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While the NFL dominates the football calendar this time of year, college football is always just around the corner for those of us who obsess over the sport. With a new season comes the departure of a plethora of key players, including Heisman winner Joe Burrow and other big-name players such as Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) and Chase Young (Ohio State). With spring camps now less than three months away and many freshmen already on campus from early enrollments, let’s take a look at each Power 5 Conference and identify where the likely early value will be.
As much as I wish I could sit here and give a trendy pick in the ACC that isn’t Clemson, the gap in quality should only grow wider in 2020. Their most recent challenger, the Virginia Cavaliers, will lose their quarterback Bryce Perkins to the NFL Draft, and the Tigers have the luxury of missing Miami and their new transfer quarterback D’Eriq King, who should make a splash in the ACC Coastal immediately. When a future becomes available for a team to win the Coastal side of the conference, Miami and second-year head coach Manny Diaz should make a splash in year two with the dynamic King running the offense.
Prediction: With Trevor Lawrence once again returning for what will likely be his last season in Clemson, I expect the Tigers to open up at about -400 to win the conference when odds are posted. With running back Travis Etienne recently announcing he too will be back next season, I still think there is value at anything less than -400 for what should be a once again dominant Tigers team.
Led by 2020 Heisman Favorite (+175) Justin Fields, the Ohio State Buckeyes are +400 to win the College Football Playoff (CFP) and for good reason. Head coach Ryan Day proved he is more than capable of taking the reigns from Urban Meyer, guiding the Buckeyes to being one possession away from playing for a National Championship.
Prediction: While the Big Ten showed some real grit this past season, finishing with four teams with a record of 7-2 or better, the Buckeyes once again proved that they are a cut above. I expect Ohio State to open up around -120 favorites to win the Big Ten and would consider anything longer to be a great value.
The story in the Big 12 this season was the surprise surge of the Baylor Bears who finished the year 8-1 in Big 12 play and competed for a spot in the CFP until late in the season. Fortunately for the rest of the conference, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule bolted for the NFL, but Texas and Oklahoma remain the cream of the crop in the conference as they should remain for years to come.
Prediction: Always a part of the hype, Texas currently sits as the favorite out of all Big 12 teams to win the CFP at +2500, with Oklahoma following closely behind at +3000. Much of the Texas hype is around the return of Sam Ehlinger at quarterback, but Lincoln Riley has another Ace up his own sleeve with freshman Spencer Rattler who is currently the third favorite to win the Heisman at +1200. I expect Oklahoma to open at about even money, which I think offers a ton of value against a still unproven Texas team.
In what should likely be one of the most competitive of the Power 5 conferences, the Pac-12 is as wide open as it’s been in years. With Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert departing for the NFL Draft, the conference lacks a true standout gunslinger, as Washington continues to fall in the recruiting ranks as well.
Prediction: USC will likely open up as the favorite to win the conference, despite proving absolutely nothing for yet another year in 2019 led by a very average head coach in Clay Helton. In what I expect to open up around +600, I think the Sun Devils should offer a ton of value in Herm Edwards’ third season running the show with a true star in the making in quarterback Jayden Daniels.
The story for the SEC will be who replaces Tua as the quarterback at Alabama. Their defense should be as strong as it usually is, as should Georgia’s, who returns starters and once again has an elite recruiting class coming in. Along with Tua, Joe Burrow and Jake Fromm are also leaving the conference for the NFL Draft.
Prediction: When the conference future markets open up, I expect the Crimson Tide to be the favorites to win the SEC yet again, followed closely by the Bulldogs, as the two will once again be expected to meet in the conference championship game. While both programs lose elite talent at the quarterback position, I think Tua will prove much harder to replace given his mobility and underrated accuracy,