Less than two months away from the kickoff, we're taking a look at defending champ Alabama and where the Crimson Tide sit on the early NCAA football futures odds.
Fireworks have been popped, Joey Chestnut has returned to the hot dog throne, and the talking heads at ESPN are out in full force conjuring up trades on the MLB front. That can only mean America's attention will soon turn to football.
It should come as no surprise, even to the most casual of fans, that Alabama is atop the early college football odds to repeat as National Champions. Coming off their fourth title in seven years, and 11th in school history, the Crimson Tide sit atop the NCAA futures at 7/1 to return to the College Football Playoff and win it all once again.
Alabama is closely followed on that list by Clemson and Ohio State, each at 15/2, with Michigan also in hot pursuit as an 8/1 selection.
After breezing to their previous three championships, the Crimson Tide had to work for the crown last season. They walloped Michigan State, 38-0, in the semifinal matchup at the Cotton Bowl, then met No. 1 and undefeated Clemson for the prize. The back-&-forth contest found the Tigers holding a slim 24-21 lead heading into the final quarter before the Tide went on a 17-3 run in the first seven of the last 15 minutes to secure a 45-40 triumph.
'Bama Once Again Unsettled At QB
Like all college football teams, Alabama is looking to plug holes created by graduation and early entry into the NFL draft. Among those slots for head coach Nick Saban and his staff is the quarterback position, and we can't help but wonder where the NCAA football futures odds would be if the Crimson Tide had an established starter returning under center.
Bovada has established a 9½ win total for 'Bama despite the question mark, the 'over' carrying a -150 price. Spring practice did very little to resolve the mystery, though junior Cooper Bateman is penciled in heading into camp this August. Redshirt sophomore David Cornwell is expected to push Bateman and at least emerge with the backup job.
Saban has plenty of talent that is returning with 12 starters from last season's squad expected back. Among those are five preseason 1st-team All-SEC performers: WR Calvin Ridley, OT Cam Robinson, DE Jonathan Allen, LB Reuben Foster and S Eddie Jackson.
Like their status as a favorite for the national title, it's also no shock that Alabama once again landed a very impressive recruiting class. Two true freshmen that could make an immediate impact are OT Jonah Williams and DE Quinnen Williams, no relation. Linebacker Ben Davis and tailback BJ Emmons could also see playing time early on the schedule.
Tide Draw Two Early Tough Tests On The Schedule
A dozen schools form the gauntlet on Alabama's regular season schedule, a slate that has two tough contests among the first three games. For the 5th-straight season, the Tide will start things off with a tough neutral-site contest with a clash against USC to open the campaign at Cowboy Stadium. It's the third time in five years Saban has taken his team to Arlington, having very little trouble the previous two times with a 41-14 win vs. No. 8 Michigan in 2012 and a 35-17 decision vs. No. 20 Wisconsin last September. Between those games, Alabama took down Va Tech (35-10) and West Virginia (33-23) in Atlanta to begin the season.
Following an easy home opener vs. Western Kentucky in Week 2, the Tide faces a tough SEC opener at Ole Miss, the only school to beat them in 2015. October includes a couple of potential road stumbles at Arkansas (Oct. 8) and Tennessee (Oct. 15), before closing out the month at home vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 22).
For the 4th-straight year, Alabama gets a week off before traveling to Baton Rouge to face LSU on the first Saturday of November. The regular season slate winds down with the usual finale against Auburn, this year's rivalry taking place in Tuscaloosa.
The 'over' 9½ wins seems an easy bet since it's almost unthinkable that Alabama would drop three regular season games. Then again, stranger things have happened which is why you always need to keep your browser pointed to SBR Forum for free college football picks and analysis leading up to the season getting underway.