We've already checked out some potential sleeper bets for the 2010 national championship. It's a slow holiday weekend, so let's see if there's any value out there among the conference future plays.
I have a really tough time finding a favorite in the Big East. The odds say it's either UConn (+250) or Pittsburgh (+250). Both make sense, but neither are particularly inspiring.
As I mentioned a couple weeks back during the podcast with Zach Rosenfield of AccuScore, Rutgers really intrigues me this year. The Scarlet Knights are one of the few teams in the Big East that have an experienced quarterback in sophomore Tom Savage. Rutgers also has an experienced running back in Joe Martinek and dangerous wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
Coach Greg Schiano does face a significant rebuilding job on the offensive line, and the schedule won't do his team any favors.
Boston College (+800 conference, +300 division)
The ACC actually looks pretty brutal this year. Between Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State and North Carolina, the conference isn't lacking for quality.
Don't sleep on BC, though. Led by freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Eagles played some tremendous defense last season. A number of key contributors on that side return, as well as feel-good story Mark Herzlich.
On offense, workhorse Montel Harris returns after running for nearly 1,500 yards in 2009. Quarterback Dave Shinskie had a sub-par freshman season, but he no doubt gained some valuable experience while leading the team to an 8-5 finish.
The Eagles do have to travel to Florida State, but the rest of the road slate is manageable. Also, BC has a week off prior to its toughest home game on Sept. 25 against Virginia Tech. Make it to the conference championship game, and who knows what could happen?
*BC for the division may be my favorite out of all of these.
Kansas State (+400 division)
You may recall that I'm higher on the Wildcats than most seem to be. If you find yourself seduced by K-State, too, I'd suggest you avoid the temptation to bet the conference title (+800). KSU will not beat a team from the Big 12 South in the championship game, especially in Dallas.
As is the case in the Big East, I don't see a clear-cut favorite in the Pac-10. The oddsmakers favor USC (+175) and Oregon (+250), but we all know the questions there.
Farther down the list, Washington has plenty of pieces in place. On offense, the Huskies bring back 10 of 11 starters from an offense that improved dramatically last season, coach Steve Sarkisian's first in Seattle. The D showed less progress, which actually may mean that losing five starters is a pretty good thing.
However, a murderous schedule could have the Huskies beaten down by the end of the year. Conference games at Oregon, USC and Arizona? Ouch.
Auburn (+350 division, +500 conference)
Not surprisingly, Alabama to win the SEC West is considered the surest bet on the board (-200). However, the SEC West also has the most surprising odds on the board, in my opinion: Auburn at +350. The two teams widely considered to be the Crimson Tide's top competition, LSU and Arkansas, are paying +500.
Like a number of highly regarded high school recruits, Vegas is clearly buying into whatever Gene Chizik and his crew are selling.
Talented juco quarterback Cameron Newton should be an upgrade over Chris Todd in Gus Malzahn's fast-paced offense, and the Tigers have been stocking up on talent at the skill positions. On the other hand, if you can't play defense in the SEC, you won't get very far. That's Chizik's specialty, so he may be ready to get that ship moving in the right direction.
As far as the conference schedule goes, it's definitely manageable, although that trip to Tuscaloosa in the last regular season game looms large.
Full disclosure: I feel like I overvalue Wisconsin every year.
Anyway, Wisky looks rock solid, as usual. I love the running game behind the Badgers' beefy offensive line and the passing game should be its usually efficient self. Even with the losses of O'Brien Schofield and Jaevery McFadden on D, I don't see any letdown on that side.
The biggest stumbling blocks facing the Badgers are back-to-back against Ohio State in Madison and Iowa in Iowa City. Getting the Buckeyes at home definitely helps Wisconsin's case, and I expect Iowa's losses on the offensive line will set the Hawkeyes back this year.