This year's national title game between Alabama and Clemson doesn't even kick off for a few hours yet as I write this, yet already the folks at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook have odds posted for next year's National Championship. It would be a crazy idea to bet any real money at this point - coaching changes, recruiting classes, and early departures are all still in flux - but we obviously can't ignore the opportunity to take a peek at the numbers as they are available anyway. Here are some of the highlights.
Alabama (3/1): Changes have hit the coaching staff already, and more could be coming. They have ridiculous depth of talent everywhere, though, and Jalen Hurts will be a year older and wiser. They have at least shown they can get back to the big game the year after appearing, and there is no reason at all to view them as anything less than the team to beat.
Florida State (7/1): Like Alabama, they will have a brilliant young QB who is a year more experienced, and they will have serious depth all over the field. They lose their best player in Dalvin Cook, but they have recruited so well they shouldn't skip a beat. The ACC should be somewhat softer this year, too, with Clemson likely to take a step back. Worthy of the price.
Oklahoma (8/1): Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield is back for another year - albeit without favorite target and fellow Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook. He is at the helm of a deep and experienced team that hopefully will have less off-field drama to deal with this time around. This feels like the last good shot the team will have under Bob Stoops - the guy won't stick around forever.
Ohio State (8/1): There has been a lot of soul searching already after that semifinal humiliation - and some serious coaching changes. They need to figure some things out, and J.T. Barrett either needs to be much better or he needs to be replaced. They have plenty of talent, though, and should be just fine. The schedule isn't easy, though - they host Oklahoma early, and finish off at Michigan.
USC (8/1): This is just silly. They finished strong, and Sam Darnold was wildly impressive in the Rose Bowl and will be an early Heisman favorite. This team had real flaws, though, and needs to get better on both side of the ball before they deserve to be back among the elites. This is just public enthusiasm getting out of control.
Louisville (12/1): This team lost their last two regular-season games and then were no-shows in their bowl game. They are mentally broken right now, and it's hard to judge whether that can be fixed in time for next year. I reserve judgment on this team until we see them on the field again.
LSU (12/1): The Tigers did some pretty nice things despite all the drama of the coaching change. They have some real issues to address in the first offseason of the new regime, though - most notably they need to realize that forward passing is actually legal. They will continue to be able to run the ball, though, and that is a great foundation to build around.
Michigan (12/1): They lose a lot of talent to the draft and lack depth on both lines. They have some schedule challenges, too - they open against Florida and play at both Penn State and Wisconsin. They get Ohio State at home, though, and this is the third year of the Harbaugh regime so things should take hold. I like the value at this price as long as the offensive line doesn't look as bad as it did this year, but I am hopelessly biased.
Clemson (18/1): No Deshaun Watson. How strange will that be? He's one of those guys who feels like he has been around forever. The talent is still strong, but any change like that can be tough on a team. Really hard to judge.
Texas (25/1): This is the craziest price on the board. It makes USC look sane. Tom Herman is a heck of a coach, and he will have success here. But at this price they are ahead of some very good teams, and it just seems silly to imagine them going this far this fast. They don't have a QB that has proven he can be trusted, and they have talent deficits all over the field. The recruiting class this year isn't stellar, either. Far too soon.
Penn State (30/1): The Nittany Lions finished well and looked solid in the Rose Bowl despite the loss. It was an unexpected surge last year, though - especially since it was preceded by a 39-point loss to Michigan. The question here is whether you believe that it was a fluke or the beginning of something big. Running back Saquon Barkley is a superstud, but I still remain skeptical of the whole team.
Georgia (40/1): Kirby Smart is recruiting like crazy. Will the success there lead to more success on the field? I still feel like they are a year or two away from having the roster Kirby Smart wants, but there is relative value here is what remains a fairly wide-open SEC behind Alabama.
Washington (40/1): I am legitimately shocked by this price. They were no match for Alabama in the semifinal, but who would have been? Getting there was no fluke, though, and they are really building something here under Chris Petersen. This is the value pick of the board for sure, and it's not even close.
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