While the AP and coaches' preseason polls might generate the headlines, Homerism puts much more stock in Las Vegas Sports Consultants' "Oddsmakers Poll," the 2008 preseason edition of which was released today.
If you've ever visited a Las Vegas sportsbook, you understand why. This is how these guys make their living--which I'm sure is a good one. On top of that, they watch a lot more of the action than your average college football reporter and certainly run a more thorough statistical analysis of teams' performances than anyone else in the world.
LVSC's poll ranks teams based on the measures used to determine teams' relative strengths and establish point spreads. Comparing the Oddsmakers Poll to the major polls, a few differences in opinion become clear:
- Georgia is far from a consensus preseason number one, and the bookies are even more skeptical, ranking the 'Dawgs seventh.
- Vegas' love for South Carolina is pretty astounding. Although the pollsters put the Gamecocks outside the top 25, LVSC has Steve Spurrier's crew at 14. Homerism happens to share the enthusiasm, due in part to Spurrier's savvy and a stout defense.
- While the media and public continue to fawn all over the SEC, the verdict from the oddsmakers is clear: the Big XII is tops. The Big XII has two teams in LVSC's top five, four in the top nine and five among the top twelve.
- Besides South Carolina, other underrated teams in Vegas' eyes include Penn State (nine spots higher than polls) and TCU (unranked in both polls, receiving five votes from the coaches and zero from the writers).
- Overrated: Wisconsin (20 in LVSC poll, 12 and 13 in the majors), LSU (eight or nine spots too high) and Auburn.
- Are the oddsmakers showing their West Coast bias? Seeing as USC finished 2007 on top of LVSC's rankings and are starting there this year, is it possible the Trojans are getting a little too much respect thanks to Sin City close proximity to Los Angeles?
Vegas' forecast for OU is sunny with a chance of rain. The fact that the Sooners are ranked third behind two teams that play each other early in the season--USC and Ohio St.-- suggests that the oddsmakers see OU getting a chance to right past wrongs against Pete Carroll's juggernaut on January 8. However, LVSC's poll indicates a difficult road ahead for the Sooners. OU has regular season games with the teams slotted at eight (Texas), nine (Texas Tech), 12 (Kansas), 25 (Cincinnati) and 28 (Oklahoma St.). If they survive that regular season slate, fourth-ranked Missouri might await the Sooners in a de facto Tigers home game in the Big XII championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
It's certainly not an impossible undertaking, but it should give pause to fans and pundits arguing that OU has one of the relatively easier roads to the national championship game.