The old joke in college football is to pick Alabama to win the NCAA National Championship until Coach Nick Saban decides to retire. The Crimson Tide always seem to have a team that can compete for college footballâ€™s top prize and this year is no different.
Saban has been coach for 11 years and the team has won four titles (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015) and were the favorites to win in 2016 but fell to Clemson. They began the 2017 preseason as the Associated Press No. 1 ranked team and are the selection from sportsbooks to end the year as the top team.
The odds on them winning the national title are 3-1, with another annual favorite Ohio State at 5-1. USC, which will be riding the arm of quarterback Sam Darnold, is at 7-1.
Alabama will face a quality opponent to its march to a fifth crown in the Saban era when they play Florida State on Saturday. The Seminoles are fourth to capture a championship at 10-1.
The contest is on neutral ground as they will meet at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and it will be the first college game at the facility that cost $1.5 billion to construct. It is the home to the 2017 SuperBowl runner up Atlanta Falcons.
There is no surprise that Alabama is favored in this game. The Crimson Tide is a 7-point pick to defeat FSU with the over/under set at 49Â½. Saban though said at a press conference Wednesday that he respects the Seminoles.
â€œItâ€™s a well-conceived pro-style offense,â€ Saban said. â€œItâ€™s well taught, and it works.â€
The key to this contest will be the quarterbacks, both of whom are Heisman Trophy candidates. Alabamaâ€™s Jalen Hurts is the first person to return to the position since A.J. McCarron in 2013. That should bring stability to an already disciplined offense.
Deondre Francois will have the task of pulling off the upset and the second-year signal caller will have to have a beefed up offensive line to make that happen. He took a beating last year and there is little chance they will win if he is getting clobbered all game.
Watching Other Contenders
Ohio State always seems to be the No. 2 pick and with good reason. Head Coach Urban Meyer has won three titles and should be in the mix for a fourth. The Big 10 though will give him more competition than in previous years so the Buckeyes will have to avoid the dreaded trap game. There are three other teams in the Top 25 with Penn State No. 6, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 11 Michigan. They will host Penn State and travel to Michigan and both of those teams are improved from last year.
USC is trying to once again become the dominant team on the West Coast and they will be pinning its hopes on Darnold. They are ranked No. 4 and are definitely helped by an easy schedule. Seven of the 12 teams they play didnâ€™t make a bowl game in 2016, but they get tested in the second week of the season when they host No. 14 Stanford.