The college football landscape has been dominated by the same three programs since the inception of the current playoff structure. Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State have become yearly staples in the final four tournament despite the vast field of competitors. Betting on these favorites can be fun but there's over 100 other teams worth looking at to find value.
The college football win totals are available now at DraftKings Sportsbook and there are some good values there with teams you're likely familiar with and some you may not be. We dove deep to find some you can be comfortable with because they're bigger programs who are well-researched.
Below, we've listed four excellent values to bank on between Clemson, Alabama, Indiana, and Texas.
Clemson Tigers: 11.5 Wins
Trevor Lawrence was fantastic in his three seasons in Clemson, and although the Tigers recruit as well as almost anyone, losing that type of transformative NFL talent can stifle a program quickly. Landing 5-star recruit D.J. Uiagalelei from California was a massive get but he still had to prove himself as the future after Lawrence departs. But in just two starts that came thanks to a positive COVID-19 test for Lawrence, we can already determine that Uiagalelei is the next star playmaking QB for the Tigers.
Uiagalelei has the physical profile that evaluators dream of. His 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame pops off the screen immediately, and he’s a quality athlete for his size. His ability to make plays within the pocket and outside of the tackle box has already been flashed in his two starts under center.
Uiagalelei's numbers in games against Boston College and No. 4 Notre Dame were nothing short of outstanding for a veteran starter, let alone a true freshman. He completed 69-of-99 attempts with four passing scores and zero interceptions. And he’s attained those numbers by dominating on short and intermediate passes.
Seventy-two percent of his non-throwaway attempts have come between zero and 19 yards, while 16 attempts have been behind the line of scrimmage, and he’s had five deep balls beyond 20 yards. This is unique for his skill set and archetype since he has such a strong arm and powerful build that one would assume he’d be more of a downfield thrower. His pass distribution looks more like a weak-armed quarterback is limited to, not one that has the effortless velocity and downfield touch that Uiagalelei has displayed.
This is far from a bad thing, and betting sites touting Clemson as a favorite for next season know it. Clemson has relied on his quick processing at a very young age and has found success already. He’s thrown a catchable pass on a whopping 83% of his short throws, which is better than all but six drafted quarterbacks’ full-season numbers since 2012. It’s unlikely he’d sustain that level of accuracy over the course of a full campaign once defenses adjust but the baseline is high for Uiagalelei’s acumen.
Because the Tigers' roster has so many high recruits and worthy athletes able to step in and produce early, it's easier to bet on their raw talent. This defense will carry them in tough matchups, and Uiagalelei is talented enough to transcend any limitations around him to help create a high-achieving playoff contestant again.
Our Pick: Over 11.5 (+100)
Indiana Hoosiers: 8 Wins
What I love about the Indiana program in 2021 boils down to two overarching themes. The first is they're returning 80% of their 2020 production from a great defense. The other is I'm buying Michael Penix Jr.'s development into a Heisman Trophy contender.
The offense has five graduate transfers figuring to start off the bat. This includes two receivers, two blockers, and USC transfer Stephen Carr at running back. This should be a can't-miss unit in 2021 if Penix is more accurate.
The Big Ten isn't terribly strong right now, either. Obvious candidates like Ohio State and Wisconsin will be there, but Michigan, Penn State, and Northwestern aren't world-beaters entering the year. Indiana can be the team to establish themselves as a real threat to everyone they play.
The defense is experienced and boasting two more grad starters and two rotational contributors. It's impressive how they added so many bodies in a short amount of time. All of this experience will push the over and the value.
Our Pick: Over 8 (+120)
Texas Longhorns: 8 Wins
The other end of the spectrum for what we see from Indiana is Texas.
Steve Sarkisian was a strong hire but he has the tough task of replacing a veteran quarterback, multiple offensive linemen, a premier pass rusher, and the leader of the secondary.
Texas is returning just 61% of production, which is tied for 95th in the nation. Some fresh faces were bound to come about with the new regime but it takes time for coaches to find the right blend of the incumbents and their own recruits.
Who starts at quarterback is a massive question. The Big 12 self-cannibalizes as much as any conference and I think Texas is in the seven-win range. It's tough to win big road games without a reliable passer and this roster doesn't have someone who will maximize this offense in Year 1.
Our Pick: Under 8 (-139)
Alabama Crimson Tide: 11.5. Wins
The obvious wart on Alabama’s resume is their lack of experience. The offense alone will feature as many as 10 freshmen getting significant playing time. Even more daunting is the fact Bryce Young may start his Alabama career throwing to and being blocked by that many youngsters.
Coach Nick Saban’s largely been able to avoid such a daunting task throughout his career. But Young represents another mobile and highly gifted playmaker like Tua Tagovailoa. There’s no justifiable way he could’ve landed the young star with a credible threat to take his job already on the roster.
The running back spot is in good hands again as Brian Robinson Jr., an unproven but talented back, will presumably step into the Najee Harris role. However, it’s concerning to see only one upperclassman on the line in front of him. Freshmen Pierce Quick and JC Latham may be asked to start right away against quality foes.
The defense is in better hands, at least. There are just two projected starters who aren’t upperclassmen, and the depth on the unit is impressive again. It’s hard to see who the primary pass rusher will be, though, and there’s not a defensive back as good as Patrick Surtain II was last year. The growing pains will be tough even for this loaded core of talent.
Showdowns against Florida, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M before mid-October are actual threats to another undefeated season. While two of those teams are also replacing QBs, they both have stout defenses, and retained more proven talent across the board than Alabama did.
Our PIck: Under 11.5 (-113)
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