Best 2012 conference title bets

Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks aren't an SEC favorite, but they are one of the best value plays. Douglas Jones/US Presswire

Handicapping conference title futures is a lot like predicting the conference races themselves, with one important difference: We're not looking for the teams most likely to win, but rather the teams more likely to win than their prices suggest.

Sure, there are still some teams in each league that have basically no chance and are therefore unappealing at any price, but the best values are often found in the middle of the pack rather than among the obvious favorites.

Let's take a look at the odds offered this offseason on the five strongest conferences (divisional odds are in parentheses):


Alabama Crimson Tide: +220 (+145)
LSU Tigers: +225 (+145)
Georgia Bulldogs: +550 (+155)
Arkansas Razorbacks: +750 (+425)
South Carolina Gamecocks: +1100 (+240)

Alabama will probably claim its 27th conference championship this year, but with a host of quality teams in the SEC, the short-priced favorites aren't that appealing. Instead of the West powerhouses, we'll look to South Carolina, as the Gamecocks are getting solid value in what amounts to a two-team East divisional race.