Hot Starts, National Rankings Can’t Keep Michigan, Michigan State National Title Odds From Dropping

Written By Matt Schoch on September 23, 2021

You only need to check out the puffed-out chests for fans on social media these days to know things are going well here for college football in Michigan.

As both are home favorites against current Big Ten Conference afterthoughts on Saturday, Michigan and Michigan State could both roll through the September portions of their schedule at 4-0, each with impressive victories in tow.

The road toward an Oct. 30 meeting in East Lansing could also be comparatively smooth, as Wisconsin hosts the Wolverines next weekend in the only ranked vs. ranked battle next month for the Great Lakes State teams.

With all the excitement around here, surely not only a trip to Indianapolis, but grander dreams of a national championship are becoming a bit more realistic by the week, no?

As Lee Corso of “College GameDay” fame would say: Not so fast, my friends.

The Michigan and Michigan State hot starts are not nudging national title odds shorter. In fact, after three wins apiece and good vibes throughout the state, both teams are even bigger longshots, according to at least one leading Michigan sports betting operator.

Michigan, MSU futures odds have both bumped back

Both in-state football programs came into the season with tons of questions.

There had been some positive strides from Mel Tucker last season in Year 1, most notably a win against the rivals from Ann Arbor. But there was also a 2-5 record and plenty of transfers coming in.

Of course for Michigan, the confounding lack of major success under Jim Harbaugh was an ongoing issue there, in addition to a similarly dreadful 2020 at 2-4.

So it wasn’t a surprise that both teams were preseason long shots to win the national title. BetMGM Sportsbook had Michigan with +5000 national title odds, while Michigan State was at +10000.

After some steamrolling of opponents in the Big House by Michigan, and a couple impressive road victories for MSU, surely those numbers have shortened up?

Nope. At BetMGM this week, Michigan was at +6600, while Michigan State has moved to +15000.

Best College Football National Title Odds

Teams down south skewing all the natty title odds

Although the “team down south” nickname is usually reserved for tentative references to the hated Ohio State Buckeyes, a couple other teams to the south are to blame for odds increases.

Because as impressive as Michigan and Michigan State have been this season, the national eyes have been drawn to two Southeastern Conference juggernauts.

Per Darren Darby, sports trader at BetMGM, Michigan and Michigan State’s odds have gotten longer because Alabama and Georgia are the clear favorites to win the College Football Playoff.

Alabama is expectedly brilliant again, featuring pros all over the place and already featuring wins against ranked Miami and Florida squads.

Georgia had the season’s most impressive victory, knocking off Clemson in its opener.

The teams would not meet until the SEC Championship on Dec. 4. And, it would stand to reason that both teams would make the playoff if the Tide and Bulldogs both run the table until then.

According to BetMGM, Alabama opened at +300 to win it all and now sits at +175. Georgia moved from +800 in the preseason to +350 this week.

Unlikely runs by Michigan, Michigan State would hurt BetMGM

Continued success by the local teams could be bad news for sportsbooks.

In part because BetMGM does so much volume in Michigan compared to other states, the local teams skew their balance sheets quite a bit. Michigan State is actually BetMGM’s biggest national championship liability, according to the company, while Michigan is third.

But in the big picture, it’s been clear for awhile that there’s a top super tier in the college football landscape. Ohio State is in that group some years, but there’s always an SEC team or two leading the way.

This year appears to be no different, and oddsmakers have adjusted quickly to that reality.

Because as nice as fans are feeling about the Wolverines and Spartans these days, until proven otherwise, these teams are still another level away from the game’s best.

Photo by AP file photos
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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