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2018-19 National Championship Early Odds: Signing Day Shifts?

Alabama Notre Dame National Title Game
Notre Dame and Alabama face off in the 2013 National Championship Game. Photo by Matt Velazquez (Flickr) [CC License].
  • Is national signing day as big a deal for sportsbooks and bettors as it is for the media?
  • How has national signing day changed the early National Championship odds?
  • Which college football teams are offering early value for bettors?

Recruiting is undoubtedly the most important determinant of success in college football. The team with the better four-year recruiting average almost always wins. The National Championship game almost exclusively features the very best recruiters.

So how does the passing of national signing day affect the top teams’ odds to win the national title? As you can see below in an excerpt from our National Championship futures tracker, not much.

There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, signing day is only relevant to one class, and therefore only speaks to the talents of the youngest and least experienced players on a team. You won’t see a lot of your team’s blue-chip recruits on the field this fall, as they gain strength, learn systems, and wait behind more experienced upperclassmen. A notable exception: the national title game was won by a true freshman throwing a ball to another true freshman.

Furthermore, this class was the first to be signed with the new “early signing period” in place, which allowed student athletes to sign LOI’s as early as December 20th. The idea was for a small portion of special cases to make use of this period, but all the big teams aggressively recruited their commits and expected them to sign early. More than three quarters of all of college football’s top prospects signed during the early signing period, making national signing day much less important than it’s been in the past.

Biggest Movers

What happens when we get outside of the biggest names? There’s more movement there, although not all in the same direction, and it’s not all because of signing day.

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher had eight weeks to put together a class, and did about as good as LSU. That uncertainty assuaged, the Aggies get a betting line commensurate with a strong SEC West team. LSU had some concerns about defensive coordinator Dave Aranda leaving, and when those were put to bed (money solves all kinds of problems) LSU came into line.

Florida’s an interesting case, because Dan Mullen is undoubtedly a better coach than Jim McElwain, but it’s not immediately clear that Mississippi State’s playbook will travel well. They managed to sign a decent enough class, and there’s a fair amount of brand-name points you get when you’re Florida. Still, Florida might be slightly overrated here, and I’m not sure this line moved in the right direction.

Oklahoma makes sense. They started off too short for any sane bettor, and now Baker Mayfield is gone. Also: Mike Stoops isn’t gone.

Washington just signed one of its best recruiting classes ever, and returns Myles Gaskin, one of the most efficient and productive running backs in the country. Washington is going to be the hipster playoff pick again in 2018 (right there with Michigan) and while betting markets have never loved the Huskies, they are getting a little more fair.

Let’s Check in on the ACC

Last year we were talking about how the ACC was the best conference in football, actually, and that the media doesn’t give the ACC any respect. This year, well, we’re not doing that.

Clemson didn’t help by getting blown out in last year’s playoff by Alabama. Florida State didn’t help by getting blown out by Boston College and also looking terrible in every other game. The Louisville Lamar Jacksons lost a pretty important player. Even Miami lost some steam getting torched by Wisconsin in bowl season.

Across the board, you see odds retreating for the ACC. The CFP Selection Committee has proven that it doesn’t mind leaving conference champions out if they’re not up to snuff, so the slot the ACC had set aside isn’t as secure as it seemed before. Add in that the SEC has two really good teams, the Big Ten has at least one and likely two, and that leaves the PAC-12, Big 12, and ACC all looking at each other sideways.

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Alex studied political science in university but spent most of that time watching college football. Started covering sports betting for this site in 2017. Avid tennis player, golf nut, and motorsports nerd. Career .600 against Ryan Murphy in NBA Jam: Tournament Edition.