In January, we saw Alabama hoist the National Championship inside Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Their young QB Tua Tagovailoa came in for an ineffective Jalen Hurts and led them on a historic comeback to capture their 5th title during the Nick Saban era. While Saban and the Tide are the favorites again this season at +175, there are some other teams on the board who have great value to challenge Alabama. In this article, we examine a few teams that we believe have a good shot at winning the championship this season. Or at least getting to the playoffs for hedging opportunities.
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GEORGIA – 6/1
The Bulldogs showed they could definitely compete with the Tide in last season’s title game and expectations are incredibly high in Kirby Smart’s 3rd year. Their schedule this year sets up for another likely title run. Their out of conference schedule is weak (Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State and UMass) and the SEC East shouldn’t be too improved this year. QB Jake Fromm returns to his starting role and D’Andre Swift showed flashes of brilliance (8.2 YPC) as a true freshman last year behind Sony Michel(Patriots) and Nick Chubb(Browns). Hopefully, last year’s heartbreaking defeat will fuel this Georgia squad to want to capture the real thing this time.
WASHINGTON – 20/1
Washington was one game away from the CFP last year, losing a 13-7 head scratcher to an Arizona State team that couldn’t stop anyone else all year. They bring back the majority of a team that went to the Fiesta Bowl. Vita Vea will be a big loss but they can rebound from that. They have won 25 of their last 30 games and look, on paper, to be the best team in the PAC-12. QB Jake Browning will be back with another year of experience along with RB Miles Gaskin, who has 3700 yards in 3 seasons at UW. I look for the Huskies to have a tough matchup with Auburn but should be favored versus the rest of their schedule. They also don’t have to face USC in the Pac12 south this year until the title game.
MIAMI – 30/1
The Hurricanes captured the Coastal Division crown last year, but just weren’t talented enough to beat Clemson for the conference title. Despite the successful season, coach Mark Richt has said that QB Malik Rosier’s job is definitely not safe if he cannot improve his accuracy. I believe he will be the starter for week 1 but the fanbases always love the backup QB when the starter struggles. They start the season in Arlington, TX against an average LSU team and have hurdles against Florida State and at Virginia Tech. If they should get by those, the rest of their schedule is VERY winnable. They get the benefit of no Clemson, Louisville or NC State until the title game this year.
FSU – 30/1
Coming into the College Football season unranked is not something the Florida State program sees very often. But that’s what these Noles and new coach Willie Taggart face heading into 2018. Deondre Francois’ knee injury in the 2017 opener against Alabama sent their season off the rails from the jump and propelled Coach Jimbo Fisher to College Station, Texas. Freshman James Blackman performed admirably in Francois’ place but he was simply not ready to be a full time starter. Along with Taggart comes a new defensive coordinator in Harlon Barnett, who’s Michigan State unit ranked 9th in total defense last year. The Noles defense should return to strength this year, despite losing 6 starters. Sophomore Cam Akers (930 yards last year) and Senior Jacques Patrick(5.8 YPC) create a two-headed monster parallel to UGA’s Michel and Chubb last year. Five preseason Top-25 opponents on the schedule is a huge bonus for FSU as well as Louisville and Florida too. If they can find a way to be 12-0 or 11-1 heading into the ACC title, they should find themselves in the playoff hunt.
TEXAS – 30/1
Tom Herman seemed to steer the Longhorn ship in the right direction after the shootout loss to Maryland. The Longhorns were incredibly tough defensively last year but their offense just wasn’t developed enough to score points for them. Add a full year of experience under now Sophomore QB Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns offense should be able to do better than their 29.5 PPG last year. The question mark was their running game last year. Their leading rusher was… QB Sam Ehlinger (381 yards). RBs Daniel Young and Toneil Carter along with number one RB recruit Keaontay Ingram are going to have to be able to create a solid running game and get back to smash mouth Texas football. If this offense can improve significantly upon its 112 ranking in Total Offense, coupled with its already ferocious defense then this team can definitely win the BIG12. They will have four tough opponents though, especially early. They USC and TCU back to back weeks in September, albeit at home.
UCF – 200/1
You’re going to give me the only undefeated team in 2017, who returns their Heisman candidate at QB (McKenzie Milton), their top three leading rushers (Adrian Killins, Otis Anderson, Taj McGowan) and led the nation in points per game (48.2), 200/1 odds? I’ll take it! (UPDATE: William Hill has THE FIELD @ 250/1 which includes UCF.) The Knights were left out of the playoff last year and that should provide ammunition for this team who looks to go undefeated again in 2018. If they run the table two straight years, then there is no way the committee can just ignore that… right? They have two tough opponents on the schedule this season, USF and Memphis, and the AAC title game (probably against Memphis). Those were the two teams who scored the most points on the UCF defense. Oh yeah, and Scott Frost is gone. Insert Josh Heupel and the belief is that the wheels should keep on rolling to another American Athletic Conference title. I believe that a team at 250/1 to go undefeated in an easy conference is a strong bet.
UNLV – 9999/1
The home team here in Vegas is very bad. Very Very Bad!
But at 9999/1, I’ll throw $2 on it and have a nice hedging opportunity if they find some magic Vegas Golden Knights leftover pixie dust in the desert.