When it comes to rankings, believing Vegas is a gamble

To borrow a phrase from the 2 Live Stews, “It’s Poll Time!” Or so it seems. With the college football magazines having already come out with their rankings, the recent release of odds and win totals from high rollers out in Las Vegas have steered conservation around the sport to the questions of who’s the best team. Who should be ranked No. 1? Who will play in the BCS Title Game?

The website Vegasinsider.com opened with USC the favorite to win the national championship at 3/1, while Florida and Oklahoma were next at 6/1, Ohio State followed at 8/1 and Georgia, Missouri and Texas came in at 10/1. Another release from oddsmakers out in Vegas had USC the favorite, followed by Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia.

Regarding the number of wins for each team, Vegasinsider.com opened with USC having the highest win total at 10.5, followed by Florida, Ohio State and Oklahoma at 10. Missouri, Virginia Tech and Boise State were next at 9.5. Georgia was in a group of eight teams at nine.  Interestingly enough, Brian Edwards of Vegasinsider.com lists Florida, USC, Missouri, Georgia and Oklahoma as his top 5 teams, which of course is different from the order of teams I just mentioned.

What does this mean? When Las Vegas sets odds they are setting them based on the most likely outcome. They are not necessarily ranking teams based on talent and how they function as a team. According to Vegas, Georgia can have the most functional and talented team in the country, but won’t finish with the best record if they have the most difficult schedule. The oddsmakers will reflect this in setting their numbers.

Judging teams based on their likely outcome is smart when oddsmakers are trying to take home as much money as possible, but it does not necessarily rank the best teams. When ranking teams, the talent of the team and how it functions as a cohesive unit is what should be looked at. Fellow Score Atlanta writer Scott Janovitz and I did this when we compiled our Preseason Top 25 for the July/August edition of Hooters Magazine. We paid no attention to schedules and conferences, we just ranked teams on talent and team play. You can check out the magazine and our Top 25 at your local Hooters or get a subscription at Hootersmagazine.com.

As LSU showed last year, the best team can finish on top no matter how difficult its road is.

Butler can be reached at jbutler@scoreatl.com.


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