With the 2014 college football season kicking off Thursday night, fans and sportsbooks are buzzing with excitement about the season. Beyond playoff favorites such as Florida State, where do the best value bets lie?
Two ESPN Insider betting experts, Phil Steele and Will Harris, are here to help. Below is our 2014 college football betting guide, covering the best values among teams to win the inaugural College Football Playoff, season win totals, conference titles, Games of the Year, overvalued and undervalued teams, and Heisman Trophy contenders.
If you're looking to wager on college football this season, this is the primer you need to read.
Note: Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hotel unless otherwise noted.
1. Which team is the best bet to win the first College Football Playoff? Are there any others worth giving a look?
Phil Steele: The best bet to win the first College Football Playoff is the Baylor Bears (25-to-1 odds). While the Florida State Seminoles are my official pick to win the national championship over Alabama this year, those two teams are the clear favorites in Las Vegas, and do not give you solid value.
The Bears, however, do give you value. They are currently favored in 11 of their 12 games, with the exception being a road trip to Oklahoma, a team they beat 41-12 last season. They have my No. 1-ranked offense in all of college football thanks to quarterback Bryce Petty and my No. 1 set of receivers. Head coach Art Briles has stated that this is the best defensive line in his tenure, and he has overachieved my preseason expectations in each of the past four years (this year I rank them No. 8).
Other teams worth considering:
Georgia Bulldogs (18-1): Last year, the Seminoles were my No. 1 surprise team and delivered a national championship. This year's No. 1 surprise team is Georgia, which figures to be favored in 11 of its 12 games, with the exception being a trip to South Carolina.
Wisconsin Badgers (35-1): The Big Ten is now wide open with Ohio State's Braxton Miller out. With the exception of the opener against an inexperienced LSU team, the Badgers should be favored in their next 11 games.
Will Harris: To find anything that appeals in what is always a heavily juiced market, we look beyond the favorites to a pair of programs that have been gradually building toward championship potential with great coaching, staff continuity, steadily improving recruiting and recent postseason success: