The start of the 2020 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about the teams that could be playing for a championship at the end of the season.
In recent years, national powerhouses such as Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma have become mainstays in the College Football Playoff. However, the LSU Tigers crashed the party last season, snapping a run of four straight years in which either Alabama or Clemson won the title.
A year ago, there were at least half a dozen teams with better odds to win the National Championship than LSU, so perhaps there is a changing of the guard. That should make the upcoming season all the more compelling with both Alabama and Clemson having something to prove and a host of other teams believing they can replicate what LSU did last season.
With that in mind, let’s look at the teams with the best odds to win the 2021 College Football National Championship, according to DraftKings' sportsbook.
Tom Herman’s fourth year with the Longhorns could be the charm. Texas was a disappointing 8-5 last season, but the team’s youth is partly to blame for that. The Longhorns will be a year older in 2020 and have a senior quarterback in Sam Ehlinger leading the way.
Ehlinger has proven at times that he can will Texas to victory, so if he gets a little more help around him, the Longhorns could be something special. However, a non-conference game against LSU could mean little margin for error in the Big 12 if Texas wants to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.
Texas A&M: +3300
Going through the gauntlet that is the SEC West won’t be easy for Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies. However, they are an intriguing sleeper pick. Texas A&M was 8-5 last season against what was easily the toughest schedule in the country, losing to Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
The Aggies should be stronger after facing those challenges last season. Also, quarterback Kellen Mond has a chance to be special heading into his senior season.
In all three seasons under Lincoln Riley, the Sooners have won 12 games and reached the College Football Playoff. Based on that history, they are one of the safest bets to reach the CFP and have a chance to win a National Championship.
The question is whether quarterback Spencer Rattler can match what Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts have done the last three seasons at Oklahoma. On the bright side, the Sooners return nine starters on defense, so a better performance on that side of the ball mixed with Riley’s offense could be a winning combination.
Notre Dame: +1800
Brian Kelly hasn’t received the credit he deserves for leading the Irish to a 33-6 record over the last three seasons after their disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2016. This year, Notre Dame has an underrated senior quarterback in Ian Book and a veteran offensive line.
However, Notre Dame’s CFP hopes hinge on handling a difficult schedule. If the Irish can survive a trip to Lambeau Field against Wisconsin, they could be 8-0 heading down the stretch.
Notre Dame does have to play Clemson and a tricky Louisville team at home in November before heading to USC the last week of the season. It won’t be easy for the Irish to run the table and assure themselves a spot in the CFP.
Can Ed Orgeron lead the Bayou Bengals to an unlikely repeat? The way LSU recruits, there’s enough talent in Baton Rouge to give the Tigers a chance. Even if the defense is a little young, there’s no shortage of talent on that side of the ball.
LSU’s season could come down to whether or not Myles Brennan is ready to play anywhere near the level Joe Burrow did last year. Terrace Marshall and J’Marr Chase remain at wide receiver, but the backfield is a little young, so there’s a lot on Brennan’s shoulders.
More importantly, the Tigers have to face Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M on the road, so just winning the SEC West won’t be easy.
Dan Mullen has done an amazing job in his first two seasons back in Gainesville, and this could be the year he gets Florida to the next level. Quarterback Kyle Trask came out of nowhere last year, but he gives Florida one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in 2020.
There are a few small areas of concern for the Gators, but if they can iron out some issues, Trask gives them a chance to go head to head with Georgia in the SEC East, which could allow them to play their way into the CFP.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, Georgia continues to be the team to beat in the SEC East. Kirby Smart’s defenses have been dominant over the last few years and could be just as good as last season when they allowed fewer than 13 points per game.
The X-factor is the Georgia offense, as Wake Forest transfer quarterback Jamie Newman didn’t get a chance to gel with his new team after spring practice was canceled. With three offensive linemen and running back D’Andre Swift being selected in the NFL Draft, the quarterback position will be more important for the Bulldogs than in recent years, which means Newman has to catch on quickly to keep Georgia in the CFP picture.
Notice the huge moneyline gap between the top three teams and everyone else? The teams listed above all have a chance, but the top three teams all expect to be playing at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11.
Not surprisingly, Alabama is part of that group. The Tide will look to win the old-fashioned way, with a dominant offensive line and running game. Between Mac Jones and true freshman Bryce Young, Alabama is in good shape at quarterback, especially with Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith catching passes.
Of course, without an experienced quarterback, the Tide will need a better defensive effort this season, especially with Georgia and LSU on the schedule.
Ohio State: +350
Justin Fields is the early Heisman frontrunner, and he helps make the Buckeyes one of the frontrunners for the 2021 National Championship. He accounted for 51 touchdowns last season while tossing just three interceptions.
Losing eight defensive starters is an issue, but the OSU defense has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. That means the Buckeyes will get better as the season goes along while Fields and the offense prevent any early-season slip-ups.
Outside of trips to Oregon and Penn State, OSU’s schedule appears manageable. And after the way that the Buckeyes blew away the competition last season, Ohio State looks like a good bet to get back to the CFP.
Clemson is the favorite to win the 2021 National Championship in part because no one in the ACC can touch them. Granted, the Tigers typically have one off day every season, but they consistently run away with the ACC title, which makes them a virtual lock to reach the CFP.
Even with a trip to Notre Dame in November, look for Clemson to cruise for most of the regular season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence makes it look easy and the Tigers still have Travis Etienne, one of the best running backs in the country.
More importantly, the Tigers are always elite defensively regardless of how many key players they lose to the NFL. Clemson’s defensive line could be the best in the country and defensive coordinator Brent Venables is the best in the business, so he’ll highlight his strengths and hide any weaknesses on the Clemson defense.
Keep in mind Clemson has played in the National Championship Game in four of the last five seasons, and there’s little reason to think that will change this season.
Photo: Getty Images