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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - AUG. 26

By Joe Nelson
Posted 08/30/2013 at 04:44 PM

When looking at the college preseason poll it is an exercise worth taking to look at the preseason poll from the previous season to fully understand how meaningless the projections can be. Eight teams in the preseason top 25 did not finish ranked including the AP #1 USC. Just nine teams finished within 10 places of their preseason ranking in the AP poll and half of the final top 10 was ranked 18th or worse to start the season. Each of the last three seasons the preseason poll has featured at least five teams receiving #1 votes. There is a clear consensus behind Alabama this season, with only two votes straying away from the Tide to start the season. The last year in which there was such an overwhelming clear choice was 2009 when Florida received all but two preseason #1 votes. The Gators had a fine season that year but ultimately fell short of the title.

The SEC claims six of the top 12 slots in the preseason top 25 after claiming six of the top 14 in the final poll last season. The SEC often takes heat for playing weak non-conference schedules as a whole and while every team in the conference has scheduled a FCS foe this season the conference is going to be tested with several big week 1 games. Georgia is the preseason #5 team in the nation but they will be on the road as just a slim favorite this week. LSU also is just a slight favorite in a challenging neutral site game. The neutral site games are en vogue for the SEC these days as a way to not give up the home game revenue and while also aiding the conference’s dominance by never having to leave the region for a truly difficult road test in an unfriendly environment. This should be the norm the next several seasons even with the major system changes coming next year. With the playoff coming there is less downside to scheduling a difficult early season game but those types of games in neutral sites are starting wear on season ticket holders who are paying top dollar for annual home games against lesser foes while seeing the marquee games stolen by big modern venues and the TV showcase.

Alabama is the clear favorite with the oddsmakers to win the 2014 BCS Championship Game, listed at or near 5/2 at most outlets. Ohio State is the clear #2 team at roughly 6/1 with Oregon priced 17/2. It is a big gap after that with nine teams priced between 16/1 and 20/1. There is not really enough value with the SEC teams that will have to beat up on each other and go through Alabama so the best opportunities may be backing a team from the ACC, Big XII, of Pac-12 as the odds are steep enough to provide ample hedging opportunities should they have a chance to get to the game late in the season. The Big XII is the only conference outside the SEC with two championship game appearances in the last six years and with no conference title game to spoil the season teams like Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and even TCU may be worth a look. Those four appear to be the only viable contenders in the conference but Kansas State surprised to win the conference last season. In the Pac-12 Stanford and Oregon both look capable of a great season but in most scenarios they would have to play each other twice which may make an undefeated season that much tougher. The big test for the final year of the BCS will be if Louisville goes undefeated as many suspect they can. The schedule won’t likely carry enough weight to get them past some of the of the top one-loss teams in most scenarios.  Best of Luck and on to this week’s slate…

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