The college football season will soon be underway but will the top dogs prevail or is there a dark horse ready to claim the National Championship? Let’s review the college football odds.
The Big Five
Alabama (+800 at WilliamHill) – The Tide rolled all the way to a National Championship last season and are the college football odds makers choice to claim the title yet again. Nick Saban has become a living legend in Tuscaloosa and his four National titles in eight seasons, third in the last five including last year, is why he has complete and total autonomy of the Alabama football program.
The Crimson Tide is returning 11 starters, one more than last season, but must replace Jake Coker at quarterback (undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals) and 2015 Heisman Award winner Derrick Henry (2nd round pick of Tennessee Titans) at running back. Coker was a solid college quarterback but hardly a game-changer while Henry was a one-man wrecking crew. Though the team will see many new offensive and defensive faces on their starting units, Saban's recipe for success is undeniable.
Clemson (+850 at Bovada) – The college football odds makers have installed returning Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson as a +350 favorite to win this year's Heisman. Watson came third in a crowded and talented field last season but with another year under his belt he is poised for gridiron greatness once more. The road to a National title will be paved through another ACC Championship.
The skill positions are loaded once again for the Tigers and three offensive line starters will return to provide protection for Watson. Defensively Kevin Dodd (2nd round pick of Tennessee Titans) and Shaq Lawson (1st round pick of Buffalo Bills) are off to earn their fortunes in the NFL but Clemson has several experienced players to fill the void. Was last season a fluke? No, but Clemson's schedule could cause them problems returning to the College Football Playoffs.
Ohio State (+900 at BetOnline) – In 2015 Ohio State was coming off a National Championship and many bettors lined up to bet them to repeat in their college football picks. But the Buckeyes failed to make the cut for the College Football Playoff despite a 12-1 mark. This season the Buckeyes will try to recapture their 2014 glory but were gutted in the offseason with only six starters returning to the team this year. In addition, OSU will play a tougher schedule than in '15 with a road date against Big 12 power Oklahoma. The squad them gets a home date with Nebraska and Michigan then back on the highway against Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. The 9-1 odds look appealing but not enough to back the Bucks this year.
Michigan (+1000 at BetOnline) – Former NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh made an immediate impact at Ann Arbor last season when he took a 5-7 program and turned it into a 10-3 Big Ten power punctuated by a 41-7 dismantling of the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl. Offensively the Wolverines look ready to rumble with eight returning starters including their leading rusher, a trifecta of receivers and four of five on the offensive line. Though quarterback Jake Rudock (6th round pick of the Detroit Lions) has flown the coop, Michigan will have former U of Houston John O'Korn QB at the helm. Don't underestimate Harbaugh or his Wolverines. At 10-1 this could be a pleasant surprise for those who back them.
LSU (+1200 at GTBets) – The Tigers disappointed last season with a 9-3 mark (6-6 ATS) but ended the season on a high note with a 56-27 throttling of Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl. Les Miles is still at the helm despite three consecutive losses towards the end of the 2015 campaign that almost cost him his job. Experience will be a huge advantage for this edition of the LSU Tigers as they return 17 starters, most in the SEC. The Tigers should romp over the lesser lights but a showdown with conference rival Alabama will determine their fate for a National Championship.
2016 National Football Champion Pick: Michigan +1000 at BetOnline