10 Potential Sleeper Bets for the NCAA Football Championship

By in Sports & Betting on
10 Minute Read

The 2019 college football season is nearing the halfway point. Many of the traditional top contenders have already established themselves as the favorites to win the national championship. But several college football sleeper teams bubbling just below the radar possess an outside chance to win and could return a nice betting profit if they do.

College football has established a hierarchy that features many of the same teams battling it out for the national championship year after year. Many of those dominant schools are at the top of the rankings once again this year.

The three schools that have divided up the last five national championships (Ohio State in 2014, Alabama in 2015 and 2017, and Clemson in 2016 and 2018) currently own the top three spots in futures wagering for the 2019 championship. Alabama and Clemson are tied at +250, while Ohio State is tied for third with Georgia at +650.

Understandably, those teams would be receiving most of the betting attention. Alabama and Ohio State have dominated their opponents so far, while Clemson escaped a scare against North Carolina but still seems like the class of the ACC. LSU joins SEC conference-mates Alabama and Georgia in the top five.

Those top five schools currently have futures odds of lower than +10000, according to BetOnline. Even if you bet them right now to win it all, with so much of the season left to play and many potential pitfalls looming, you still would get less than $10 in return for every dollar you bet.

You should always be looking for value first and foremost, and there isn’t much value in playing one of the five favorites. That’s why you should be honing in on potential college football sleepers who could conceivably upset the apple cart. These are the teams that currently have futures odds higher than 10 to 1 who could legitimately find themselves playing for a national championship.

That last phrase is the key. When looking for college football sleepers, you must be aware of the team’s chances of playing in the Final Four-style, college football playoff. Once a team gets into that final four, anything can happen.

In the following article, we’re going to provide you with a list of ten teams that are outside the current Top 5 in the betting odds. These teams could make those playoffs and potentially win it all. These college football sleepers might not have the pedigree of the Alabama and Clemson. What they do have that other schools don’t are favorable betting odds, which is why they should be on your watch list.

Top 10 College Football Championship Sleepers

(Current futures odds in parentheses, courtesy of BetOnline)

Oklahoma (+1000)

The Sooners’ formula of bringing in a top transfer quarterback each season has paid dividends this year once again. This year it’s Jalen Hurts, who lost his job to Tua Tagovailoa in Alabama despite being the main quarterback in the team’s national championship run in 2017. Now Hurts is a top Heisman Trophy contender (along with, ironically, Tagovailoa.)

Oklahoma’s offense, with Hurts piling up massive yards passing and rushing, has rolled over its opponents so far. Although they haven’t played a Top 25 team yet, Oklahoma’s 55 points-per-game average in its 4-0 start is quite impressive. How well the defense steps up when the competition gets a little stiffer will go a long way to determining where they stand as a potential contender.

The two main tests left on the schedule are Texas (more on them to come) and Oklahoma State in the season finale, plus whomever they face in the Big 12 championship. Since the Big 12 added the championship game format two years ago, Oklahoma has used it as a springboard to the playoff each of the two years since. You shouldn’t be too afraid to take 10 to 1 odds that they do it again this season.

Wisconsin (+3300)

The Badgers boast the best running back in college football in Jonathan Taylor. They can also brag about an early-season signature win after their complete domination of Michigan. Their defense might be one of the best in the nation, and new starting quarterback Jack Coan gives them a nice balance to Taylor’s exploits.

Wisconsin Badgers Quarterback Jack Coan

The concern if you’re backing the Badgers is that they might not have the firepower to dominate lesser teams. When they played Northwestern, for example, the Wildcats hung around for three quarters or so. As they make their way through the Big 10 schedule, some team might steal one on them.

They still have three Top 25 teams to play in the conference, with a road game at Ohio State the real doozy. Should they come out of that stretch unscathed and win the conference championship game, they would have to be in the playoff picture. Whether they can do it with their old-school style remains to be seen, but those odds are tempting.

Penn State (+4000)

The Nittany Lions have lost a lot of superstar talent off their roster over the past two years. Perhaps that’s why they came into this season a bit overlooked in terms of the national scene. An ugly home win over Pitt in their first test of the season also consigned them to the back burner as far as national championship talks were concerned.

Things all changed when Penn State went out and destroyed Maryland last Friday night. Granted, Maryland already had a loss on their schedule to Temple, so it wasn’t exactly a Top 25 win. But it was the first time when Penn State’s potential was realized, as they showed the offensive explosiveness to go with a rugged defense.

The schedule isn’t kind to James Franklin’s squad, considering that three of their four Big Ten Top 25 opponents, including Ohio State, will be met on the road. And they’re coming from too far down the ladder to hope to make the playoffs with just one loss. But they have the talent to beat every opponent they face from this point.

Notre Dame (+6600)

Once you get into the territory of teams who have lost a game, like the Fighting Irish, you are talking about teams who need some help. If the SEC champ, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma all stay unbeaten, for example, there’s no way that Notre Dame can hope for the playoff. But, in this upset-riddled college football landscape, it’s hard to imagine so many unbeaten getting through.

Ironically enough, Notre Dame received their best press in years for their only loss of the season. As a two-touchdown underdog, they went to Georgia and traded blows with the Bulldogs, coming up just short in the final moments. They then doubled down with a solid victory over Virginia.

Still, even with the name recognition that they can boast, Notre Dame is going to need a lot of help. Perhaps the only team left on their schedule that might impress the selection committee is Michigan, and even the Wolverines are questionable. Notre Dame needs to dominate from this point absolutely and hope that they’re prayers are answered.

Texas (+6600)

The Longhorns couldn’t handle their home test against LSU, as the Bayou Bengals and Joe Budden passed them silly to win a shootout. That leaves Texas with a loss and puts them in a tight spot in terms of their playoff hopes. Still, this is a team that seems to get stronger as the season progresses, so there is hope for a surge.

Texas Longhorns Quarterback Sam Ehlinger

First, they will likely take on Oklahoma twice (once in the regular season and once in the Big 12 championship) if all goes well, giving them a chance for two huge victories to impress the committee. And, now that they’ve handled Oklahoma State, the rest of the schedule, besides the date with the Sooners, should find Texas as a heavy favorite in all other games. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger and company, have it all right in front of them.

Their defense must improve. Even in the win over Oklahoma State, they gave up a ton of yards but skated somewhat due to timely turnovers and stops. If they hope to beat Kyler Murray and company, a defensive stand here and there must be in the cards.

Oregon (+8000)

Oregon must be looking back at the closing moments of their season-opening loss to Auburn and wishing they could turn back the clock. If they just could have stopped Bo Nix on one of two fourth-down conversions, they would likely be pushing for the Top 5 spot. As it is, they have a lot to overcome to be considered a title contender.

The good news is that, since that heartbreaking loss, they have righted the ship impressively. Quarterback Justin Herbert is starting to put up stats comparable to how NFL scouts feel about him. And the Ducks’ defense is an underrated group, one that gave Auburn fits for most of that game until the final drive ruined it all.

What is Oregon’s path to the crown? Well, they must run the table, which means handling a road showdown with Washington in the regular season and winning the Pac 12 championship game. It also means that Auburn must keep up its winning ways since that neutral-field loss to the Tigers will look a lot more impressive down the road in that case.

Iowa (+10000)

Iowa is unbeaten in the Big Ten, a Power 5 conference, so you might be wondering why they’re just 100 to 1 to win it all. Well, they haven’t exactly played a Murderer’s Row so far. And their lone semi-impressive win, against Iowa State, was only sealed when two Cyclones collided on a punt return, preventing them from a potential winning drive.

We will find out a lot more about the Hawkeyes after they take on Michigan on Saturday. It’s on the road, which probably isn’t great for their chances of winning, but might be good for the national championship hopes. If they can step up and win in the Big House, people will have to start taking them seriously.

The gauntlet continues the following week against Penn State, with another test at Wisconsin further down the road. Hey, if you’re going to win the national championship, you’ve got to take on all comers. Iowa probably isn’t good enough to win all those games, but could they maybe pull off that stretch one out of 100 times, which is what those odds are saying to you?

Baylor (+15000)

The Bears might be off to one of the quietest unbeaten starts in the country. When you barely sneak by Rice, as Baylor did earlier this year, it’s understandable if people are sleeping on you. But, to their credit, they followed that up with a gutty victory over Iowa State.

Baylor boasts an underrated quarterback in Charlie Brewer. Through the team’s first four games, he has tossed 10 touchdowns without an interception. And the defense, compared to past Baylor teams, appears to be capable of offering up stouter resistance than usual.
Baylor University Quarterback Charlie Brewer

That said, they will likely be underdogs in maybe five of their last eight games. At least they get Texas and Oklahoma in Waco, which will give them at least a fighting shot. Again, you’re looking for lottery tickets once you get this far down the list, and 150 to 1 certainly qualifies.

Boise State (+25000)

One of those years, if there is any fairness in the world, Boise State, or a school like them, will make it to the playoff. Is it realistic that this will be the year? Probably not, for a few reasons, none of which are the Broncos fault, but still.

First, a large number of SEC teams with unbeaten records at this point seems to suggest that two of them might make the playoff this year. On top of that, Boise State’s schedule is doing them no favors this year. Their big win at the start of the season against Florida State doesn’t look impressive. A potential victory on the road against Brigham Young isn’t likely to top the needle either.

Still, Boise State has the best chance of any of the college football sleepers outside the Top 5 to end up the year with an unbeaten record. If nothing else, that will put some pressure on the committee, especially if somehow none of the Power 5 teams end up spotless. Maybe fairness in the world will prevail, and so could you, at 250 to 1.

Minnesota (+2500)

The Golden Gophers are a Big 10 team and have won all four of their games so far, but their odds of winning the whole kit and caboodle sit at 250 to 1. When you look at the nature of those victories, you can understand why. None of their four wins have come by a margin of more than seven points.

Three of those four wins came against non-Power 5 teams, and the one conference win they mustered came against Purdue, not precisely a perennial power. The combination of quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman has been lethal, but the defense leaves a lot to be desired. Let’s face it: 32 points yielded to Georgia Southern does not exactly scream national championship contender.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Wide Receiver Rashod Bateman

That said, they don’t play a Top 25 opponent until their ninth game. While they could easily lose before then to teams like Nebraska or Illinois, if they should make it to 8 and 0, the rest of the nation would have to take notice. From there, a couple of lucky bounces and they could start to make these long odds seem like the steal of the century.

Conclusion

A lot of these teams may seem like mammoth long shots, and it could be that most of them will fall by the wayside by the time the college football season ends. Still, the very definition of a college football sleeper is that they should seem, at this point of the year anyway, to be nothing more than a pipe dream. The odds reflect that odds which can win you a lot of money on a minimal bet should one of them shock the world.

It also feels like, at some point, college football is due for a big upset. The fact that there is now a playoff, albeit only a four-team one, opens the possibility for one team to sneak in as the #4 seed and pull off a couple of surprises to win it all. If that were to occur, it could be one of the teams on this list that manages it.

The bottom line is that the favorites might have the best chance to win, but they won’t bring you much in return, especially for a futures wager that won’t be decided for months. Why not go for the big score and take a chance on one of the ten teams we’ve described above. We hope that you find a college football sleeper from this list that warrants your betting attention and goes all the way to the title.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...

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