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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, June 2, 2017 at 4:53 PM

Summer is upon us and the opening of college football season on August 26 suddenly isn’t so far away. The prospect of football is enough to get any handicapper’s mouth watering. Why don’t we set the table with a look at the national championship futures market.

THE FAVORITES
Alabama: 4-1
Ohio State: 5-1
Florida State: 15-2
USC: 15-2
Comment: Alabama and Ohio State are just the usual suspects, between their annual great recruiting classes and outstanding head coaches. There’s no reason to expect this season to be any different...and also no value to be found, at least not yet.

USC is drawing a lot of love after their strong finish, an exciting Rose Bowl win over Penn State and the return of Sam Darnold at quarterback. I won’t dispute any of that. I will say from the perspective of value, this is problematic. Trojan coach Clay Helton is easily the most unproven of the four head coaches on this tier—in fact he’s the only one without a national title.

Florida State is the hardest team to quantify of the favorites. Their 2016 season has to be considered somewhat of disappointment in spite of an Orange Bowl win over Michigan. The Seminoles missed an opportunity in a year where they hosted division rival Clemson. They were blown out at Louisville. And even the Orange Bowl win came after Michigan lost Jabrill Peppers and Jake Butt to injury. Nonetheless, the Seminoles have talent and a coach who has been to the mountaintop once before.
 

THE CHALLENGERS
Michigan: 15-1
Oklahoma: 15-1
Penn State: 15-1
Comment: Michigan’s loss of key defensive personnel—notably Peppers and cornerback Jourdan Lewis—to the NFL is clearly weighing on the mind of the market. That’s appropriate concern. It’s also appropriate to be aware that Jim Harbaugh has put Wolverine recruiting on a level close to Ohio State and Alabama, that he has the Buckeyes at home this year and the program continues to develop his trademark toughness.

DARKHORSES
Auburn: 20-1
Clemson: 20-1
LSU: 20-1
Louisville: 20-1
Georgia: 22-1
Texas: 25-1
Washington: 28-1
Comment: LSU offers the most intrigue here. In a sport where recruiting success translates to on-field success with more precision than any other, the Tigers are an outlier. Their incoming classes consistently rank in the top five nationally, better than anyone in the SEC West besides Alabama and competitive with the Tide themselves.

But over the last five years it has not shown up on the field—no major bowl appearances, no serious runs at a national title. And now no Leonard Fournette in the backfield. But if they have the right head coach in Ed Orgeron, the players are there.

THE REST
Notre Dame: 40-1
Florida: 45-1
Oklahoma State: 50-1
Virginia Tech: 50-1
Wisconsin: 50-1Tennessee: 60-1
UCLA: 60-1
Kansas State: 65-1
West Virginia: 65-1
Comment: From a national championship perspective, betting most of these teams would seem to be throwing your money away, regardless of the value. The price on Notre Dame, coming after a 4-8 season and the loss of DeShone Kizer shows that market love for the Irish continues unabated. 

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