Every year in college football there are a couple of high profile, very popular teams that draw a whole lot of public action and then put the money in a big pile and burn it up. Last year Texas was a brutal team against the college football spreads – 5-7-1. The year before USC wasn’t a particularly good bet. In 2007, neither USC nor LSU performed for bettors like the top five teams that they were. The betting public assumes that a team that wins consistently and does it in impressive fashion is a good bet, so when they aren’t regularly covering spreads it can be costly. Here’s a look at five teams that have the potential to be high profile betting disappointments this year:
Alabama – They are the defending champions, they were ferocious last year, and they continue to recruit brilliantly, so public opinion is going to be very positive for this team. It’s hard to argue that this is a team that doesn’t belong at the top of the rankings, but there are reasons to be concerned. What made Alabama so tough last year was their defense. Just two starters return from that unit. While the new talent is very impressive, it’s no guarantee that they will hit the ground running. The offense should be good as well, but the loss of two valued starters on the offensive line mean that there could be some bumps in the road. This is unquestionably the team to beat, and I don’t expect them to lose much, but there is a good chance that they won’t win quite as impressively as they have in the past. That could mean that they could fail to cover some spreads.
Florida – The Gators have been a wildly public team the last few years. The departure of Tim Tebow should dim the enthusiasm a bit, but not entirely. People are still going to assume that this is going to be a strong team with an explosive offense thanks to the presence of Urban Meyer. It’s Meyer that could raise the most issues with covering the spread, though. His pseudo-retirement saga last year was so bizarre that it can’t help but have some lasting impact. I frankly am not at all confident that he’ll make it through the whole season without causing some more drama. Add in the fact that they have to break in a new quarterback, and that they had nine players leave to the NFL draft, and it’s not at all hard to imagine that this team won’t be what they were last year, or that they won’t be what people think they are.
Ohio State – There are two reasons that I am skeptical about Ohio State – and neither of them has to do with the fact that as a Michigan fan I couldn’t hate anything more than I do the Buckeyes. First, though Terrelle Pryor is the preseason favorite to win the Heisman he makes me nervous. When he is good he is extremely good – worthy of all the hype. The problem, though, is that he has a terrifying ability to turn his brain off and make lousy plays. He’s far too inconsistent, and that inconsistency could hurt this team. Second, the Big Ten is a pretty good conference this year. Iowa and Wisconsin have top five potential, Penn State s dangerous, and a couple other teams are potentially tricky. The conference is stronger than people give it credit for, and that means that the public could give Ohio State too much credit in some conference games.
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Boise State – Before I explain this one I have to provide one qualifier – they only belong on this list if they beat Virginia Tech in their opener. If they do that then the hype machine is going to shift into overdrive – and deservedly so. The team has a defense that should be very tough to score on, and an offense that could be potent. Combine that with a conference that just isn’t that good and we could see some truly massive spreads. Florida struggled to cover spreads in some recent seasons not because they weren’t good, but because people were in awe of how good they were and thought that they were unbeatable and that they could score at will. People will think the same thing about Boise State if they win the first game, and it could be too much for even a team this talented to overcome every week.
USC – Despite their struggles and the sanctions this is still a team that is fairly widely seen to be the best team in the conference. The public has had a long love affair with this team, and they aren’t likely to give up on it too easily. The reason I put this team on the list is that there is a real chance that this team can devolve into total chaos. Lane Kiffin is a loose cannon, the coaching staff is largely new, they have lost some talent, and the offense from Matt Barkley on down has more potential than proven accomplishments. It’s not hard to imagine the public giving this team far more credit than they deserve.