College Gameday: Preseason predictions vs. preseason futures bets

Over the years since I started this blog, I’ve tracked a lot of picks.  I track straight up picks, picks against the spread, and most recently started grading money line picks since the last couple of years the “money line sprinkle” is all the craze.  Most years I post a writeup up preseason predictions but don’t track it in any meaningful way.  It is mostly for fun so we can go back after the season and see how absurd some people’s predictions were.  

As I patiently await the season preview for 2021, I looked over the odds.  Alabama’s odds have already shortened from +325 to +300. Two other top-five teams including Georgia and Oklahoma, saw their odds fade slightly.  Clemson and Ohio State are steady as a rock at the moment.  I’m not a futures bettor so I couldn’t tell you who I like.  But I compiled a list of the College Gameday analysts’ preseason predictions to do a little analysis.

I know TV analysts are in the business of generating buzz.  Let’s face it: it is boring if they all choose Alabama or Clemson to win in the preseason.  However, sometimes they can get a little too cute with their preseason picks, so I wondered what it would look like if we took the College Gameday crew’s preseason predictions and used them as futures bets.  Would anybody show a profit?

For our experiment, we took the preseason playoff predictions from Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard for examination.  First, each preseason championship prediction for the playoff era is treated as a $100 futures bet and we calculate losses and profits.  Second, we also took all four playoff picks and treated them each as a $100 futures bet since most people bet more than one team in the futures.  Let’s see how things compare.  Historical futures odds are courtesy of

2020Championship PickRunner UpSemifinalSemifinal
Lee CorsoAlabama+300Clemson+200Oklahoma+1200Notre Dame+1600
Kirk HerbstreitClemson+200Alabama+300Texas+1600Florida
Desmond HowardAlabama+300Clemson+200Cincinnati+100000Oklahoma+1200
Lee CorsoAlabama+250Utah+4000Clemson+250Ohio State+1600
Kirk HerbstreitAlabama+250Clemson+250Texas+2500Ohio State+1600
Desmond HowardClemson+250Georgia+250Wisconsin+30000Oregon+4000
Lee CorsoWisconsin+2000Clemson+400Washington+1500Georgia+600
Kirk HerbstreitAlabama+175Clemson+400Washington+1500Penn State+2500
Desmond HowardMichigan+1000Alabama+175West Virginia+6000Clemson+400
Lee CorsoSouthern Cal+700Alabama+250Ohio State+300Florida State+800
Kirk HerbstreitOhio State+300Alabama+250Southern Cal+700Florida State+800
Desmond HowardStanford+5000Alabama+250Wisconsin+2000Miami (FL)+6000
Lee CorsoLSU+800Michigan+800Florida State+700Oklahoma+1200
Kirk HerbstreitClemson+700Alabama+600Ohio State+800TCU+3000
Desmond HowardClemson+700LSU+800Stanford+2500Michigan+800
Lee CorsoLSU+2000Ohio State+250Oregon+2000Baylor+800
Kirk HerbstreitOhio State+250LSU+2000Oklahoma+3000Arizona State+20000
Desmond HowardStanford+3000TCU+600Michigan State+2000Texas A&M+10000
Lee CorsoUCLA+1000Florida State+300Michigan State+2500Alabama+450
Kirk HerbstreitFlorida State+300Alabama+450Michigan State+2500UCLA+1000
Desmond HowardUCLA+1000Georgia+1800Florida State+300Wisconsin+3000

As we look at each analysts’ year by year championship picks, we see some people going out on a limb with their picks on occasion.  Does this show a better profit than sticking to chalk?  The “cutest” championship predictions in the playoff era are:  

Lee Corso picking Wisconsin+2000 and Desmond Howard picking Michigan+1000 in 2018

Desmond Howard picking Stanford+5000 in 2017

Desmond Howard picking Stanford+3000 in 2015

Lee Corso and Desmond Howard both picking UCLA+1000 in 2014

Kirk pretty much picks chalk every year.  Clemson, Alabama, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State. That’s the preseason favorite 5 out 7 years.  He went out on a limb the other two years and picked the 2nd favorite.

If you bet $100 on the preseason odds-on favorite every year at close, you’d be down $50 over 7 seasons. 

2020:  200 (Clemson+200)

2019: -100 (take your pick, Bama or Clemson+250)

2018: -100 (Alabama+175)

2017: 250 (Alabama+250)

2016: -100 (Alabama+600)

2015: -100 (Ohio State+250)

2014: -100 (Florida State+300)

 If you bet $100 on each Gameday analyst’s preseason pick the results would be the following:

Lee CorsoKirk HerbstreitDesmond Howard

If we took the second approach and used each analysts’ final four predictions as a $100 futures bet, the results are below:


Lee CorsoKirk HerbstreitDesmond Howard

So what does this all mean?  Betting straight favorites results in a small loss.  It appears betting the Gameday analysts’ final four is disastrous.  Don’t do it.  They took a handful of crazy long shots (Cincinnati+100000?  Texas A&M+10000?) which seem much more likely to generate buzz than value.  Desmond Howard profited the most betting ONLY championship picks at $500 while Kirk Herbstreit profited $100.  Lee Corso lost $300 betting his pick each season.  The profit for Desmond and Kirk comes entirely from Clemson+700 in 2016.  In hindsight, it seems obvious that picking anyone outside of the playoff blue bloods is suicidal.  LSU+2500 in 2019 is the lone exception, and it is hard to call them a true dark horse.  I guess all I could say is, pay attention to Desmond Howard if he sticks to chalk in his 2021 prediction.  Kirk Herbstreit will definitely stick to chalk, but that won’t profit you much.  Don’t go out on a limb and bet a bunch on Texas, or throw your money away on Michigan, or pick Arizona State as a dark horse.  And as much as I hate to say it, don’t bet on Lee Corso’s preseason prediction.

2019-20 Bowl Season: CFB Championship picks from Stanford Steve & The Bear!

Stanford Steve and the Bear put out a podcast last night with their CFB championship picks and plays.  They also talked FCS championship if you want in on that action.

Steve Coughlin:
LSU over Clemson straight up
Clemson+6 vs LSU
Clyde Edwards-Helaire under 99.5 rushing yards
NDSU/JMU Under 50

Chris Fallica:
LEAN Clemson+ the points, waiting to see if it goes to 6.5
JMU-1.5/2 vs NDSU
NDSU/JMU under 50

2019-20 Bowl Season: Saturday morning College Gameday picks! Corso’s headgear, Bear’s Board, #CFBPlayoff picks and more!

Corso’s Headgear: Ohio State over Clemson

Bear’s Board:
Iowa State+3.5 vs Notre Dame
Kansas State+2.5 vs Navy
Clemson-2 vs Ohio State

Lee Corso:
Iowa State over Notre Dame
Louisville over Mississippi State
Cal over Illinois
Kentucky over VT
FSU over Arizona State
Utah over Texas
Florida over Virginia
Memphis over Penn State
LSU over Oklahoma
Ohio State over Clemson

Kirk Herbstreit:
Notre Dame over Iowa State
Louisville over Mississippi State
Cal over Illinois
Kentucky over VT
Arizona State over FSU
Utah over Texas
Florida over Virginia
Penn State over Memphis
LSU over Oklahoma

Desmond Howard:
Notre Dame over Iowa State
Louisville over Mississippi State
Cal over Illinois
VT over Kentucky
Arizona State over FSU
Texas over Utah
Florida over Virginia
Penn State over Memphis
LSU over Oklahoma
Clemson over Ohio State

Clemson over Ohio State
LSU over Oklahoma
Iowa State over Notre Dame

David Pollack:
Ohio State over Clemson
LSU over Oklahoma
Iowa State over Notre Dame

Joey Galloway:
Ohio State over Clemson
LSU over Oklahoma
Oklahoma+13.5 vs LSU
Penn State-7 vs Memphis

Jesse Palmer:
Clemson over Ohio State
LSU over Oklahoma
LSU-13.5 vs Oklahoma