Las Vegas Sun

December 16, 2018

Currently: 64° — Complete forecast

College football by the odds: Alabama could have its best team next season

Three bets on the early future odds for the 2018-19 season

Tua Tagovailoa

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa congratulates Henry Ruggs III (11) after his touchdown catch during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta.

With Alabama having secured its fifth national championship in the last nine years earlier this week, fans could have an animated discussion on which Crimson Tide team has been the best of coach Nick Saban’s 11-year tenure.

Las Vegas sports books’ answer could be dispiriting to opposing fan bases. It at least projects to be next year’s team, which will enter the 2018-19 season as a historic favorite to repeat as national champions.

The Crimson Tide are plus-160 (risking $1 to win $1.60) at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, matching 2005-06 USC — which memorably lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl title game — as the biggest preseason favorite in the last 20 years.

This year’s national champion Crimson Tide, for comparison, sat at plus-300 at this time a year ago. The lowest Alabama had previously come into a season was 2013, when it was plus-250 but saw its hopes of a national championship dashed with the famous “Kick Six.”

Alabama has more than enough talent to justify to the minuscule odds. Not many teams have ever returned both the most talked-about quarterback in college football, Tua Tagovailoa, and the reigning conference player of the year, Jalen Hurts, at the same position.

Hurts scored 25 touchdowns while throwing only one interception over the year to lead the Crimson Tide into Monday’s national championship game. He was listless in the first half, however, and Tagovailoa subbed in to rescue the Crimson Tide with 166 yards and three touchdown passes in a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia as 4-point favorites.

Along with the quarterbacks, Alabama will return its top running back — Damien Harris — along with two of the three receivers who caught touchdown passes in the championship game — Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith, who hauled in the 41-yard game-winner.

The losses are mounting on defense with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison and Da’Ron Payne all declaring early for the NFL Draft, but that side of the ball has been Alabama’s most consistent during its dynasty. The Crimson Tide have a squadron of blue-chippers and pro prospects waiting for its opportunity.

Despite the overwhelming talent, it will be extremely difficult to match the expectations and emerge as the greatest Saban-era Alabama team. The bar is set high for a program coming off three straight 14-win seasons and 10 straight double-digit win campaigns.

So which team was actually the best? Las Vegas’ answer might be another surprise, because it’s not one that won the national championship.

It’s the 2016-17 team that lost to Clemson 35-31 as 6-point favorites in the national championship. That team had the highest point spreads of any Alabama team, and still went a Saban-best 10-5 against the spread.

Analytics support the case too, as simple rating system — an imperfect measure but one useful for comparing between different seasons — graded Alabama at 25.62, higher than any other Saban-coached team at the school. The Crimson Tide also posted a program-high by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings in 2016-17, which combines play-by-play and drive data.

Close behind are the 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams that won back-to-back championships. Those teams were led by current pros like quarterback A.J. McCarron, running back Eddie Lacy and tackle D.J. Fluker.

It’s hard to argue against a future bet on Alabama at this point. If a bettor put $100 on every Saban-coached team at the program to win the national championship before the season, he or she would now be up $4,250.

But plus-160 offers little reward for waiting a year, so find three of Talking Points’ favorite higher-priced bets below on the full list of the Superbook’s odds to win the 2019 national championship.

Alabama – 8-to-5

Clemson — 6-to-1

Ohio State — 8-to-1 Former Bishop Gorman great Tate Martell didn’t mince any words on Twitter the night of the national championship, posting, “Remember this tweet….We will be there next year.” It’s hard not to believe him, even if he has no guarantee to be the quarterback with this year’s backup, Dwayne Haskins, also vying to replace J.T. Barrett. That’s the type of talent accumulated at Ohio State — perhaps the only program close to Alabama’s level. Bookmakers rated the Buckeyes as the second-best team in the nation at the end of this season, and they should regain that status heading into next year. This is a generous price that will only diminish.

Georgia — 8-to-1

Michigan — 10-to-1

Penn State — 12-to-1

Oklahoma — 18-to-1

Texas — 25-to-1

Miami — 25-to-1

Wisconsin — 25-to-1

Auburn — 25-to-1

Michigan State — 25-to-1

Washington — 30-to-1 The Huskies could be favored in every Pac-12 game next season, and they have a golden opportunity to get in the national consciousness in week 1. The can’t-miss game of week 1 next year is a showdown between Washington and Auburn in Atlanta. Washington projects as a slight underdog, despite having more production returning than Auburn. The Huskies finished this season as the 10th best team in the nation by F/+ — and that was in a rebuilding year. Look for veteran quarterback Jake Browning to be in the Heisman Trophy discussion throughout the season, and lead his team to a second Pac-12 championship in three seasons.

LSU — 30-to-1

USC — 40-to-1

Virginia Tech — 40-to-1

Florida State — 40-to-1 Here’s another case of the odds sitting higher now than they will come August. Once everyone realizes the excitement and potential under new coach Willie Taggart and remembers the explosive playmaking ability of quarterback Deondre Francois, the price will likely be sliced in half. Yes, the Seminoles looked awful at times this year without Francois in a 7-6 straight-up, 4-8-1 against the spread campaign. But that’s delivered them to a price range higher than anyone could have imagined after the program regained its swagger to rise back to national prominence in the last five years.

Notre Dame — 40-to-1

West Virginia — 40-to-1

Stanford — 40-to-1

Texas A&M — 50-to-1

Florida — 60-to-1

TCU — 60-to-1

Oregon — 60-to-1

Arizona — 100-to-1

Oklahoma State — 100-to-1

UCLA — 100-to-1

Utah — 100-to-1

Missouri — 100-to-1

Mississippi State — 100-to-1

Boise State — 100-to-1

NC State — 100-to-1

Wake Forest — 100-to-1

Kansas State — 100-to-1

South Carolina — 200-to-1

Iowa State — 200-to-1

Northwestern — 200-to-1

Purdue — 200-to-1

Iowa — 200-to-1

Nebraska — 200-to-1

Minnesota — 200-to-1

Washington State — 200-to-1

Central Florida — 200-to-1

Louisville — 200-to-1

Colorado — 300-to-1

Memphis — 300-to-1

Syracuse — 300-to-1

Georgia Tech — 500-to-1

Pittsburgh — 500-to-1

South Florida — 500-to-1

Houston — 500-to-1

Boston College — 500-to-1

Virginia — 500-to-1

Duke — 500-to-1

North Carolina — 500-to-1

Texas Tech — 500-to-1

Arizona State — 500-to-1

Kentucky — 500-to-1

Vanderbilt — 500-to-1

Tennessee – 500-to-1

Ole Miss — 500-to-1

Arkansas — 500-to-1

San Diego State — 500-to-1

Colorado State — 500-to-1

Baylor — 500-to-1

Indiana — 500-to-1

Maryland – 500-to-1

California — 500-to-1

Florida Atlantic — 500-to-1

BYU — 500-to-1

Fresno State — 1000-to-1

Kansas — 1000-to-1

Rutgers — 1000-to-1

Illinois — 1000-to-1

Appalachian State — 9999-to-1

UNLV — 9999-to-1

UNR — 9999-to-1

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy