College football is overdue for a season that’s a departure from its hierarchical norms, which could pay off big-time for bettors who take a team that’s just a little outside the radar screen.
With the season due to kick off in a few weeks, the Alabama Crimson Tide (+275) are the heavy favorite on the odds to win the national championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Coach Nick Saban’s juggernaut still averaged nearly 39 points per game last season while breaking in then-freshman QB Jalen Hurts and, of course, they always reload on defense. Alabama’s schedule is also set up in a way that allow them plenty of time to recover if they lose to the Florida State Seminoles (+700) in their season opener in Atlanta on September 2.
The top tier of the board also includes the Ohio State Buckeyes (+600) and senior QB J.T. Barrett, who likely have the best shot at an undefeated regular season of any Power 5 team.
The prices on the USC Trojans (+700) and aforementioned Florida State probably reflects those programs’ traditions and their current raw talent – both USC and FSU have dynamic redshirt sophomore QBs in Deondre Francois and Sam Darnold, respectively – more than their on-field consistency.
It’s pragmatic to go with any of the big four. College football hasn’t seen a first-time national champion since the 1996 Florida Gators. However, if that’s not stirring enough, there are some darkhorses.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys (+5000) have a prolific offense behind QB Mason Rudolph and will have home field when they play the Oklahoma Sooners (+1400) in their rivalry game in November. Coach Mike Gundy’s Pokes also signaled last season that they can peak at the end of the year.
The Big 12 also offers the West Virginia Mountaineers (+10000), who are plugging transfer QB Will Grier into what was a top-20 offense. With the Big 12 adding a championship game, that could help it get its first representative in the College Football Playoff.
Out on the west coast, the Oregon Ducks (+7500) have something new to them – a returning starting QB in Justin Herbert – as well as a new coach, Willie Taggart, who was a turnaround artist at his last two stops. Oregon was in the national championship game two years ago, and teams that have been near the top typically have greater capacity to bounce right back up after a losing season.
The reigning champion Clemson Tigers (+2800) will still possess a stout defense, but the loss of QB Deshaun Watson to the NFL is too much to overcome.