The LSU Tigers just completed one of the most dominant championship seasons that college football has ever seen. They swept every major award, including the Coach of the Year Award, the Heisman Trophy, the Thorpe Award, the Biletnikoff Award, and the Joe Moore Award. They set records offensively, including Joe Burrow throwing for the most passing touchdowns in a season (60). From a betting perspective, perhaps the most intriguing part of their season was that they could have had at 30-1 odds before the season to win the national championship. For what it’s worth, Joe Burrow was 200-1 to win the Heisman before the season, but that is neither here nor there.
Much will unfold between now and the start of the 2020-21 season. Players will transfer, others will declare early for the NFL draft, and the coaching carousel will continue. However, it is never too early to look ahead to the odds for who will win the 2020-21 National Championship. Will next year produce another 30-1 longshot like LSU?
Here are the best bets for next year’s college football national champion. (odds courtesy of FanDuel)
Ohio State (+400)
While Clemson appears to be a near-lock to make next year’s playoffs, their odds are too short. I would much rather take a shot with the Ohio State Buckeyes, who had those Clemson Tigers buried in a big hole in this year’s semifinal. I am not saying Ohio State would have beaten LSU this year, but they had a 16-0 lead over Clemson, but they could not put them away.
While defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah will be hard to replace on defense, it’s encouraging that potential Heisman-winning quarterback Justin Fields will return. Fields will be in his second year under head coach Ryan Day’s system, and he’ll continue to make strides. The Buckeyes project to have 11 starters back, six on offense and five on defense. They play the type of schedule where they have a lot of opportunities for marquee wins. In addition to the loaded Big Ten East division, they play a huge non-conference game against Oregon. This type of schedule will likely allow them to endure one loss without ruining their playoff hopes. Once there, they are a great bet to learn from this year’s experience and get over the hump.
As much as some may have enjoyed a College Football Playoff without Alabama, the bad news is that they’ll be back next season. The Crimson Tide were ravaged by injuries this year. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa missed the final three games with a hip injury, and the defense lost two of their best linebackers (Dylan Moses, Joshua McMillon) to torn ACLs. However, Alabama still won 11 games for the ninth-consecutive year. They were a thrilling defeat of LSU away from keeping the Tigers out of the SEC Championship, and possibly the playoffs.
Head coach Nick Saban got a good look at what quarterback Mac Jones could do in Tua’s absence. Jones will compete with Tua’s younger brother Taulia and freshman Bryce Young for the starting job. There is enough depth at receiver to offset the departures of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Look for a healthier defense to return to the usual Crimson Tide ways we’ve grown accustomed to. Nick Saban is the best coach the sport has ever seen, and he’ll have Alabama competing for another championship immediately.
Penn State (+5000)
If we are to get another longshot champion next year, Penn State has as good a chance as anybody. The Nittany Lions are coming off an 11-win season, and they project to have nine starters back on offense. Quarterback Sean Clifford played hurt during the last few games, limiting his efficiency. Penn State is loaded at running back, but lose their best playmaker in receiver KJ Hamler. Linebacker Micah Parsons is arguably the best in the country and will lead a tough defensive unit. Also, this is somewhat of a hedge on the Ohio State bet since they play in the same division. However, Ohio State goes to Happy Valley this year, and the winner of that game is likely to represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship game.