Now that all the “student-athletes” have reported back from the idiotic Spring Break they were awarded by those dumb NCAA officials, we can finally get back to what really matters in these young adults’ lives: playing football to make money for what seems to be everyone other than themselves. I mean, what do they need to see their families and friends for?
No, I won’t attempt to tackle the hypocrisy that exists in refusing to pay “student-athletes” this time. Instead, let’s actually focus on the football.
While it’s still extremely early in the 2017 college football season, it’s never too early to throw some odds out there. Today, I’ve got odds to win the National Championship, each of the Power Five Conferences, and the five best rivalry games the upcoming season has in store.
National Championship Odds
Alabama Crimson Tide: 7/2
USC Trojans: 8/1
Florida State Seminoles: 10/1
Ohio State Buckeyes: 10/1
Oklahoma Sooners: 15/1
Michigan Wolverines: 15/1
Penn State Nittany Lions: 18/1
Tell me if you’ve ever heard this before: Alabama is the preseason National Championship favorite. I figured you had. I’m actually getting sick of writing it at this point. But we should all get used to it again, because Jalen Hurts and the loaded Bama backfield is ready to avenge their collapse in the National Championship against Clemson.
Nick Saban’s defense will have at least six new starters, replacing all their NFL-bound talent from last season. The departures of Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster leave massive holes, but it’s nothing new for Saban. Offensively, Jalen Hurts will receive some early Heisman consideration, while Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough fight for carries. But don’t expect Saban to run a ball-control offense.
Power Five Conference Odds
Florida State Seminoles: 5/3
Louisville Cardinals: 4/1
Clemson Tigers: 13/3
Miami Hurricanes: 9/1
Virginia Tech Hokies: 9/1
Deondre Francois was very promising as a redshirt freshman last year. This year, he’ll have to shoulder more of the load with Dalvin Cook running to the NFL. Francois will have the backing of a loaded defense, though. Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden help form one of the best secondaries in the country, while Derrick Nnadi and Josh Sweat will cause a lot of issues up front.
Reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and his Cardinals pose the biggest threat to the Seminoles in the ACC this season, but the dual-threat pivot just doesn’t have enough help.
Big Ten Odds
Ohio State Buckeyes: 13/7
Michigan Wolverines: 5/2
Penn State Nittany Lions: 9/2
Wisconsin Badgers: 8/1
Michigan State Spartans: 24/1
After rushing for 245.2 yards per game in 2016 (12th in the nation), the Buckeyes return four starters along the offensive line and have some very talented new faces competing for spots. JT Barrett is back for his senior season, and Mike Weber, who led the team in rushing as a redshirt freshman last year, is also still around. Add in the rise of Parris Campbell, who may replace Curtis Samuel as the H-back, and you’ve got an offense that’s going to move the ball at will.
The only question for the Buckeyes will be how they will replace their outstanding secondary from a year ago, with Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley all entering the NFL. Damon Webb remains, but the maturing defensive line will have to help out the new starters by applying consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
When it comes to speed in the NCAA, Michigan is the only team that can rival Ohio State. Thanks to some great recruiting under Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have speed and talent all over the field. Their odds to win a tough Big Ten one year after losing 17 starters is evidence of the premier recruiting classes the school has put together. Michigan does return its starter at the most crucial position, as QB Wilton Speight is set to lead the Big Blue in his senior season.
Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley from Penn State will ensure the Big Ten isn’t just a two-horse race.
Big 12 Odds
Oklahoma Sooners: 4/3
Oklahoma State Cowboys: 19/4
Texas Longhorns: 5/1
Kansas State Wildcats: 7/1
West Virginia Mountaineers: 10/1
Baker Mayfield will have to find new weapons in the Sooner offense with Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, and Samaje Perine all entering the NFL Draft. But Mayfield will have the luxury of Oklahoma returning its top-eight offensive linemen. If you afford one of the best players in the nation time to throw the ball, he’ll quickly create some talented weapons for himself.
The Sooners will need to be much better defensively to get back into the CFP; returning nine of their starters is a good start. The unit will be tested early, as a date with Ohio State in Columbus is set for Week 2.
Mason Rudolph ranked eighth in passing yards last season (4,091), and is back for one more go at dethroning the back-to-back Big 12-champion Sooners. Unlike Mayfield, there is no question who Rudolph’s top weapon will be in the passing game: Jalen McCleskey. Though he showed up to camp at a very concerning 150 pounds, the Big 12’s leader in receptions from a year ago is back up to a more reasonable 175.
USC Trojans: 5/4
Washington Huskies: 7/2
UCLA Bruins: 9/1
Stanford Cardinal: 12/1
Oregon Ducks: 15/1
Outside of Clemson, it’s hard to find a team that finished last season on a higher note than USC. After a pitiful 1-3 start, which included a 52-6 thrashing at the hands of Alabama, the Trojans won their next eight games, and capped the season off with a thrilling 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
The turnaround was largely sparked by the insertion of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold at QB, who enters this season as one of the Heisman favorites. The Trojans will be without two huge play-makers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson, though. USC will be able to rely upon its strong corps of linebackers and its sophomore sensation under center to overpower a Pac-12 that sees many top contenders having to reload.
Jake Browning is back for the Huskies, but we will find out how valuable the pivot is this season, as he will be without speedy receiver John Ross and the secondary that made the Washington defense so great.
Alabama Crimson Tide: 4/5
LSU Tigers: 13/2
Auburn Tigers: 8/1
Georgia Bulldogs: 8/1
Florida Gators: 12/1
Since you’ve likely already received enough Bama commentary, we’ll focus on the teams that have a slim chance of taking down the powerhouse Crimson Tide.
LSU loses Leonard Fournette to the NFL, but Derrius Guice showed a lot of promise filling in for the first-round pro talent. Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry (more than Fournette), and found the endzone 16 times. The Tiger offense proved far more effective with Danny Etling ousting Brandon Harris under center, but are in tough trying to replace Ethan Pocic at center.
Florida and Georgia will battle it out for the top-spot in the Eastern Division, and are both Bama-free until the SEC Championship game. I like Jacob Eason and Nick Chubb to lift the Bulldogs over the Gators.
Army Black Knights vs. Navy Midshipmen [Dec. 9]
Prior to their latest battle in December, Army hadn’t beaten Navy in 14 years. A 21-17 win last season ended the Black Knights’ drought in the proud rivalry. That victory likely revitalized a bit of a stale rivalry, and while Army has a lot more confidence now, don’t expect Navy to sit back when the two play next.
The Midshipmen will be eager to win back bragging rights, but lose a lot from their offense, including leading passer and rusher Will Worth and leading receiver Jamir Tillman. They’ll look to senior RB Chris High to shoulder more of the offensive load, taking some pressure of QB Zach Abey, who struggled against Temple and Army late in the year before posting excellent numbers against LA Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl (7 of 12 passing, 159 yards, one TD; 25 rushing attempts, 114 yard, two TDs). If Abey turns into the latest prolific Navy QB, following in the footsteps of Worth and Keenan Reynolds, this team should be on the outskirts of the top-25 discussion once again next year.
Army won’t be a pushover, returning many key veterans. The run-first (make that run-always) team sees its top-three rushers return to its triple-option offense — Ahmad Bradshaw, Andy Davidson, and Darnell Woolfolk — each of whom had at least 100 carries and 600 yards last year. Actually, not a single player who carried the ball more than 20 times is graduating: that’s nine guys. The defense, which was excellent last season (19.8 PPG), wasn’t so lucky, losing a lot of pieces. But the unit looked good in the spring game and will have 11 regular season games to get ready for Navy, including a David-versus-Goliath tilt against Ohio State.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers [Nov. 25]
It’s one of the most heated battles in college football, and expect no different this year. As usual, Alabama is ranked the number one team heading into the season, and have convincingly won the last three Iron Bowls.
Don’t expect much to change.
Georgia Bulldogs at Florida Gators [Oct. 28]
With both teams sitting high in the rankings, it appears Florida will be Georgia’s biggest competition for the SEC East crown this year. Florida has taken the last three tilts and it feels like it’s time the Bulldogs get one back.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines [Nov. 25]
Like usual, expect this to be the best rivalry game of the season. Both Michigan and Ohio State have championship potential, and, as we saw, this game may determine which Big Ten team earns a CFP berth.
Last year, it took two overtimes to determine a winner, when the Buckeyes came out on top for their fifth win in a row in the rivalry. Though the game is held in Ann Arbor this year, I don’t see home field being enough of an advantage for Michigan.
Ohio State: 9/11
Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma Sooners [Oct. 14]
Who should win this year’s installment of the Red River Showdown? Oklahoma. Who will win? Probably Oklahoma. OU edged out the Longhorns in a close battle last season but the series has flopped back and forth over the past few years.
Though it appears to be a sure-bet on paper, Texas will be in that “must win” mentality, and this will be treated as their National Championship.