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Assuming a return to normalcy over the summer, the 2020 College Football season is now just over three months away. Games are set to kick off on August 29th, but sports bettors can get action ahead of the season courtesy of team futures odds. Defending national champion LSU saw a record 14 players selected in last month’s NFL Draft. While Ed Orgeron and the Tigers have done well to reload, there are plenty of teams poised to challenge for spots in the College Football Playoff and ultimately the championship throne. Here are my preseason best bets for national champion, courtesy of the odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Clemson Tigers | +225
There’s nothing sexy about this first pick. At +225, Clemson is the odds-on favorite to bring home the title according to DraftKings. The Tigers are fresh off a 14-1 season, with their lone defeat coming in the national title game to LSU. Coach Dabo Swinney has transformed the program into a perennial power, with College Football Playoff appearances in each of the last five seasons. There are no signs of a slowdown in 2020.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence will attempt to follow up on an impressive sophomore campaign in which he threw for over 3600 yards and 36 touchdowns. He has played his way into being one of the most highly sought-after NFL prospects in recent memory. Lawrence alone ensures that the Tigers will be in contention. Add in the return of running back Travis Etienne, an improved defensive line, and a top-3 incoming class, and Clemson should have no trouble emerging as the ACC’s representative in the Playoff.
Ohio State Buckeyes | +350
Any expected drop-off in Columbus from coach Urban Meyer to successor Ryan Day has not materialized. The Buckeyes’ only loss a season ago came to Clemson in the Playoff semifinal, and many believe that Day’s 2020 squad is even better than those Meyer had before his retirement. Ohio State has a top-5 incoming class this season and currently holds down the top spot in the 2021 recruiting rankings.
Quarterback Justin Fields returns for the 2020 season after throwing for over 3200 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 3 picks a year ago. He will no longer be flanked by J.K. Dobbins in the backfield, but Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon figures to step in and fair just fine. The Big Ten East Division remains deep, and there is also a tough non-conference trip to Oregon on the schedule. Even so, don’t expect a Buckeyes slow down anytime soon.
Georgia Bulldogs | +1200
The Bulldogs underwent their fair share of roster turnover this offseason, but they return the vast majority of what was one of the nation’s top defenses a year ago. Coach Kirby Smart has gone on record as saying he believes his 2020 defense may be the best he’s ever coached. Considering he was the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008-15, that is no small statement.
The quarterback competition between last year’s backup Stetson Bennett and Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman will be something to watch. Whoever winds up as the starter will benefit from a reloaded Georgia running back stable that will feature Zamir White and James Cook as its 1-2 punch. An SEC schedule is never exactly easy, and the two biggest dates on the Georgia calendar are a September road tilt at Alabama and a Halloween Cocktail Party clash with Florida.
Texas A&M Aggies | +3300
2019 was a bit of a disappointment in College Station. The Aggies only managed an 8-5 overall record, including just 4-4 in SEC play. Nevertheless, there is high optimism for a big rebound in 2020. Jimbo Fisher’s squad ranks 16th in the country in terms of returning production. The Aggies will also welcome in a top-6 recruiting class.
Starting QB Kellen Mond returns for his senior season to lead the A&M offense. He will be looking to junior wideouts Jhamon Ausbon and Camron Buckley often. The Aggies will rely on their returning experience to improve defensively at stopping the run and reducing penalties. If they can get past Auburn on the road in October, A&M might very well be undefeated ahead of their final two regular-season games against Alabama and LSU.
Texas Longhorns | +4000
The Big 12 is perhaps the most wide-open conference in the land this season, and Tom Herman’s Texas team has as good a shot as any to bring it home. The offseason saw several changes made to the coaching staff and a top-10 recruiting class join the fray. The Longhorns are none to take lightly in 2020.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger returns for his senior season to lead the offense. He is part of a group of returnees that rank Texas 21st in the country in returning production from last season, with a large amount residing on defense. Two of the Longhorns’ biggest games come in their first five: a road showdown against LSU and the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. Win both and the rest of the country will be put on notice.
Other Longshots to Watch
- Oregon Ducks | +5000
- USC Trojans | +5000
- Wisconsin Badgers | +5000
- Iowa State Cyclones | +10000
- North Carolina Tar Heels | +10000