Amidst much talk about realignments, it is never too early to look at the futures for the next college football season. Pinnacle has the odds, and we will look at some teams to think about and some to stay away from.
The cream of the crop
Alabama Crimson Tide (+436)
Bama will be back. Quarterback Greg McElroy led the team to an undefeated season and an SEC and BCS Championship last year. He will have another season under his belt, and the senior will be crucial to the Crimson Tide’s success. Junior wide receiver Julio Jones, who has drawn comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald, will be a big target for McElroy.
The backfield is ridiculous, with Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram getting help from highly touted Trent Richardson. The sophomore recorded 109 yards and two touchdowns in the 2010 BCS National Championship game and helped his team win the title. The one-two punch of Ingram and Richardson should be the best running back tandem in the nation.
The biggest concern for Alabama is its defense. The Tide will have to make up for some losses on defense, but their high-powered offense will give them a great shot at a repeat-title. The team will lose the entire starting defensive line, but the replacements have received significant playing time. If the defense doesn’t fall apart completely, Alabama will be back at the top of the college football world.
Ohio State Buckeyes (+516)
Buckeyes junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor showed what he is capable of in the Rose Bowl. Pryor is a true double-threat and made the Oregon Ducks pay through the air and on the ground in a 26-17 Buckeyes win. He passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns and added 72 yards rushing on a team-high 20 carries.
Pryor’s main targets are returning to the team. Wide receivers DeVier Posey (Jr.) and Dane Sanzenbacher (Sr.) as well as sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner will get the bulk of the receptions.
Ohio State is known for its strong defensive units, but they could struggle a little bit this season, as the Buckeyes are losing five starters. Expect the replacements to step up their game and the Buckeyes to have another great defensive year. Their front seven looks dominant, and senior cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence return after great 2009 seasons.
Boise State Broncos (+1145)
I would have put the USC Trojans here, but their two-year postseason ban takes them out of the equation. And the Broncos are worth a loooong look. They ran the table last year and defeated TCU in a Fiesta Bowl matchup of Cinderellas.
They return 21 of 22 starters after finishing the season at #4 in the major polls. Junior quarterback Kellen Moore is coming off a great season that brought him Heisman votes, and is looking to improve even more. His 39 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions ranked him among the top quarterbacks in the nation.
The Broncos’ receiving corps of senior wideouts Austin Pettis, Titus Young as well as tight ends Tommy Gallarda and Kyle Efaw, offer Moore a variety of targets. The backfield will get even better with D.J. Harper’s return from a torn ACL. Doug Martin (15 rushing TDs) and Jeremy Avery (1,151 rushing yards) will look to build on their strong seasons.
With all the talk about the Broncos’ offense, you can’t forget about their defense. They lose first round draft pick Kyle Wilson at corner, but return all of their other starters. The unit held TCU and Oregon to a combined 18 points, and forced a total of 35 turnovers. They recorded 26 sacks in 2009.
Everything will come down to the Broncos’ September. They play Virginia Tech in the season opener and Oregon State in their home opener. If they can beat those two, they have a legitimate shot at the title game.