In one way, college football handicapping is rather boring. You know who the early favorites are going to be just about every season as it’s the same powerhouses every year. They have all the money and get all the top prospects. So it’s no shock that defending national champion Alabama is the favorite in the current college football betting lines. Or that Clemson, which lost to the Tide in last year’s title game, is No. 2. But here are two teams that could surprise and reach the College Football Playoff. There’s usually one surprise every year contending for a title.
Teams Poised for a Surprise This NCAA Football Betting Season
Tennessee Volunteers (+1500 on NCAAF lines)
After getting off to a slow start last year at 3-4, with several close losses, Tennessee won its final five games of the regular season. The Vols dominated a Northwestern team that could have been in a New Year’s Six game to the tune of 45-6 to finish the year 9-4. With 18 starters back, the Vols are a chic pick to win the SEC East Division title this year and then perhaps Alabama in the conference title game for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Senior quarterback Josh Dobbs and junior running back Jalen Hurd are both potential Heisman contenders. The thinking is that Dobbs will develop as a passer, but if he doesn’t, the team will be able to run the ball effectively behind the legs of Dobbs, Hurd and his fellow junior running back, Alvin Kamara. Dobbs (671), Hurd (1,288) and Kamara (698) combined for over 2,600 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns last year. The biggest offseason acquisition for the Vols may have been defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from Penn State. Shoop will have plenty of talent to work with, especially after corner Cam Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin decided to forgo the NFL draft to stay for their senior seasons.
Washington Huskies (+4500 to win title on NCAAF odds)
The Huskies haven’t been among the national elite for a while and were only 7-6 last year, but they return seven starters from what was the nation’s ninth-most efficient defense last season and have eight starters back from an offense that featured a freshman quarterback (Jake Browning) and freshman running back (Myles Gaskin) a year ago. Browning was the first true freshman to ever start an opener for the Huskies. He finished the year with 2,955 passing yards and 16 scores. Browning closed the year with a strong performance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, completing 23 of 34 passes for 284 yards against Southern Miss. And all Gaskin did was earn UW’s offensive MVP award after breaking the school’s freshman rushing records with 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns. The receiving corps is the biggest concern on offense. Dante Pettis (30 receptions) is the team’s top returning option. For the Huskies to challenge the likes of Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 North, that offense needs to be more consistent and more dynamic. The Huskies already boast the top-rated defense in the Pac-12. Washington coach Chris Petersen also led several highly-ranked teams when he was at Boise State. I believe the Huskies are a good bet in online college football odds to win the Pac-12 North with both Stanford and Oregon having to replace their starting quarterbacks.