The Alabama Crimson Tide may have suffered some key losses since winning the national title a year ago, but that has not stopped oddsmakers from anointing them the favorite to win it all at the end of the 2016 season.
Online sportsbook Bovada has the Tide at +600 (bet $100 to win $600) to repeat for the second time in eight years, win their fifth championship during that stretch and 17th recognized overall in school history.
Alabama may have lost running back Derrick Henry – the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner – along with center Ryan Kelly, linebacker Reggie Ragland, cornerback Cyrus Jones and defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft, but head coach Nick Saban has made a habit of reloading rather than rebuilding over the years to stay among the nation’s elite.
This season is no different, with only Henry and Robinson leaving school early. The others were seniors last year, and Saban will have another strong class in 2016 and another first-year quarterback.
Who that quarterback will be remains to be seen, but whoever it is will play a key role under center for the season opener against the USC Trojans on September 3. Sophomore Cooper Bateman saw some playing time behind Jake Coker last year and was underwhelming, leaving the door open for David Cornwell, Blake Barnett or Jalen Hurts to steal the starting job away from him before the season kicks off.
Meanwhile, the Trojans are +3300 to win the national championship and will also have a new signal-caller versus Alabama at AT&T Stadium with Cody Kessler now in the NFL. Kessler’s replacement is expected to come between former five-star recruit Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, who has closed the gap in the competition. In addition, USC has a new head coach in former offensive coordinator Clay Helton.
Other top contenders in the mix with lower odds to win the national title than the Trojans include the Ohio State Buckeyes (+850), Clemson Tigers (+850), Michigan Wolverines (+900), Florida State Seminoles (+1000) and LSU Tigers (+1000).
Like the Tide, the Buckeyes are looking to reload rather than rebuild under head coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State lost running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa to the NFL as well, but Meyer has had little problem replacing players of their caliber in the past.
Clemson was the national runner-up last year, falling 45-40 to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. Returning for the Tigers is 2015 Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, who may have a hard time duplicating his numbers from last season.
Florida State and LSU also have players who will be in the Heisman discussion this year in running backs Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette, respectively. Fournette was the Heisman frontrunner early on in 2015 before giving way to Henry around midseason.
Michigan is a team that has picked up a lot of steam with bettors during the summer thanks to head coach Jim Harbaugh, who hopes to take advantage of the personnel losses of the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title in 2016.