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November 22, 2017

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Ten season-long and Week 1 football bets to cash in on

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AP Photo/Raymond Thompson

In this Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, file photo, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield starts to throw a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, in Morgantown, W.Va. No. 11 Oklahoma State plays No. 7 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 3.

The days of full preseason football betting menus at local sports books are numbered.

With college football’s first full week kicking off Thursday, a week before the NFL follows course, time is running out for bettors to lock in their season-long wagers.

Here are 10 bets to make before it’s too late.

Oklahoma to win the national championship at 18-to-1

The Sooners are not the best team in college football, but they’ve got the best chance of any team to go undefeated in their conference. They’ve only lost one Big 12 game in the past two years, and they’re further ahead of the rest of the conference this year than recent years. Oklahoma’s toughest game of the season, at Ohio State in week 2, comes early enough that it could overcome a stumble to still easily reach the College Football Playoff. And with the odds this high, a playoff berth could guarantee a profit with a hedge bet on the Sooners’ playoff opponents.

LSU under 9 wins at plus-120

There’s a new coach in Baton Rouge, La., but Ed Orgeron is going to face the same problems as his predecessor, Les Miles. The Tigers have only mediocre options at quarterback, which is a major impediment against a schedule that advanced metrics label as the toughest in the nation. LSU hasn’t tallied more than nine wins since 2013, and it’s a long shot to assume it will in a season where it has only five home games.

Stanford over 8.5 wins at Even money

The Cardinal project to be favored in every game this season except for a week 3 trip to Southern Cal, where they’re a 9-point underdog. There seems to be a negative perception about Stanford because of last year’s back-to-back losses to Washington and Washington State by a combined 64 points, but those embarrassments didn’t define its season. The Cardinal bounced back to win six of their final seven games, and return 16 of the 22 starters who keyed the turnaround.

Clemson under 9 wins at plus-120

Alabama managed a perfect season coming off of a national championship last year. That’s extremely rare. The defending national champion has traditionally underwhelmed, a fate that looks likely to await Clemson this year. The Tigers must try to replace six superstars lost to the NFL Draft on the fly while facing the ultra-competitive ACC Atlantic division and two tricky nonconference opponents in Auburn and South Carolina.

Florida plus-4 vs. Michigan in week 1

Every gambler wants action on the massive Alabama vs. Florida State week 1 showdown, but the co-headliner is where to find the most value. With only five returning starters, Michigan might be the least experienced team in the nation, and yet bets are piling up on its side for this neutral-site clash with Florida at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The preponderance of money has bloated the point spread. Take the generous helping of points while it’s still available.

Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl at 10-to-1

The Patriots are the best team in the NFL and have the easiest schedule, but there’s no value in picking anyone to win the championship at odds of plus-250. And they’re not that much better than the Steelers anyway. Pittsburgh is power-rated as the second-best team in the NFL, but money bet in the futures market has it behind Oakland, Dallas and Green Bay to win the Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins plus-2 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 1

With Tampa Bay starring on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and quarterback Jameis Winston meriting sleeper MVP consideration, stock on the Buccaneers couldn’t be higher. With Miami coaxing unpopular quarterback Jay Cutler out of retirement and coming off a playoff blowout loss to the Steelers, stock on the Dolphins couldn’t be lower. In reality, they’re evenly matched with no reason for the home team to be taking points.

Arizona Cardinals over 8 wins at minus-135

Last year at this time, the Cardinals were arguably the most popular Super Bowl pick in the league. That was premature, just as writing them off for a chance at a playoff spot feels hasty this year. After years of good luck, the Cardinals saw the pendulum swing against them last year, with numerous injuries and a 2-4-1 record in games decided by less than a touchdown. They’re aging, but talented enough to make a postseason run.

Houston Texans under 8.5 wins at minus-105

Houston was the worst division winner in the history of the NFL last year, somehow coming out on top in the AFC South despite getting outscored by more than 3 points per game. The Texans will need to make major improvements to compete this season, and despite the return of previously injured defensive end J.J. Watt and the drafting of quarterback DeShaun Watson, there’s not much reason to believe it’s possible. Their unsustainable luck of going 5-0 in games decided by less than a touchdown last year inflated this total to at least one victory too high.

Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South at plus-160

The Texans’ good fortune last year was the demise of the Titans, who were the best team in the division but lost the title due to tiebreakers. Unlike Houston, there are plenty of signs that Tennessee is on its way up. The Titans went 5-3 in the second half of last season, with Marcus Mariota experiencing a breakthrough that included throwing for 12 touchdowns to three interceptions.

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