With Week 1 of the 2018 college football season looming, now is the perfect time to take a look at the best bets to win this year’s College Football Playoff. Last year, Alabama won its fifth national championship in nine years, and Vegas has Nick Saban's bunch pegged as the favorites to win it once again in 2019. Of course, nothing is ever so certain in college football, and plenty of contenders are lined up to snatch the throne. Below are our value picks (yes, Bama's in there) to take home the CFP trophy. From William Hill, here are the 20 teams with the best odds:
Ohio State +850
Penn State +2500
Florida State +3300
Miami (FL) +3300
Notre Dame +3300
Michigan State +4000
Virginia Tech +6600
West Virginia +6600
The Usual Suspects
Alabama (+225) — It’s business as usual with the Tide holding the best preseason odds to win it all. While nothing is decided just yet, it’s looking like Tua Tagovailoa could emerge victorious from a quarterback battle with junior Jalen Hurts. While Hurts fits the typical Alabama mold of a game manager, Tagovailoa’s ability as a playmaker at the position could raise the ceiling beyond what Saban's offenses have achieved in recent years. Running back Damien Harris returns for his senior season, and a talented platoon of young wide receivers should be ready to step up and fill the void left by Calvin Ridley's departure to the NFL. Tons of talent and experience left the defense as well, especially in its back half, but a still-sterling track record in recruiting means it will never be without top-tier talent. 9-to-4 odds aren't generous by any means, but a bet on the Tide is never easy to pass up.
Ohio State (+850) — While a resolution is still pending, the domestic abuse scandal in Columbus has already cast a shadow on Ohio State's forthcoming campaign. But from a strictly on-the-field perspective, OSU is as talented as ever. Redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins is already receiving some early Heisman buzz at quarterback—he has top-10 odds to win the award—and many expect him to improve upon the inconsistent play of J.T. Barrett. The backfield duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber is formidable even by Big Ten standards, and a receiving corps of H-backs and wideouts is as deep as it is fast. Things won't get any easier for opponents on the other side of the ball, where Nick Bosa headlines a fearsome defensive front. There are experience concerns at safety, but as is the case in Tuscaloosa, it's nothing talent can't fix. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has done an excellent job of retooling this unit in recent years, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt. If the Buckeyes can keep their focus on the gridiron, there’s tremendous value in grabbing them at these odds.
Crashing the Party
Washington (+1800) — After a much-hyped run in 2016 that ended with a trip to the College Football Playoff, Washington was largely ignored by the national media in 2017. But at 10-3 and with a near-win over Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Huskies had a fantastic season. And with tons of talent coming back this season, they're primed to take yet another step forward. 9,000-yard career passer Jake Browning and 4,000-yard career rusher Myles Gaskin will be college football's most established QB-RB duo, and speedy wideout Chico McClatcher figures to return from injury as Browning's primary target for big plays. It's a relatively easy road for Chris Petersen's club after a season-opening bout with Auburn in Atlanta, and a Pac-12 title would give the Huskies a great shot at their second CFP berth in three seasons.
Wisconsin (+2200) — Wisconsin has been knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff for years now, toiling just beneath the sport's top tier. The 2018 Badgers enter the season with an unprecedented amount of hype, though, and the publicity could very well push them past the CFP gates if they're in consideration at season's end. The Badgers have a leading Heisman candidate in running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for a staggering 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns as a true freshman last season. Taylor may be in for an even better campaign for his second go-round, as college football’s best offensive line returns in its entirety to pave his paths. Junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook is an accurate passer that puts his team in position to win games, and he comes into this season with momentum after picking apart Miami in the Orange Bowl. As for this Badgers defense, head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard can be counted on to field a good unit—even if it did lose a lot of talent from last year’s team. If anybody in the Big Ten outside of Ohio State is going to win, it’s Wisconsin. The odds are tempting.
Worth a Shot
Florida State (+3300) — Most seasons, an FSU team this talented wouldn't be given such low odds. Things have been strange in Tallahassee of late, no doubt, but there's widespread belief that incoming head coach Willie Taggart was the right hire to get things back on track. The road won't be easy in his inaugural season at the helm, with uncertainty at the quarterback position and a grueling schedule that features the best of the ACC and a visit to South Bend in November. Players win games, though, and the Seminoles have an awful lot of good ones. It's not hard to imagine them making a CFP run.