They still haven't cleaned up from last night's championship in Phoenix, but that doesn't keep us from looking at early college football futures odds for the 2016 season.
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, you just won your fourth National Championship in seven seasons, where are you going next?
How about right to the top of the early preseason rankings to win another title next year? College football odds aren't out just yet -- and let's face it, the only relevance they have right now are for discussion purposes only -- but the very early rankings by media outlets and their pundits have Alabama and the Clemson Tigers in the 1-2 slots.
It wouldn't be a shock to see the Crimson Tide and Tigers right back in the College Football Playoff picture after the 14-1 seasons they enjoyed this past campaign. And what an exciting championship game Saban's and Dabo Swinney's teams gave us down in Arizona, Alabama pouring it on late for a 45-40 victory.
National Signing Day Four Weeks Away
Before we can even determine actual rosters and depth charts for any team, we first have to get past National Signing Day and a laundry list of underclassmen who will declare for the NFL Draft. Those players who just finished their freshman or sophomore seasons have until January 15 to declare, and 74 did so last year.
High school seniors will sign their names on dotted lines in about a month (February 3), and while there's still plenty of time for changes, early indications are Alabama's biggest rival down in the SEC is locking in on the top class. After all the turmoil towards the end of last season, Les Miles appears poised to bring in three of the top 35 from this year's class: OT Willie Allen, CB Kristian Fulton and DT Edwin Alexander, all homegrown.
The Crimson Tide are bound to be the favorite to win the SEC on the NCAA football futures odds, and we'll get to see how well Saban reloads with a season-opener against USC plus conference road tilts vs. Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU, the latter in Baton Rouge on November 5. The Volunteers and Georgia Bulldogs will be favored out of the SEC East, and if I was making a college football pick at this moment, my money would be on LSU when the dust cleared at the league championship in Atlanta (Dec. 3).
Which Conference Gets Left Out Of The 2016 CFP?
The Big 12 was the odd league out in 2014 and the Pac-12 was missing from the College Football Playoffs this time. With only four spots available, we know at least one of the Power Five conferences won't be there, and that's assuming some team from the other leagues, such as Houston, doesn't go undefeated to press the issue or the committee deciding to place two from one conference in, a la the 2012 BCS between 'Bama and LSU.
I don't believe the committee is ready to deal with the controversy that would cause, but stranger things have happened. I also don't believe we'll see any team go through the 2016 fixture unscathed, and that's where the selections could get dicey.
My pick last year was the ACC, and we see how well that turned out. This time, the Big 12 is the best choice to get a second dose of disappointment. Oklahoma took a backseat to TCU and Baylor on the conference futures odds this year, but the Sooners will be the favorite this time. Baylor should be next, depending on how much roster turnover the Bears suffer, followed by TCU. Those three will split their home/road slates against one another, and it's easy to see all three beating each other up so that no clear-cut winner emerges.
If it's not the Big 12, perhaps it's the Big Ten. Ohio State is once again the favorite, and the Buckeyes face a very tough non-con road game early against Oklahoma before closing against Michigan State and Michigan, who should be the other two top teams on the college football betting board in 2016. The Wolverines are going to get a ton of press in Jim Harbaugh's second season, but have road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State.
Can Clemson Repeat In ACC? Can Pac-12 Rise From Ashes?
With Deshaun Watson back and leading an experienced Clemson offense, the Tigers are certainly the cream of what is a bit of a thin crop in the ACC. We'll get a good early look at the Tigers who begin their schedule on the first Saturday of September down at Auburn.
Two points were all that kept the Pac-12 out of this year's CFP. Oregon's 38-36 win at Stanford about two months ago sealed the conference's and the Cardinal's fates. Both the Ducks and Cardinal should be at the top of the league's football futures odds, and you can't ever count Southern Cal out of the picture.