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Who Will Be Next Season's TCU? Best Bets & Predictions for CFP Long Shots

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 6 mins

Who Will Be Next Season's TCU? Best Bets & Predictions for CFP Long Shots

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There was no Hollywood ending for TCU Monday night in Los Angeles. The scrappy underdogs made a storybook run at the College Football Playoff title game, where Georgia was waiting to deliver the most lopsided beating in National Championship history. 

That’s the thing about David vs. Goliath. Goliath usually wins. 

Oddsmakers came away looking good after setting Georgia as a -13 college football odds favorite, the most lopsided championship spread in the BCS era. It ended with a 65-7 victory and back-to-back national titles for the Bulldogs. 

Aside from the obvious lessons here – don’t mess with Kirby Smart, for one – the fact that TCU even made it to the title game in the first place is significant. The Horned Frogs were around 200-1 on championship college football futures boards to start the season, and they answered those who questioned their CFP bid with a stunning 51-45 win over Michigan in the semifinals. 

The Frogs were one of few teams to breach the blue blood club and get into a championship game that has included Georgia, Alabama or Clemson eight years in a row. TCU flipped the script in a sport long known for a lack of parity. And it could be the start of a growing trend. 

While the very nature of the four-team playoff has been hugely beneficial for elite programs with endless resources and serious favor with the committee, things like the transfer portal and NIL regulations mean more teams have a chance to land a game-changing quarterback or star-studded recruit to turn things around in a hurry. 

TCU was 5-7 last season before first-year head coach Sonny Dykes arrived and bolstered the defense with a number of plug-and-play transfers that gave the Frogs a shot. No one expected the 200-1 long shot would take it all the way to the title game, but that’s the nature of college football in 2023. 

The Georgia’s and Alabama’s aren’t going anywhere, but the transfer portal and other factors open the door for others to catch lightning in a bottle for a year or two. 

The futures betting board for 2024 doesn’t look much different than most years – Georgia is favored to win it all again next season with +275 odds on sports betting apps, while Alabama is next at +500 at online sportsbooks. Ohio State (+750) and Michigan (+1000) round out the top four. 

RELATED: Does Home Field Advantage Matter In College Football?

It’s easy to say in retrospect the Horned Frogs never had a chance. That totally ignores their win over the Wolverines and the fact that Georgia needed a furious second-half comeback to get past Ohio State in the other semifinal. There’s no telling how TCU would have fared against the Buckeyes because the transitive property doesn’t work for these purposes and that’s an entirely different matchup. 

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Who Will Be Next Season's TCU?

There’s not a team in the country – perhaps in the past several years – that would have defeated Georgia on that night at SoFi Stadium. 

It was as close to perfection as we’ve seen in a title game. But they needed a few breaks to get there too, and there’s no reason to think we couldn’t see another out-of-nowhere underdog turn things around and make a serious CFP run in 2023. Here are a few of our favorite candidates. 

NC State+15000

Utah +4000

If you’re looking for a legit long shot without getting stupid, Utah hits the sweet spot. The Utes are going off at 40-1 on futures boards despite double-digit wins in each of the last three seasons. 

The back-to-back Pac-12 champs had a legit shot at the CFP in 2019, ranked No. 5 entering a title game showdown with Oregon. The Ducks erased those hopes with a win, but Utah has been in the discussion as a legit contender. 

We expect to see Utah as a sporadic visitor in the 12-team playoff once it goes into effect in 2024, but we wouldn’t be shocked to see them crack the top 4 next fall. Star quarterback Cam Rising is back, as is tight end Brant Kuithe. 

The schedule is tough – Utah opens with Florida at home and travels to Baylor the following week. The conference schedule is far more manageable and the Utes look well on their way to another 10-win season. Maybe more. 

RELATED: Will Jim Harbaugh Leave Michigan and Return to the NFL?

Wisconsin +6000

Further down the board, we see a frisky Badgers team at 60-1 looking to make a TCU-esque run in 2023 behind a first-year head coach. They snagged a great one in Luke Fickell, who helped Cincinnati become the first non-Power 5 school to reach the CFP with a 13-1 campaign in 2021. And reinforcements are coming for a roster that had just a few too many holes, none bigger than quarterback. 

The Badgers added two (!) former four-star quarterback recruits in the transfer portal last month, bringing on Tanner Mordecai from SMU and Nick Evers from Oklahoma. 

That should be one hell of a competition this fall, and Fickell will have time to let it play out – the Badgers open with games against Buffalo, at Washington State and home against Georgia Southern. 

Wisconsin couldn’t be in a better spot. Fickell has all the resources and fan support he could ever need. And the Badgers play in the Big Ten West, which just sent a Purdue team that lost three conference games to the Big Ten title game. They get Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State at home and don’t play Michigan. Don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin capitalize with a serious run at the CFP. 

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North Carolina State +15000

TCU just proved that preseason betting odds don’t mean anything once the season kicks off. And if we’re looking for a serious Frogs-like long shot, North Carolina State is a legit option. 

The Wolfpack have won at least eight games in five of the last six seasons under Dave Doeren, and they just missed out on the 2021 ACC title game after upsetting Clemson in the regular season. The Tigers aren’t going anywhere, but NC State should have the pieces to compete. 

We love the addition of transfer quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who leaves Virginia as the Cavs’ all-time leading passer. 

The dual-threat QB is reuniting with offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who coached Armstrong in his best seasons at Virginia and took the Wolfpack job last month after a one-year stint at Syracuse. 

NC State gets Clemson at home and senior linebacker Payton Wilson is returning for a fifth year after leading a top-20 Wolfpack defense in 2022. If Armstrong and Anae can get this offense humming, there’s no telling how far the Wolfpack can go in 2023

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About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.