The Westgate LV Superbook opened their 2017-18 college football futures market shortly after the Tigers’ thrilling comeback victory, but it’s the team they defeated with the best odds heading into next season.
The Crimson Tide hit the board as the 3/1 favorites to get back to the title game and win their fifth championship in the 11-year Nick Saban era. Alabama will be losing top defenders Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and Tim Williams to the NFL draft, but return quarterback Jalen Hurts and nobody reloads like the Crimson Tide.
The Tigers, meanwhile, open at middling 18/1, due to the fact they will be losing star quarterback Deshaun Watson, as well as top receiving prospect Mike Williams, to the NFL draft.
So while Clemson and Alabama were two of the favorites throughout this past season, college football bettors could have got a team like Washington, which made the College Football Playoffs, at 40/1 when betting opened on the 2016-17 CFP Championship last January. And they can find similar value deeper into the 2017-18 futures.
Here are three live long shots to win college football’s next national title:
Penn State Nittany Lions - 30/1
What better place to start than with the team that actually won the Big Ten title. Penn State may have lost an epic Rose Bowl game to USC 52-49, but there was no team playing better than the Nittany Lions for the two months prior to bowl season. Penn State closed the season winning its final eight regular season games before topping Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and went an incredible 9-0-1 against the spread in its last 10 games overall.
The Nittany Lions return their awesome backfield duo of tailback Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley. Barkley scored 22 rushing touchdowns and ran for 1,496 yards this season, while McSorley passed for 3,614 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Ohio State and Michigan will once again be tough challenges, but with what Penn State is returning, it offers superior value compare to the Buckeyes and Wolverines who are on the board at 8/1 and 12/1 respectively.
Auburn Tigers – 30/1
The 2016 season was a down year for the Tigers, but they still managed eight wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance - plus were also one of the better bets in the nation, going 9-4 against the spread. Auburn's biggest problem was its up-and-down offense. Kamryn Pettway returns to lead a Tigers backfield that ranked sixth in the nation 271.3 rushing yards per game, but the passing attack was lacking at just 169.5 yards an outing, ranking a dismal 112th in the land. Hope for balance comes in the form of incoming Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who threw for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears in 2015.
Auburn also returns eight starters on a defense that ranks 28th in total yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense. If they can fill some holes some holes on the defensive line with Montravius Adams and end Carl Lawson leaving, the Tigers should compete in the tough SEC West.
Washington Huskies - 40/1
As mentioned above, the Huskies opened last season at 40/1 before rolling to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 championship and a college football playoff berth. While Washington loses key players on both sides of the ball, including top wideout John Ross, quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin return fir 2017-18.
Washington also has a favorable schedule in 2017, facing Rutgers, Fresno State and FCS school Montana in its non-conference slate. Additionally, the only time the Huskies would play USC would be in the Pac-12 title game and on paper their other toughest opponents look like Utah and Washington State, both of which they play at home.