 70 *100
Miami 175 40 125 85 *200
Northwestern *350 200 250 250 200
Oklahoma St *300 80 150 80 200
TCU 175   125 150 *200
Tennessee *200 150 125 100 *200
VA Tech *200 100 125 175 *200
BYU *350 150 150 175 300
Louisville 100 60 200 100 *300
Boise St 300 250 175 *500 *500
Pittsburgh *500   250 350 *500
Texas Tech 150  80 100 150 *500
Utah St *600   400 350 500
Duke 600 125 200   *1000
Georgia Tech 600 250 250 400 *1000
Oregon St 500 100 250 350 *1000
Utah 600     500 *1000
Vanderbilt 600   400   *1000
Washington St 400   250 350 *1000
Arkansas     250 150  
Boston College       500  
California     500    
Cincinnati   300 250 200  
Colorado     500    
Fresno St   300      
Houston   250 500    
Maryland     400    
Minnesota   100      
Northern Illinois   300      
Rutgers     500    
UCF   40      
Virginia     250    
West Virginia     200 350  
           
Hold 38.79% 47.04% 38.14% 30.67% 30.90%

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