The moment a college football season ends, we started thinking about favorites for the next campaign. By the time spring practice is over, though, opinions about top contenders are pretty well-formed.
At this point, we can account for NFL departures, transfers—both incoming and outgoing—and freshmen. Rosters are mostly set.
And that means betting odds are generally settled too.
Odds are from DraftKings and accurate as of May 15. Each program included has +6000 ($100 bet wins $6,000) championship odds or better.
Tier 5: The Long Shots
Utah Utes (+6000)
Can the Utes finally win consistently on the road? That has been the obstacle keeping Utah out of the College Football Playoff. This season, the Utes travel to Baylor, Oregon State, USC and Washington. They should be a strong Pac-12 contender, but anything more feels wishful.
Wisconsin Badgers (+6000)
The future of the program is fascinating, given the impending switch to a spread-heavy offense. This initial year, however, is loaded with change and makes Wisconsin tough to predict. The Badgers seem built for another nine-win type of season; the journey will simply look different.
Oklahoma Sooners (+5000)
The purpose of a buy/sell argument is value. Do I personally believe in Oklahoma? Not really. However, the Sooners remain a high-end team in a reshuffled Big 12 thanks to quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Oklahoma, which avoids nemesis Kansas State, has a legitimate path to 5-0 before a clash with rival Texas. Win that game at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, and suddenly, the Sooners would be the league favorite—and their championship odds won't be more attractive.
Texas A&M Aggies (+5000)
Other than the shortened 2020 season, Texas A&M has dropped four-plus games in every year under head coach Jimbo Fisher. What about a seven-loss 2022 campaign suggests we should be optimistic? The roster has talent, sure, but that's nothing new. Road trips to Miami, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU—along with the annual clash against Alabama—will be too much for A&M to overcome.
Tier 4: The Hopefuls
Tennessee Volunteers (+2800)
After obliterating expectations in 2022, why can't the Vols do it again? Alabama and Georgia will have something to say about it. As always, the SEC powerhouses loom on the schedule. Tennessee cannot be worse than 1-1 in those matchups to contend for a CFP trip. The big question is whether Joe Milton can hold down a starting job in his third attempt. His throwing arm is basically a cannon, but can he finally sustain a high level of play for an entire season?
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+2500)
After watching Notre Dame fall to Marshall last season, it's clear no game should be taken for granted. Still, the schedule is manageable aside from the thorny trio of Ohio State, USC and Clemson. Plus, the Irish landed a proven quarterback in Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman. Even as I believe a thin receiving corps will be ND's undoing, there is value in the number.
Penn State Nittany Lions (+2500)
Tennessee and Penn State are quite similar. Good offenses but a new quarterback. Real upside on defense—and in PSU's case, a potentially excellent unit. Two major obstacles in conference play. The difference in the Nittany Lions' favor is a softer middle tier of the schedule. Hosting Iowa and going to Michigan State isn't as daunting as taking on South Carolina and traveling to Florida and Kentucky.
Texas Longhorns (+2500)
If you think the Longhorns will upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa, this answer can change. But if you believe the Crimson Tide will topple Texas, a CFP prediction just about demands an undefeated 10-game run. I am not willing to put money—imaginary or fake—on that, despite the undeniable level of talent on this UT roster.
Tier 3: The Popular
Clemson Tigers (+2200)
Even though head coach Dabo Swinney's team dropped short of a CFP bid in 2022, the Tigers still rolled to 8-0 in the ACC. The defense is stacked with experience, and quarterback Cade Klubnik has exciting potential. Clemson also hosts its toughest competition—Florida State and Notre Dame—with winnable road games against Miami and rival South Carolina. Take out FSU in the September showdown, and Clemson will be secure its place as the ACC front-runner.
Florida State Seminoles (+1800)
Given the previous answer, you probably know where this is headed. Florida State is the ultimate hype squad for 2023, bringing back quarterback Jordan Travis and a strong majority of its 2022 contributors with a strong group of transfers. The appeal is obvious, especially in a relatively light ACC. But if Clemson wins the league, the Seminoles cannot afford any other loss to stay in the conversation.
LSU Tigers (+1600)
LSU won't sneak up on anyone in 2023. Last year, the Bayou Bengals recovered from an opening loss to FSU and surged to an SEC West crown. The slate is pretty balanced from a home/road perspective, and LSU returns a ton of productive players—plus a handful of key transfers. While I probably won't pick LSU to win the SEC, the value here is clear.
USC Trojans (+1400)
The program's final year in the Pac-12 could be memorable. Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is back to lead a potentially electrifying offense. However, do the Trojans have enough defense to navigate the season? Can they finally shake Utah? Those two questions will shape the eventual answer, but USC is worth considering at this number—just not a whole lot higher.
Tier 2: The Hyped
Michigan Wolverines (+900)
Take one look at the schedule, and you'll see the appeal for Michigan. The nonconference slate is East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green. Along with avoiding Iowa and Wisconsin, the Wolverines host Ohio State. Factor in a hugely experienced roster, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is ready to trot out another team capable of winning the Big Ten.
Ohio State Buckeyes (+650)
The toughest team for me, without hesitation, is Ohio State. The skill positions on offense are loaded, so a new quarterback—presumably Kyle McCord—should have time to settle in. And the Buckeyes might have the nation's best defensive line. But there are potential landmines with trips to Notre Dame, Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan on the docket. Ohio State is a definite yet uncomfortable CFP contender.
Alabama Crimson Tide (+550)
Where you stand on the Alabama quarterback conversation is the key to this answer. My early expectation is the Crimson Tide's signal-caller—Jalen Milroe or Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, most likely—will do enough to win consistently during the regular season but not necessarily convincingly. And that would be a major problem in the CFP.
Tier 1: The Favorite
Georgia Bulldogs (+230)
Labeling the previous year's champion as the preseason favorite would be understandable. But this roster looks awesome.
Georgia needs to pick a quarterback, yes. Once that happens—and it'll probably be Carson Beck—the Dawgs will have a clearer identity for the transition back to once-former coordinator Mike Bobo. The offense's strength is the blocking unit, yet UGA's receiving corps is better built to complement All-American tight end Brock Bowers.
Defensively, the Dawgs have a sturdy group of returning starters with experienced backups moving into larger roles. Georgia has earned the benefit of the doubt with elite defenses every year anyway.
Georgia does not play Alabama, LSU or even Texas A&M in crossover games, and Ole Miss travels to Athens. The schedule is set up nicely for UGA to chase a third consecutive title.
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