Only around two weeks remain until the 2017 college football season kicks off. As great a sport as that is, it’s almost getting routine these days with Alabama as the team to beat. The Crimson Tide are the nation’s preseason No. 1 team yet again and are +275 betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com to win a fifth national championship since 2009. Alabama has been ranked in the top five in every preseason poll since 2009.
This season’s College Football Playoff semifinals are at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. The national championship game will be held in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday, January 8. The Tide are the only school to make the playoff in each of its first three years, and they were favored to win in each.
Alabama was the No. 1 team in 2014 but was upset by No. 4 Ohio State in the semifinals. The Tide were No. 2 in 2015 and beat No. 1 Clemson – yes, Alabama was favored – in a thrilling championship game 45-40. Last season, the Tide were No. 1 but Deshaun Watson and Clemson got revenge in another spectacular title game, 35-31.
Alabama is set to return 11 starters, but you can almost disregard lost starters on the Tide because Coach Nick Saban simply plugs in another five-star recruit at any position. Bama returns perhaps the best collection of skill position talent in the country in quarterback Jalen Hurts, running backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, and receiver Calvin Ridley.
Clemson is a +2800 longer shot to repeat as it lost Watson, the best player in school history and a two-time Heisman finalist, top running back Wayne Gallman and top receiver Mike Williams, among others.
The Tigers aren’t even favored on the odds to win the ACC championship again – Florida State is the chalk. Behind Heisman Trophy candidate QB Deondre Francois, the Seminoles are +700 to win the national title; they took the final BCS Championship Game in the 2013 season.
Alabama and Florida State open the season against one another in Atlanta and could well close it there. However, the Week 1 loser could be in trouble as no two-loss team has made the College Football Playoff yet.
Last year, Ohio State had the fewest returning starters in the nation and still reached the playoff before being clobbered by Clemson. This year, the Buckeyes bring back 15 starters – including QB J.T. Barrett, a Heisman candidate – and are +600 second-favorites to win the national title.
Like Alabama, they are likely to be favored in every regular-season game. OSU’s toughest tests should be Sept. 9 vs. Oklahoma (+1400), Oct. 28 vs. Penn State (+1400) and Nov. 25 at Michigan (+1600). The Buckeyes are clear favorites on the odds to win the Big Ten title.
Only Power 5 Conference schools have reached the playoff so far. Independent Notre Dame, a pseudo-ACC member, is +5000 to win its first title since 1988. The only other non-Power 5 teams currently given odds to win the national championship are BYU (+30000), Houston (+30000), Boise State (+50000) and Cincinnati (+50000).