The college football season is right around the corner. While you might not realize it, opening kickoff is actually Saturday, August 26, which is a very early start. That means it is time to start looking at the odds for the upcoming campaign and the futures to win the national championship. The usual suspects are at the top of the list, but who is the best bet?
Alabama comes in as the favorite at +240. Are you really that surprised? They'll look to get back to the title game for the third consecutive year after losing to Clemson last season. Coach Nick Saban has eight returning starters on each side of the ball, led by dual-threat at quarterback Jalen Hurts. The defense is also in full force after finishing first in the nation last season in scoring defense. They'll be out to prove a point after the way they played in the loss to Clemson.
In second place is USC at +600, which means the oddsmakers are telling us that they're back. But are they? They finished the year on a nine-game winning streak - including an impressive Rose Bowl victory. They are aiming to reclaim their place among college football's powers. They might have the best quarterback in the country in Sam Darnold, who looks to be the next great USC signal caller.
Behind the top two are Ohio State at +650 and Florida State at +750. The Seminoles have a huge game with Alabama to kick off the season, and that'll give head coach Jimbo Fisher a chance to see where his team is at. The big decision for Fisher will be who replaces Dalvin Cook at running back. However, the Seminoles might have a defense that rivals Alabama.
Ohio State is another team that was run over by Clemson in the College Football Playoff, but J.T. Barrett is back at quarterback and the defense - particularly up front - should be very good.
After the top tier of favorites, there is a logjam starting with Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan all at +1600. The Wolverines and Nittany Lions are going to give the Buckeyes a fight in the Big Ten. Penn State actually won the Big Ten last year, but their defense has to be better than it was if they're to finish well in the rankings. The Wolverines need to win the big one - Ohio State has beaten Michigan five years in a row. A loss for a third straight season is going to start haunting Jim Harbaugh.
The Sooners have talent, but coach Lincoln Riley has massive shoes to fill after the sudden exit of Bob Stoops. Will the team skip a beat in the transition?
Then you can throw a blanket over the next group: Auburn and Washington at +2000, LSU and Georgia at +2500, and the defending national champions from Clemson at +2800. Clemson will likely have too much to do with the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. They are rebuilding. While head coach Dabo Swinney has been optimistic to say that this team can rebuild on the fly, we'll have to see it to believe it.
LSU and Georgia have to get past Alabama (and maybe Florida at +3300) in the SEC, but both teams have flaws. There are a lot of eyes on LSU now that Ed Orgeron has replaced Les Miles on the sidelines. Their defense can rival Alabama but can they finally pass the ball with any efficiency? They could compete for the SEC - and the College Football Playoff - if their quarterback play doesn't drag them down.
Auburn should have a very good defense and there's a lot of hype surrounding the offense with Jarrett Stidham transferring from Baylor. If Stidham is the real deal, we could be in for an exciting, important Iron Bowl. If not, we'll likely see a regime change on The Plains. The X-factor might be Washington, who really have to only contend with USC in the Pac-12 and Chris Petersen has proven to be one of the best coaches in the nation.