| Mon 19/06/2017 - 15:58 EDT

2017-18 NCAA Football National Championship Betting Preview

2017-18 NCAA Football National Championship Betting Preview

When Does The College Football Season Start?

There are few things greater than the pageantry, tradition, and electricity of the college football season, so it's easy to understand why many bettors revel in the variety and breadth the weekly matchups have to offer. After a 2016-17 season that produced one of the most memorable championship games in the history of the sport with Clemson overtaking Alabama 35-31 in the final seconds, the wait for the action to resume has seemed interminable.

With spring practices in the rearview mirror and summer camps just around the corner, here's a glance at the highlights of the upcoming season from opening day to the playoff picture.

  • Alabama vs. Florida State Sept 2. in Atlanta
  • Florida vs. Michigan Sept 2. in Arlington, Texas
  • Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia Sept 2. in Landover, MD
  • BYU vs. LSU Sept 2. in Houston
  • Texas A&M at UCLA Sept 2

Forget about the typical mercy killing matchups between college football's traditional powers and their in-state directional counterparts. The first weekend of the 2017 college football season features some bona fide big boy clashes led by the mega-matchup between Alabama and Florida State - two legitimate title contenders. It's time for bettors to start doing the research to get a headstart on the oddsmakers for these gargantuan games. 

Which Teams Are In The Early Run For The Playoffs?

Cliche as it has become, the title discussion always starts with the Crimson Tide during the Nick Saban era. Since 2008 - Saban's second year on campus - Alabama has been ranked #1 for all, or parts of every season. 2017 will be no different, as Alabama figures to top the AP poll once again.

Led by sophomore QB Jalen Hurts, Alabama is deserving of all the preseasons accolades that will come its way. The Crimson Tide return depth and experience from its 2016-17 national runner-up team and simply has more athletes at every position than even the most well-stocked programs among college football's elite.

Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC and a plethora of other schools also figure prominently among the favorites to win the 2018 national championship. Among that group, Ohio State would be difficult to pick against as Urban Meyer has assembled an array of talent that might come closest to rivaling Alabama's. Florida State seemingly has enough pieces in place to make a serious bid for the championship and could announce its intentions early.

Alabama To Win The National Championship (+275)
  • Sep. 2: vs Florida State Seminoles (7:00pm CT)
  • Sep. 9: vs Fresno State Bulldogs (2:30pm CT)
  • Sep. 16: vs Colorado State Rams (6:00pm CT)
  • Sep. 23: at Vanderbilt Commodores (Time TBA)
  • Sep. 30: vs Ole Miss Rebels (Time TBA)

As usual, it's hard for detractors to find many chinks in the Crimson Tide's armor. They have an embarrassment of riches including a roster loaded with former four and five-star recruits and a coach who already has a statue bearing his likeness outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Moreover, the SEC has been down the last few years by its own lofty standards, making the possibility of losing a conference game less likely. Saban pointed out deficiencies on the offensive line and in the secondary during spring ball, so opponents may have to hope the coach's criticism is more bluster than fact - an unlikely proposition.

Florida State To Win The National Championship (+700)
  • Sep. 2: vs Alabama Crimson Tide (8:00pm ET)
  • Sep. 9: vs ULM Warhawks (7:00pm ET)
  • Sep. 16: vs Miami (FL) Hurricanes (8:00pm ET)
  • Sep. 23: vs NC State Wolfpack (Time TBA)
  • Sep. 30: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Time TBA)

The Seminoles improved more from the beginning of the season to their bowl game than any squad in the country in 2016 while developing a freshman QB working behind an inexperienced offensive line. They were blown out last September at Louisville and could have gone in the tank, but tremendous credit has to be awarded to the coaching staff and players who went on to take Clemson to the wire and defeat Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

FSU's surge at the end of last season was impressive and suggests the Seminoles are ready to return to the playoffs. The offensive line remains a question in 2017 and the departure of star running back Dalvin Cook will sting early in the year, but there is still plenty of talent and room for improvement on this roster. If the defense, led by veteran safety Derwin James, is ready to step forward, this could be one dangerous team.

USC To Win The National Championship (+700)
  • Sep. 2: vs Western Michigan Broncos (2:15pm PT)
  • Sep. 9: vs Stanford Cardinal (5:30pm PT)
  • Sep. 16: vs Texas Longhorns (5:30pm PT)
  • Sep. 23: at California Golden Bears (Time TBA)
  • Sep. 29: at Washington State Cougars (7:30pm PT)

Like FSU, the three-lettered traditional football power on the west coast was one much-improved at the end of last season, picking up a pair of road wins over eventual playoff team Washington and arch rival UCLA before upending a strong Penn State team in a classic renewal of the Rose Bowl.

The Trojans won their last eight games after starting 1-3 and were arguably the nation's hottest team. The emergence of star freshmen QB Sam Darnold was a big reason for that and his return - along with a bevy of playmakers - places USC on the short list of 2018 playoff contenders. USC must fill key holes on its offensive and defensive lines, so it will be interesting to see how the replacements fare early in the year.

Ohio State To Win The National Championship (+600)
  • Aug. 31: at Indiana Hoosiers (8:00pm ET)
  • Sep. 9: vs Oklahoma Sooners (7:30pm ET)
  • Sep. 16: vs Army Black Knights (4:30pm ET)
  • Sep. 23: vs UNLV Rebels (Time TBA)
  • Sep. 30: at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Buckeyes have made the playoffs in two of the first three years the system has existed and appears poised to make another solid run in 2018. Like Saban at Alabama, head coach Urban Meyer recruits at a premium level and knows how to develop the talent once it arrives on campus.

Against all probability, a young Ohio State team made the playoffs last year. Despite being blown out by eventual champion Clemson, Ohio State gained some invaluable experience and appears ready to move forward with a more battle-tested group. The Big 10 was considered the nation's best conference for much of last year, but that appeared to be fool's gold as OSU, Michigan and Penn State were all defeated in bowl games. The September 9 matchup with Oklahoma should provide an accurate gauge for how Ohio State stacks up with the non-conference big boys.

Louisville To Win The National Championship (+2200)
  • Sep. 2: Purdue Boilermakers (7:30pm ET)
  • Sep. 9: at North Carolina Tar Heels (Noon ET)
  • Sep. 16: vs Clemson Tigers (3:30pm ET)
  • Sep. 23: Kent State Golden Flashes (Time TBA)
  • Sep. 30: Murray State Racers (Time TBA)

It might be easy to forget about the Cardinals despite the return of Heisman winning QB Lamar Jackson after they limped home in their final three games last season, losing to Houston, Kentucky, and LSU in succession. It's worth reminding folks, however, that Louisville started the year 9-1, blowing out Florida State and suffering its only loss at eventual champion Clemson in a game the Cardinals led by eight with under eight minutes to play.

The late-season collapse was mostly attributable to putrid offensive line play, but head coach Bobby Petrino has hooked up with an old ally in the offseason, hiring away former assistant Mike Summers from Florida. If Summers can make Jackson's protection serviceable, the Cards are talented enough to surprise people in 2017-18. A road game at revenge-minded FSU Oct. 21 is the one to circle.

With most books showing Alabama (+275) and Ohio State (+600) as the favorites to win the 2018 national championship, a future bet on either isn't necessarily prohibitive. Still, these odds represent fairly short prices in a year that figures to be marked by parity.

Ohio State will have to navigate its own conference as rival Michigan is overdue for a win and resurgent Penn State is capable of beating the Buckeyes in back to back years. Alabama has owned a sluggish SEC in recent years but must fend off Florida State right out of the box.

That leaves most of the other serious contenders at considerably better odds, including FSU and USC - both of which are available at around +700. Most of the other big conference teams with any kind of hope are in the +1400 to +2200 range including Louisville, Clemson, and LSU.

Best College Football Betting Sites

Like most sports betting, finding the right online book to play college football is about finding one that provides opportunity, access, reliability, and value.

The most reliable sportsbooks are ones that have established a solid reputation in the industry by offering easy deposit methods and providing quick payouts. While those things are all paramount, an avid college football bettor should also find a book that offers action on all major and non-major conference games along with the ability to play quarters, halves, and props.

Finally, a great sportsbook is one that makes a player's wagering life easier with a simple interface and the ability to place wagers from a mobile device. Also, don't forget to shop sportsbooks for their bonus and rebate structures as some are far more lucrative than others.

 

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