Here's a look at the early favorites to win the College Football Playoff next January with NCAA football odds keeping in mind that spring camps are just around the corner.
Ohio State Buckeyes: 5/1
We could see a repeat Super Bowl champion at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1; might we also see a repeat national champion there in the next College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 11, 2016? Sportsbooks think so as Ohio State is the consensus favorite. Coach Urban Meyer always had targeted 2015 as the year his program would truly arrive as a championship contender, but it turned out that Meyer was a year too late. OSU brings back an embarrassment of riches at quarterback in Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. As of now they are all still in Columbus, although I believe that Miller transfers because he could play anywhere immediately. Jones just turned down the NFL Draft so he's not going anywhere. Barrett was Meyer's first major QB recruit so it's doubtful he leaves and sits out next season. Whomever the starting QB is, he will be a Heisman Trophy betting favorite along with star tailback Ezekiel Elliott. OSU's three toughest games next season are likely Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 21 vs. Michigan State and then No. 28 at Michigan with the Big Ten Championship Game potentially after that.
TCU Horned Frogs: 15/2
ESPN's way-too-early Top 25 for next season actually has the Frogs as the No. 1 team in the nation ahead of Ohio State. Of course TCU was bumped out of this year's College Football Playoff by the Buckeyes after their rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. TCU took out its frustration with a 42-3 blowout of Ole Miss and its No. 1 ranked defense in the Peach Bowl. TCU finished the season as the nation's No. 2 scoring team behind quarterback Trevone Boykin, who will also be a Heisman favorite next season at sportsbooks as he's returning. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns while rushing for 707 yards and eight scores. TCU is projected to lose only one offensive starter. Circle Nov. 27 on the schedule as that's the game in which TCU hosts the other Big 12 powerhouse, Baylor. TCU does have a tough one at Oklahoma the week before as well and perhaps a tricky season opener on Sept. 3 at Minnesota.
Alabama Crimson Tide: 9/1
The Tide don't rebuild under Coach Nick Saban, they reload. Alabama does have to replace some big-time players, including quarterback Blake Sims, receiver and Heisman finalist Amari Cooper, running back T.Y. Yeldon and safety Landon Collins to name four. The schedule also is challenging as usual and Alabama could be a betting underdog on NCAA football odds, which it hasn't been since the 2009 SEC Championship Game, in two games: Oct. 3 at Georgia and the regular-season finale at Auburn. The regular-season opener on Sept. 5 at AT&T Stadium won't be a piece of cake, either, as Alabama faces Wisconsin.
Baylor Bears: 14/1
Gone is senior quarterback Bryce Petty, but the Bears can plug just about anyone into that offensive system and they don't miss a beat. Petty will be replaced by Seth Russell, who completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 804 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception this past season. Star running back Shock Linwood returns as does one of the nation's best defensive players in end Shawn Oakman. Baylor's non-conference schedule is ridiculously easy. The games to circle would be Nov. 5 at Kansas State, Nov. 14 vs. Oklahoma and Nov. 27 at TCU in what may be the de facto Big 12 title game.
Oregon Ducks: 16/1
Of course the big loss for the national runner-up is quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. I would shorten these NCAA football odds significantly if Oregon could land Miller as a transfer from Ohio State. The Ducks will be just fine on offense with terrific running backs in Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and some very talented young receivers coming back. Oregon has a monster non-conference game on Sept. 12 at Michigan State, which should be a favorite at sportsbooks for that one. Oregon misses UCLA in the Pac-12 regular season but has to visit both Arizona State and Stanford while hosting a loaded USC team.
Clemson Tigers: 25/1
I include Clemson on this list for consideration for Futures College Football picks not because it's a title favorite but great value at this price. True, the Tigers lost highly valued offensive coordinator Chad Morris to SMU, but they bring back one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football in Deshaun Watson. You saw what the freshman could do in the win over South Carolina in the regular-season finale. Watson missed the Russell Athletic Bowl rout of Oklahoma due to injury but will be fine by the time fall camp rolls around. Clemson's schedule also sets up well as Florida State (no Jameis Winston), Georgia Tech and Notre Dame all have to visit Death Valley. The toughest road games should be at Louisville, Miami (Fla.) and South Carolina.
College Football Free Futures Pick: My early projection for the next College Football Playoff has Ohio State, TCU, Georgia (20/1) and Clemson in it all as conference champions.