Odds to win the 2012 BCS National Championship went up at betED.com this weekend. Oklahoma, with its bevy of returning stars, opened as the favorite at +370. Alabama was next at +750. A handful of teams sit at +1,200, including runner-up Oregon.
Defending-champion Auburn is +6,000 to repeat without NFL-bound stars Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. The Tigers cashed as +2.500 longshots with last week’s win over Oregon in the national title game.
Ranked 23rd to start the season, Auburn was the biggest longshot champion college football has seen in the BCS era. In addition to Newton and Fairely, the Tigers also lose the bulk of their offensive line and are expected to drop off.
Without a defending national champion among the top tier of favorites, the 2011-12 season sets up to be another wide-open campaign that could very easily produce another longshot champ. Here are five good buys that could deliver an Auburn-sized payday next January.
Oklahoma State Cowboys: +3,000
With the prolific tandem of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon returning, the explosive Cowboys are the biggest steal on the board.
Due to Big 12’s transformation to 10 teams, Oklahoma State will host Oklahoma for a second straight season. The Cowboys also get a chance to post a quality non-conference win against Arizona in September. Conference road tests at Texas A&M and at Missouri, in addition the Bedlam showdown with the Sooners, are the biggest obstacles.
Arkansas Razorbacks: +3,000
If you saw Arkansas scare Auburn in October, you know incumbent starting quarterback Tyler Wilson can play. Wilson completed 25 of 34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns after replacing an injured Mallet on the road at Auburn. Wilson also tossed two costly interceptions in a 65-43 loss to the Tigers that was closer than the final score indicates.
Wilson inherits a loaded offense that includes emerging running back Knile Davis and a dynamic receiving corps with Greg Childs returning from injury.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: +5,000
Speaking of value, Michigan, the team Mississippi State dismantled 52-14 in the Gator Bowl, is also +5,000.
The Bulldogs return their entire cast of playmakers off of an offense that averaged 38 points over its last three games and the core of a defense that held Auburn to a season-low 17 points.
The non-conference slate is not a problem, with games against Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UAB and Tennessee Martin. Mississippi State gets LSU and Alabama at home, but must go on the road to face Auburn and Arkansas.
Ohio State Buckeyes: +2,000
This price is over-estimating the importance of the suspension that will keep quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four key contributors out for the first five games.
It won’t matter who’s at quarterback in the first two games against Akron and Toledo. The Buckeyes will be tested on the road at Miami (FL), before returning home for winnable games against Colorado and Michigan State.
Ohio State could be favored in all five of the games and head into an Oct. 8 showdown at Nebraska at 5-0 and with all its pieces on the field.
Tennessee Volunteers: +10,000
The SEC has won five straight national titles. So while investing in the Vols is risky, stockpiling SEC teams in a batch of longshots is certainly not a bad idea.
Plus, we’re getting a returning starting quarterback in Tyler Bray and an ultra-soft non-conference schedule, featuring Cincinnati, Montana, Buffalo and Middle Tennessee.