Podcast With Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer
Adam Kramer of Kegs N’ Eggs and Bleacher Report is not only one of the funniest voices in college football, he’s also an expert when it comes to “gaming.” Jim Weber recently spoke with Kramer about who he would put money on to win the national title, Heisman Trophy and 2013’s early-season games.
Jim Weber: This is Jim Weber from LostLettermen.com and I’m joined by Adam Kramer of the college football blog Kegs ‘N Eggs and also BleacherReport.com. Adam, thanks for joining us. My first question is: looking at the odds that have come from Bovada on the national champion and – obviously Alabama is a huge favorite at 13-4. Who do you look at this list and say this is an undervalued team I would want to place my money on?
Adam Kramer: I look at a conference in particular. The Big 12 to me is – you know, I’ve tried to figure out who I like from that conference all off season. I’m not sure if I’ve found that answer out yet. But, I do know that I like TCU, who’s bounced back between 66-1 and 100-1. Now, it’s a long shot – certainly. I think offensively, they still have concerns, they have a game against LSU to start. And then the schedule that starts, by Big 12 standards, isn’t ideal. But, I think that you look at the ceiling with this team, and that makes me like them quite a bit.
And, staying along those lines, I think Oklahoma State, in that 30 to 40-1 range, depending on where you look. Another team that, offensively, is going to be really good regardless of who plays quarterback. Defensively, they’re experienced. Certainly not going to dazzle anybody with defensive numbers. But again, I think there’s enough there to get by. And then, most importantly, the schedule really sets up well for them, for home and away. So those are the teams you look for with value.
I think that the biggest thing that everyone tries to do is beat ‘Bama, more specifically, the SEC. Five of the top ten teams are from the SEC. And, so if you want to go against it – good luck.
JW: I’m always interested looking at lines and that, obviously, they set the lines not only based on what they think will happen, but how they think they’ll bet. And it always kind of blows my mind just how over-hyped some of these teams will be. You know, Texas at 30-1, with talk about Mack Brown being fired. And then you see USC at 50-1 - which is twice as good of odds as TCU, which is favored to win the Big 12 - even though they went 7-6 last year. I mean, do you think this is all part of the Vegas genius? Are there really enough suckers out there that are willing to take USC to win the national championship to validate 50-1 odds?
AK: Oh yeah. I mean, USC is a team, of course, that will drum up any interest regardless of how they are. You look at a team like Notre Dame, teams like Florida, teams like Texas – other public teams, so to speak, that are going to be back regardless of whether it’s warranted or not.
When you look at the very top of this list, it’s pretty difficult to go against the favorites because they look at the very top of this list and it’s pretty difficult to go with the favorites. A team like Alabama, of course, is going to be favored by the end of this year in 53 straight games. Dominant on both sides.
A team like Ohio State has a schedule that starts up incredibly well. And an offense and defense that, I think, are really really talented - besides the fact that the team can be really good besides the fact that the schedule is not so good. But still could side well for them. So, I think it’s tough to go against the favorites. It always is. You look at how the past few years, other than maybe a brief cameo from Auburn - who I think was in that 70-101 range, before we knew Cam Newton was Cam Newton. Other than that, I think a lot of these instances, the favorites usually play as such.
JW: One team that really stood out to me is Louisville at 20-1 because it seems like they have such a good shot at running the table. But the chances of actually just getting into the BCS title game seem pretty slim because there could be a two-loss SEC team that could get in before them. Louisville at 20-1, do you like that because the chances of going undefeated are so good? Or, do you hate the fact that it’s pretty much out of your hands that they get in the national title game even if they go undefeated?
AK: That’s the problem. And I lean towards the latter because they’ve got a great chance to go undefeated. They have, perhaps, the best player in the country in Teddy Bridgewater, a tremendous coach, a roster I think that is a bit undervalued. And, pretty much, the entire team returns – the same team that dismantled Florida. But, the problem is: When your schedule is highlighted with a game against Cincinnati, and really that’s the meat of the schedule, that’s not a good thing. And I think that’s pretty much indicative of what we can expect.
They’ve got a great chance, obviously, to go undefeated. A lot of it depends on what other teams do. And in the last year of the BCS, wouldn’t it be fitting to have some sort of ridiculous bit of controversy? And you can have that here. So, I really like the team. I really like a lot about it. But with that value, and that’s decent value, it’s just not enough for me to say “Well, I need this to happen and I also need these other teams to lose.” That’s when these futures bets get dicey.
JW: Moving on the Heisman trophy, the favorite is obviously Johnny Manziel. Then Braxton Miller at 6-1. Who do you look at here as someone undervalued that you would want to put your money on?
AK: You know, it’s interesting. Heisman favorites for this, when you keep in mind last year that your three favorites were Matt Barkley, Denard Robinson, and Montee Ball. And really, none of them came close. And that’s been a trend of late. You look at the Heisman favorites over the past eight years or so – I’ve gone back and done this – looked at some of the odds and, for the most part, none of these guys have even finished in the running, in the podium, or anything like that. So, for whatever reason, that’s been the case.
I look for value - I go down that list, that 16-1 range. I think Marcus Mariota from Oregon at 16-1 is about a good of value as you’re going to find on this list. Look right below him at Tajh Boyd from Clemson at 16-1. I think a lot, you know for Oregon, I don’t think necessarily a lot has to go right. I mean, certainly operating without Chip Kelly is a problem. But, this is an offense that is going to put up points and work at a ridiculous tempo; the numbers are going to be there if they can run though their schedule – which they’re favored in every team. I think he’s got a great chance.
And for Boyd, Clemson isn’t a complete team. But this is a guy that put up numbers that were comparable to Johnny Manziel last year. Ridiculous numbers, should do it again. If Clemson can get hot and win some of those key games at the beginning and end of their schedule looking at Georgia and South Carolina, great showcases for him – nationally-televised showcases. I think he has a good chance.
JW: I’m wondering your thoughts on just betting on the Heisman in general. Johnny Manziel had just an unbelievable year that he really earned it. But so much of the Heisman seems to be publicity in that one Heisman moment that no one can see coming. I think of the Jadeveon Clowney hit against Vincent Smith – where it’s a blown block and Vincent Smith is just a sitting duck for a huge hit. His helmet flies off, which no one could have predicted, and all of the sudden – that becomes the play of the year.
Not that it wasn’t a great hit by Jadeveon Clowney, but for all the great things he did, that became kind of the signature moment of his career. Do you like betting on the Heisman or do you stay away from it because so much of it is dependent upon on this one fluke play that all of the sudden becomes a Heisman moment?
AK: I think unlike the BCS betting, I think there is a lot of value to be had with the Heisman. Collin Klein’s a guy I looked at last year that has a really good chance and he was in that 60-1 range at some point and came up just short. He had a great chance to win and then, of course, Baylor happened.
So, it is an odd award, there’s no doubt about it. You look at a guy like Manti Te’o factoring in and of course, he wasn’t included in anyone’s Heisman preseason betting last year because a defensive player never really has – you know, Honey Badger a few years ago was 50-1, around there before he was kicked off the team. Honey Badger, however, did a lot more than just intercept balls. He got factored in on special teams, a little bit different scenario. So, there’s a lot that goes into it.
Jadeveon Clowney at 10-1 this year – that’s not nearly enough value for me. I love Clowney – I do think he’s going to benefit from that hit and, sort of, all the buzz surrounding him, which you’ve got to handicap when looking at this award. But, for a defensive player, it’s still a huge obstacle to overcome.
You look at the other guys, a guy like Marqise Lee, who’s made the top of that list. Wide receivers, unless they are just truly exceptional, just do not win the award – as exceptional as a talent as he is. So, I think you look at quarterbacks, you look at a handful of running backs that could maybe factor in. But really, it’s become a quarterback award. You’re right – you try and figure out games and moments that maybe a player that it could come down to and go from there.
JW: Last thing I wanted to ask you about is the start of the season. The lines that are already out for all the games, but particularly the first week of games: What value do you see in the Thursday and Saturday match-ups?
AK: I think the games that we’re simply going to be focusing in on, TCU and LSU. TCU sort of a line that’s all over the board. I’ve seen them as anywhere from a 3-point underdog to 6½ - 7. And I like TCU in that game. I think they’ve got a great chance to win. I respect LSU’s ability to sort of replenish their talent. Better at it than anybody not named Alabama. I think TCU is catching them at the right time. I think the (TCU) defense is outstanding, the secondary is going to be relentless. I think offensively, if Casey Pachall is a starter like we assume he’ll be, I think he could give them a huge offensive upkick.
And then I guess the other big game too is Georgia-Clemson. I know Georgia is basically reworking their whole defense. They’re dealing with suspensions. But, I just think offensively, with Aaron Murray and experienced offensive line, and those running backs. And then putting a guy like Malcolm Mitchell at wide receiver full-time, I don’t know if it will matter. That’s an over game. That’s not a game I would suggest anybody take the under because it’s just going to be scoreboard demolition. But, Georgia is a team, that if they can replace some defensive players, that game – I look for them to maybe win and parlay that into a big season.
JW: Lastly, I wanted to ask you about the September 14th game - Alabama vs. Texas A&M in College Station - that is being pegged as early favorite for game of the year. I see Alabama -6. That seems like a big line to me considering it’s in College Station and Texas A&M won last year. I think most people expect Alabama to win just because Alabama always wins, but it seems like a big line to me. What do you think?
AK: I saw a lot of different guesses before this line came out. Everybody pretty much had Alabama as a favorite, but between 3 and 7. I think it says a lot of doubt how Vegas is trying to handicap Alabama at this point. They’re approaching a level that USC was at with Pete Carroll - USC’s Pete, who I believe was favored in almost 60 consecutive games. Alabama could come close to that number depending on how next year goes. It is a big line, but for teams like this, it may shrink in a hurry.
Johnny Manziel - Nick Saban talked about trying to stop him throughout the summer. But, that’s a team that still loses quite a bit. The offensive line is reworked, the defensive line is reworked, the trouble that they have with their running back. I obviously love Johnny Manziel, but there are some concerns.
So, does 6 seem like a big enough number? It does, but are I ready to take the plunge and jump all over A&M? No. Not that either. I think it’s just the kind of respect that you have for Alabama. I think you see how the teams come out of the gate, although A&M won’t be tested early. You’ll get a little taste of Alabama against Virginia Tech and then from there, make a better assessment.