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Starting early: College football is still something to bet on

2nd April, 10:47

If there is anybody more anxious than fans, coaches and the players themselves for the college football season to get going, it has to be the oddsmakers.

If you think it is a ghost town at the mall due to the impact of COVID-19, then imagine the nation's shuttered sportsbooks and their quiet online brethren.

With the cancellation of March Madness, the suspension of the NBA and postponement of MLB, there are no live sports in the U.S. and few anywhere else around the globe (Belarusian Premier League soccer, anyone?) to be bet.

Which is why in the last few days oddsmakers have come out early with their opening lines for winning the various college football conferences to promote betting. Very early.

Last year most opened on July 10, a month and a half before the kickoff of the first game.

But, here we are starting April and the odds, including ones that show the University of Hawaii at a distant 28/1 pick to win the Mountain West Conference, are widely available. (More about that in a minute).

Futures betting on the national championship and Heisman Trophy winner has always been an early staple of sports wagering.

What you won't find at this point, however, are prop bets that match the overriding question of the moment: whether the college football season will start on time (Aug. 29 for UH and a handful of others) or, if it doesn't, when it might.

It is, in many ways, the billion dollar question, given not only the huge amounts of money wagered by fans and bettors but the massive financial investments that colleges, TV networks and ancillary industries have in college football in general.

Not to mention the 21 states (including Washington just last week) that now have plunged into legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court legalized it three years ago.

But back to the Rainbow Warriors, who oddsmakers see as tied for the seventh best bet to win the championship of the MWC after getting to the conference championship game four months ago. The Warriors are tied with Fresno State at 28/1, according to has UH in a similar position.

Defending champion Boise State is listed at 1/2 by followed by San Diego State (13/4) and Air Force (9/2).

They are numbers no doubt driven by the departure of NFL-bound quarterback Cole McDonald and the nearly wholesale change in the coaching staff.

Of course, these are just odds based on perceptions that will drive the line and early ones at that. Last year UH opened at 33/1 to win the MWC title and the odds were down to 16/1 by the time the season started.

In fact, the over-under on regular-season UH victories in 2019 was 5.5 and, as it turned out, the Warriors finished 9-4 (10-5 including the conference championship game and SoFi Hawaii Bowl). In 2018 UH's over/under was 3.5 and it finished 8-5 (8-6 including the Hawaii Bowl).

Over-unders on victories aren't out yet, presumably as oddsmakers wait to see whether there will, indeed, be a season.

In the meantime, if you're betting Belarus soccer, don't sell Slavia-Mozyr short.