We still have several months before football returns. But already, the college football odds for the 2022 season are starting to take shape. Here’s a look at the early favorites to win each Power Five conference. Are there any sleeper teams that might be smart bets this early into the offseason?
It’s only May, but that’s not stopping bettors from taking a look at the early college football odds for the 2022 season. There are still a few moving pieces on the college football landscape, and many starting lineups still require settling. But looking at the early roster makeups for each Power Five team, the oddsmakers have submitted their early college football odds for each conference.
Alabama and Georgia set to battle again for SEC
Predictably, the teams that met in the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff National Championship are the top returning teams in the SEC in 2022. Alabama is a slight favorite over Georgia early, with +100 odds, while Georgia is listed at +125.
Looking at these two teams side by side, Alabama has a clear leg up. Not only does Bryce Young give the Crimson Tide an edge on offense, but Alabama is also gaining Jermaine Burton from the Bulldogs’ ranks. On defense, the Crimson Tide returned a great deal of talent and also grabbed Eli Ricks from LSU. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs lost eight members of their historic defense to the NFL Draft, on top of losing George Pickens, James Cook, and two linemen.
Georgia is still an immensely talented team, but in what may be more of a reloading year for them, Alabama should be the favorite. There’s a gap between them and the next best SEC teams, but a few potential high-value plays could be Texas A&M at +1100, as well as Kentucky and Tennessee at +4000.
Clemson projected to return to prominence in ACC
The Clemson Tigers dominated the ACC when Trevor Lawrence was under center. In the first season after his ascent to the NFL, Dabo Swinney’s squad struggled with DJ Uiagalelei at the helm. Now, Uiagalelei isn’t even a lock to be the starting QB, with highly-touted recruit Cade Klubnik right on his tail.
Outside of QB, the offense as a whole has uncertainty. It remains to be seen who will step in as a premier playmaker at wide receiver and whether they’ll share chemistry with their QB. But the offensive line is sturdy, and defensively, Clemson could have a dominant unit. Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee, and Trenton Simpson all project as game-wreckers. Meanwhile, Tyler Davis, Andrew Mukuba, and Sheridan Jones all bring great upside.
Clemson’s listing as the top ACC team at -145 isn’t just about them, though. The defending champion Pittsburgh Panthers are losing a considerable amount of talent, including Kenny Pickett to the NFL Draft and Jordan Addison to the transfer portal.
However, there are other ACC teams worth listing as sleepers. Miami can surprise at +500 with Tyler Van Dyke and Mario Cristobal. And NC State is quietly a very talented team at +1000, with a solid QB in Devin Leary.
Ohio State is the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten title
According to the early college football odds, Ohio State is the most lopsided conference favorite in early listings. The Buckeyes sit atop the Big Ten with -200 odds. The closest following contender is Wisconsin at +1000, then Michigan at +1100, followed by Penn State at +1200.
There’s a reason Ohio State is viewed so highly. C.J. Stroud returns as the best quarterback in the conference by a safe margin, and one of the best QBs in the league. Weapons like TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka take the offense from exceptional to elite. The defense has its questions, but a secondary led by Denzel Burke, Cameron Brown, and Ronnie Hickman has undeniable potential.
Ohio State’s status as the heavy favorite is completely warranted. The Buckeyes’ offense could be near impossible to stop, but Big Ten teams with good defense and the firepower to keep things close could have a fighting chance.
Michigan stands out as a potential value play, especially if J.J. McCarthy takes the reins. Past the top few teams, there aren’t many sleepers worth betting on. But Purdue could be a team to watch, with an able QB and talent on both sides of the ball.
Big 12 a contested battleground in early projections
Few conferences are more unpredictable this season than the Big 12 conference. In the early college football odds, Oklahoma leads the way at +170. However, Texas is hot on Brent Venables’ heels at +200. Beyond that, Oklahoma State and Baylor are also relatively close, at +500 and +750, respectively.
On paper alone, taking the Longhorns at +200 is a tempting move. Oklahoma feels more established at the top of the conference, and they do have talent coming back. But there’s also a changing of the guard at hand, with Venables and quarterback Dillon Gabriel leading the way after the departures of Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams.
Meanwhile, Texas has Quinn Ewers, Bijan Robinson, Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, Agiye Hall, Isaiah Neyor, and Jahleel Billingsley in a Steve Sarkisian-led offense. Yet, it’s tough to say Texas is back after years of promise and disappointment, but that offense is loaded, and the defense quietly has talent, especially on the front line.
Beyond those first two, Baylor could be a viable sleeper. The Bears bring back a lot of talent in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and redshirt sophomore Blake Shapen could provide stability at QB. Texas Tech could also be a deep sleeper to watch at +4000, with Donovan Smith, SaRodorick Thompson, and Myles Price leading the way on offense under Joey McGuire.
USC benefits from Lincoln Riley effect ahead of 2022
Lincoln Riley hasn’t coached a game for USC yet, but he already has the Trojans listed as a slight favorite in the Pac-12. USC is the top Pac-12 team, with college football odds of +200 heading into the new year. Even with the early hype, however, they aren’t uncontested. Oregon is just a hair behind at +210. Utah is in the conversation as well at +500, and Arizona State and UCLA are both at +850.
In a sense, it’s odd seeing USC and Oregon at the top, since both have new coaches coming in. But Riley is regarded as one of the best coaches in college football, while Dan Lanning, the defensive mastermind who engineered Georgia’s dominance in 2021, has a ton of talent to work with in Eugene. The question will be whether or not Oregon can keep up with Caleb Williams and the Trojans’ weapons on offense.
A lot hinges on the growth of Auburn transfer Bo Nix at QB. He has the natural ability to be a high-level passer, but inconsistency has plagued him in recent years. With so much uncertainty surrounding the top teams in the Pac-12, Utah at +500 could be a great buy-low opportunity.
Kyle Whittingham’s Utes won the conference last season, and they return enough talent to stay in contention. Cameron Rising was respectable at QB, and the offensive line should afford him plenty of security. The defense is even more appealing. Talents like Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate, Clark Phillips III, and Cole Bishop lead the way. Whittingham coaches winners, so he should never be counted out.