After Alabama coach Nick Saban joined a truly exclusive coaching club by winning his third national title in four seasons and fourth overall – one with LSU – on Monday night in an utter domination of Notre Dame, Saban said he would enjoy the championship for about 48 hours before getting back to work and focusing on next season. Well, I’m not going to even wait that long: Here is a very early look at the Bovada odds for the 2014 BCS National Championship. The game will be held Jan. 6, 2014, at the Rose Bowl and is the finale of the wretched BCS system with a four-team playoff set to begin for the 2014 season.
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The last modern-era team with a chance to threepeat as the consensus National Champion – I don’t count USC from 2003-05 because the Trojans won a split title in 2003 and then had the 2004 one vacated -- was Nebraska in the 1996 season, which opened the year as the No. 1 team in the land. And those Huskers were very good (RB Ahman Green the star on offense, Grant Wistrom the man on defense) in going 10-1 in the regular season with the lone loss coming in Week 2 at a ranked Arizona State team. But any chance of playing for another title ended when the No. 3 Huskers were beaten 37-27 by unranked Texas in the Big 12 title game. Nebraska would then win the Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech. Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, led by Danny Wuerffel, blew out Florida State in a rematch game for the National Championship at the Sugar Bowl.
So the Tide can make history next January, and they are indeed the 5/1 favorites to win it again and give the SEC its eighth straight National Championship. You know the Tide are always going to be dominant on defense, although stud cornerback Dee Milliner is expected to leave school early and be a Top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. The offensive line will need to be rebuilt, with the loss of versatile all-American Barrett Jones, one of the most accomplished offensive linemen in college football history and the guy who gave QB A.J. McCarron a little shove late in Monday’s game. It’s also expected that tackle D.J. Fluker will leave school early. But at the skill positions, Bama is loaded with McCarron back for his senior season and two young sophomore-to-be superstars in RB T.J. Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper. It’s still up in the air whether RB Eddie Lacy, who was a beast against the Irish, will return.
The schedule is very friendly for the most part. The Tide don’t face Florida, Georgia or South Carolina (that doesn’t seem fair) from the SEC East and get LSU at home. The biggest challenges will be an opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta and a chance for payback at Texas A&M on Sept. 14. Win those two, and the Tide probably run the table into another SEC title game.
Oregon is the 8/1 second-favorite, a number no doubt affected the decision of head coach Chip Kelly spurning the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles to return to Eugene. Kenjon Barner moves on, but with QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas back, the high-powered Ducks’ offense won’t miss a beat. The Ducks’ nonconference schedule is a piece of cake. Realistically, their only chance of a regular-season loss is a visit to Stanford. Oregon does host UCLA in what probably will be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.
Only one team finished this season unbeaten, and that was postseason-ineligible Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who are 17/2 third favorites for next season, will have a Heisman favorite in QB Braxton Miller, who should only be better in his second season in Urban Meyer’s offense. OSU also has an easy nonconference schedule and should be unbeaten – no Nebraska, no Michigan State on the schedule, Wisconsin in Columbus -- when it visits Ann Arbor on Nov. 30 in what could be a preview of the following week’s Big Ten Championship Game.
The Top-5 favorites are rounded out by LSU and Texas A&M at 12/1. The Tigers lost a ton defensively as early entrants to the NFL Draft, but Les Miles just reloads on that side of the ball and could be in position to land No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end who is down to LSU and Ole Miss. The Tigers have a challenging opener at Cowboys Stadium against TCU and have to visit both Georgia and Alabama. A&M, off a dynamic first SEC season, of course brings back Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and landed arguably the nation’s top WR recruit, Ricky Seals-Jones, to catch Johnny Football’s throws. If the Aggies can beat Alabama in College Station on Sept. 14, they could be unbeaten when they visit LSU on Nov. 23 in the penultimate game of the regular season.
If you are wondering, Notre Dame is down at 22/1 to win it next season. The Irish already lost star tight end Tyler Eifert to the NFL Draft and linebacker and Heisman finalist. Manti Te’o graduates. As usual, the Irish have a tough schedule, hosting Michigan State and USC and visiting Michigan and Stanford.
My early 2014 BCS National Championship predictions have Oregon beating Ohio State in the championship game – yes, I believe the SEC finally beats up on itself so thoroughly that no team plays for the title (Alabama is upset in SEC title game by a two-loss Georgia team). With a national title under his belt, then perhaps Kelly will feel comfortable leaving for an NFL job.
Here are all of Bovada’s odds:
Ohio State 17/2
Texas A&M 12/1
Florida State 14/1
Notre Dame 22/1
South Carolina 25/1
Oklahoma State 40/1
Mississippi State 50/1
Virginia Tech 66/1
Boise State 75/1
Michigan State 75/1
North Carolina 75/1
Oregon State 75/1
Kansas State 100/1
West Virginia 150/1
Georgia Tech 200/1
Boston College 300/1
South Florida 300/1
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