LITTLE ROCK — Half listening to the talk show host recite the odds on winning the BCS title, none of the numbers registered until he mentioned Arkansas at 250-1 and Auburn at 150-1.
The radio guy who doubles as program director at a Little Rock station provided the contact info for the man who e-mailed the wagering line on almost 50 teams.
Before reviewing the betting favorites, including a Southeastern Conference team that doesn’t compute, I admit I was surprised that the Razorbacks and Tigers were assigned individual odds. Asked a week ago, my guess would have been that Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, and Missouri — the teams most likely to finish below .500 in the SEC — would be among the 70 or so teams that have such a minuscule chance of winning the championship they would be grouped in what sports books label the field. At 20-1, the field includes only Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the SEC.
As expected, Alabama is the shortest price. At 3-1, the Crimson Tide offers no value.
Only three other teams were less than 10-1 — Ohio State and Texas A&M each at 6 1-2-to-1 and Oregon at 7-1 — and the common denominator is a proven, productive commodity at quarterback. The Buckeyes and the Ducks make sense; the Aggies not so much.
Ohio State or Oregon can get to the BCS championship game on Jan. 6 with a perfect season and that probably comes down to beating two opponents, three at the most, including the conference championship game.
Assigning A&M the same odds as Ohio State might be more about the presence of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel than reality. The Aggies could finish third in the Western Division.
In a tip of the hat to the SEC and its run of seven straight national champions, a half-dozen league teams are among 13 at less than 30-1. No other league has more than two in that select group. From the SEC, Georgia is 14-1, LSU 18-1, Florida 20-1, and South Carolina 28-1.
Notre Dame was one of four teams at 28-1 until quarterback Everett Golson was suspended for the fall semester for what he called "poor academic judgment." Even then, Notre Dame is only 40-1, recognition of a team that "still has a lot of talent," said Kevin Bradley, sports book manager, Bovada.lv.
Pursuing a legitimate longshot in the chase for the BCS is an invitation to heartbreak.
Last year, for example, Kansas State, 35-1 in the preseason, was 10-0 in the middle of November before losing to Baylor by 28. That same weekend, unbeaten Oregon at 12-1, lost to Stanford in overtime. At least, backers of the Wildcats and the Ducks got a lengthy run for their money.
On the other hand, supporters of many of the teams with relatively low odds were eliminated early. Arkansas (18-1) was out after the overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the second game of the season. Michigan (20-1) was gone earlier, losing to Alabama in the opener. Oklahoma (12-1) and USC (9-1) disappeared after three games and Texas (25-1) lasted only five games.
Inquisitive minds might want to know that LSU was the preseason favorite last year at 4-1, but that Alabama was a solid second choice at 5-1. Thrashed by Alabama, Notre Dame was 18-1 in the preseason.
Seeking value and a team that should get to at least 8-0, the choice is Stanford at 16-1. As a freshman, quarterback Kevin Hogan took over as the starter in the second half of the season, leading Stanford to six straight victories, including the Rose Bowl. Along the way, he completed almost 72 percent of his passes with nine TDs and three interceptions. Stanford plays Oregon and Notre Dame in November.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.