Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 3:10 PM
Washington State controls their own destiny for the Pac-12 title with a 7-0 league record. Their 8-2 mark overall is on a par with College Football Playoff contenders like Wisconsin, ranked seventh in the most recent CFP rankings. Yet the Cougars aren’t given much respect, in their league or in the nation overall.
Even with their path to the conference championship clear, college football bettors can still get a 13-2 price on Washington State to win the Pac-12, not bad for this late date. If you’re looking for a longshot at a national championship, the number there is a juicy 75-1—for a team that’s won eight straight games. Does this represent betting opportunity or is this is a case when the market knows best.
When it comes to the national title number, the skepticism is realistically warranted. Washington State was only #22 in the most recent CFP rankings. While they have good showcase games ahead—Colorado, Washington and, under this scenario, a Pac-12 Championship Game (either a Colorado rematch or USC), the Cougars still clearly need a lot of help.
If Washington State does win this conference championship it likely makes it an easy decision for the Playoff committee to make the Pac-12 the power conference that’s left out. Or the committee could choose to take two teams from the Big Ten or ACC, or the SEC if Alabama should stumble. And even if the miracle should happen and Mike Leach’s team does make the Playoff, there’s the not-so-incidental task of winning those two games to actually cash the ticket.
So we’re not blinded by the number nationally, but the fact Washington State still draws good odds simply to win the Pac-12 is interesting. The Cougars lead the North Division by one game over archrival Washington, whom they play on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That means, when it comes to the conference race that WSU has a loss to give in Boulder this weekend against 12th-ranked Colorado.
There’s also no reason to think Washington State can’t match up with the best in their league. Luke Falk is as good as there is at quarterback. He’s completing 74% of his passes and while his 7.5 yards-per-attempt seems pedestrian on the surface, it’s actually pretty impressive in light of the fact he averages nearly fifty throws a game. Falk has managed to pull off the tough statistical task of playing efficiently within a high-volume attack and in a pure football sense, he shows a good ability to spread the ball around and not get too fixated on one particular target.
Defense has usually been the bugaboo for Mike Leach’s teams, be it here or in his previous life at Texas Tech. This Cougar defense isn’t great, but at 44th in the country in points allowed, it’s certainly not bad. And when the Falk-led offense ranks 7th in points scored, the D is more than good enough.
The skepticism about Washington State is understandable—they opened the season with a loss to Eastern Washington. After another loss to Boise, the Cougars ripped off eight straight wins, but the most impressive has been Stanford—who’s on a down year in 2016. It’s fair to say Washington State has not been tested like they will these next two games and potentially in a conference title game.
So the risk in investing in Washington State is there, but the opportunity is as well. If you still have room in your futures betting bankroll and keep the focus on just the Pac-12 rather than shooting the works nationally, the Cougars still offer a payday.