2012 College Football Futures: Value Picks For BCS Conference & Division Winners

Last year was the first year we posted college football preseason projections, and we used them to spotlight some “best values” among the conference and division win odds we found at offshore sportsbooks. Those picks ended up doing very well overall, so we’re going to do the same thing this year.

Our final 2012 college football season projections were posted yesterday. Today we’re going to compare the conference and division win odds from those projections to the odds found at The Greek. For each conference, we’ll spotlight cases where our projections indicate lines that appear to be inefficient.

When evaluating these numbers, remember that a lot can go wrong with preseason projections. Random factors we don’t model for (e.g., team morale, a new offensive system being put in place) can end up having a significant impact on a given team’s performance. Likewise, just one key player injury or some really horrible luck in close games may completely transform our assessment of a team’s conference win odds just a few games into the season.

It’s inevitable that some of these projections will look way off come December, so if you’re going to play season win totals, whether based on our analysis or not, it’s a good strategy to diversify your bankroll. A lot of these picks are relative longshots, so we’re basically hoping for a few homeruns to balance out a bunch of whiffs.

Each conference table below shows BCS championship odds from 5Dimes, conference and/or division odds from The Greek, and our projections for a team’s conference win total and their odds of winning their conference/division. Below the table is our spotlight of the best value bet(s), according to our odds.

2012 ACC College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsDiv OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%TR Div%
Georgia Tech+50000+1500+3005.318%37%
Virginia Tech+2800+300+1755.018%35%
North Carolina------5.0----
Miami FL+25000+800+6503.66%15%
Florida St+600-125-4006.431%52%
Boston College+60000+5500+20003.85%10%
NC State+50000+2000+8003.64%10%
Wake Forest+75000+3500+15003.12%6%

Best Values

Georgia Tech to Win ACC Conference (+1500)
[ or Georgia Tech to Win ACC Coastal Division (+300)]

6.3% break even percentage / 17.8% TR Odds
[25.0% break even percentage / 36.9% TR Odds]

While the offshore odds peg Virginia Tech as the favorite to win the Coastal division, our projections see Georgia Tech right there with them, mainly because the Yellow Jackets have 17 returning starters, and because their passing attack was so non-existent last year that it’s almost guaranteed to improve. A bet on Georgia Tech to win the conference has a much higher ROI than a division bet — taken together, this pair of odds implies that Georgia Tech would have only a 25% chance to win the ACC championship game, should they reach it. However, the division bet does still have value, so those who want less risk could choose that option.

Boston College to Win ACC Atlantic Division (+2000)

4.8% break even percentage / 10.2% TR Odds

Florida State is the obvious favorite here, and with good reason. But a -400 line — implying an 80% chance to win the division — is too steep. In the event that the Seminoles sputter, BC has an outside shot to step in and win. They were down last year, but part of that was likely due to a negative turnover margin inflated by bad luck. Our projections think there is a chance that last year’s poor showing was somewhat of a fluke; and like Georgia Tech, the Eagles are almost destined to improve their passing attack.

2012 Big East College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%
South Florida+45000+3004.725%

Best Value

Connecticut to Win Big East (+3000)

3.2% break even percentage / 9.4% TR Odds

Our projections essentially see the Big East as a huge toss up, similar to last season when 5 teams finished within one game of first place. The strongest take away is probably to avoid laying money on Louisville, as they don’t seem to deserve the shortest odds in the conference. But if you want a positive pick, taking a flyer on the team with the longest odds isn’t bad, considering we see UConn as a middle of the pack Big East squad, rather than cellar dwellers.

2012 Big Ten College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsDiv OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%TR Div%
Ohio St------4.9----
Penn St------3.4----
Michigan St+4500+800+4504.510%16%

Best Values

Illinois to Win Big Ten Leaders Division (+500)

16.7% break even percentage / 22.4% TR Odds

The postseason bans of Ohio State and Penn State really throw a wrench in this division. In theory, Illinois could finish with the third-best record, yet still win this bet. That’s obviously unlikely, as Penn State is looking pretty bad. But picture a case where Ohio State finishes first, Wisconsin and Illinois tie for second, and Illinois wins the tie breaker. We’re not saying it will happen like that, but the additional wiggle room for Illinois is what makes this bet acceptable.

Iowa to Win Big Ten Legends Division (+800)

9.0% break even percentage / 13.0% TR Odds

While this division is tough, our projections see Iowa a team that could sneak up on people this year. Their profile is, statistically, stronger than you might think. Only five teams had 1) a higher power rating last year, 2) a higher weighted average rating over the last 4 years (and indicator of general program strength), and 3) return all of their passing yards. Those five: Oklahoma, USC, TCU, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech.

2012 Big 12 College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%
Oklahoma St+15000+25006.014%
West Virginia+4300+6504.45%
Kansas St+16000+10004.34%
Texas Tech+50000+28003.32%
Iowa St+90000+65002.71%

Best Value

Oklahoma State to Win Big 12 (+2500)

3.8% break even percentage / 13.5% TR Odds

The Cowboys figure to take a step back this season, simply because they were very lucky in the turnover department last season, and because it’s tough to replicate the kind of passing success they enjoyed. But “a step back” doesn’t necessarily mean they will plunge all the way from conference champions to 6th place, which is what their conference odds imply. Tellingly, their national championship odds (+15000) are shorter than Kansas State’s (+16000), despite OSU being a relative long shot in the Big 12 odds list (+2500 compared to K-State’s +1000). Oklahoma is the clear favorite, but their in-state rivals present the best value.

2012 Pac-12 College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsDiv OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%TR Div%
Oregon St+75000+5500+10004.23%7%
Washington St+90000+4000+12002.30%1%
Arizona St+60000+4000+8003.31%5%

Best Values

Stanford to Win Pac-12 North Division (+1000)
[or Stanford to Win Pac-12 (+2000)] 

9.1% break even percentage / 29.4% TR Odds
[4.8% break even percentage / 17.0% TR Odds ]

Andrew Luck is gone, which has everyone predicting dire straits for the Cardinal. Our projections are probably underestimating how big of a difference the loss of Luck will make, but it’s tough to believe that they are so far off that this becomes a bad bet. We could slice their division or conference win odds by two thirds, and it would still be reasonable. Both of these lines present similar value, so choosing between them mostly depends on your risk vs. reward preferences. Though, if they end up facing USC in the title game, you’d be better off simply betting the division odds, then letting any winnings ride on the money line in the conference championship.

Utah to Win Pac-12 South Division (+800)
[or Utah to Win Pac-12 (+3200)]

11.1% break even percentage / 31.2% TR Odds
[3.0% break even percentage / 11.7% TR Odds]

Utah is a team that has the potential for significant improvement. Only Oklahoma, Florida, South Florida, and Vanderbilt had a higher rating than Utah last year and return more starters this season. Their main negative is that they benefited from a fairly high positive turnover margin, which could regress this season. Still, while the odds lump most of the South division together in a pack behind USC, our projections think Utah could end up a cut above that pack, and is the most likely team to steal the division from USC — even if it is unlikely that the Trojans don’t finish first.

2012 SEC College Football Futures

TeamBCS Champ OddsConf OddsDiv OddsTR Conf WinsTR Conf%TR Div%
South Carolina+4600+1000+2503.84%11%
Texas A&M+35000+5000+25004.26%10%
Mississippi St+22500+2500+8003.01%3%

Best Values

Alabama to Win SEC Western Division (+150)

40.0% break even percentage / 43.5% TR Odds

Finally, a favorite! While there is not much value here, there is absolutely none in any of the other favorites we’ve covered, so we can’t resist adding Alabama as a relatively safer play to balance out the rest of the long shots. At +150 to win the division, and +185 to win the whole conference, there seems to be some serious value in this division bet. Whether that’s true or not, the conference bet looks like a terrible option in comparison. It almost implies that the team Bama would meet in the SEC championship game is going to be a really good high school team from Texas or something. Clearly not the case.

Missouri to Win SEC Eastern Division (+1000)

9.1% break even percentage / 15.0% TR Odds

There are actually a lot of bets that look like potential values in the SEC. We’re nominally choosing the Tigers here, but a portfolio approach with smaller bets on each of these (in addition to Missouri and Alabama) looks pretty attractive:

Vanderbilt to Win SEC Eastern Division (+1200)
Texas A&M to win SEC Western Division (+5000)
Florida to win SEC (+1000)

2012 College Football Conference Futures Expectations

We’ve laid out what our projections see as the best values among these conference and division odds bets. Does that mean we think these will all be winners, and you’ll quintuple your money if you bet them? Not a chance.

You may have noticed that most of the TR projected odds for our choices were between about 9% and 22%, and the biggest “lock” we picked was projected at 44%. That means that for any given bet in isolation, odds are we’ll be wrong. That’s what makes a portfolio approach important. Instead of betting your whole allotted futures budget on a single pick, you can manage your risk by splitting it up among many.

So what should you expect if you do follow all the picks above? Well, that depends on how accurate our projections are. Let’s assume they are spot on, 100% accurate. If you wagered on every bolded, [non-bracketed] pick above, you’d have ten tickets in your hand. Based on our projected odds, in an average year two of those would be winners. In any given year it could be a couple more or a couple less. Those two winners (again, assuming our projections are accurate) ought to roughly double your money (+127% ROI to be exact, assuming equal sized bets on each).

However, there’s some selection bias at work here. Because we chose the picks partly based on the fact that our projected odds were abnormally high, there’s a very good chance our projected odds for those picks were … well … too high. So, let’s be conservative and chop our projected win odds for each pick in half. In that case, you’d expect to win an average of one out of the ten bets, and your expected ROI would be +13.5%. This seems like a much more reasonable expectation — Vegas isn’t just giving money away.

As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below, and we’ll answer them as soon as we can.