Wanna bet? A look at the 2018 national championship race, from a handicapping perspective

College football never takes a day off, and that’s especially true if you’re a coach, fan or beat writer in the SEC. Hours after winning the national championship game, Nick Saban and Jeremy Pruitt went their separate ways and were off to recruit in hopes of winning championships in the coming years.

Another city that never takes a day off is Las Vegas. Within minutes of Tua Tagovailoa’s overtime pass finding the hands of DeVonta Smith, nearly every bookmaker in the city began posting odds on the 2018 national championship, while offshore books began offering proposition wagers as early as the Rose Bowl. We’ll break down the front-runners (odds of 10-1 or better), the dark horses (odds of 12-1 to 60-1) and the long shots (odds of 100-1 or higher).

Alabama (2.5-1)
It’s tough to bet against Nick Saban straight up. When the guy is in a big game, he rarely fails to deliver a win, so it’s no surprise that Alabama is the favorite to win the 2018 championship. Alabama isn’t penciled in each year as favorites; it’s written in permanent marker. It doesn’t matter who moves on to the NFL; Saban simply brings in new five-star talent to replace them. Just a couple of weeks ago, he showed us he isn’t afraid to bring in five-star talent in the middle of a game. It will be interesting to see how the Jalen Hurts/Tua Tagovailoa battle works out in the spring, but the two seem to be good friends and Saban isn’t going to let a quarterback battle break up his locker room. As long as Saban is leading the way, the Tide is here to stay.

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Clemson (6-1)
I’m not going to say Dabo Swinney is Saban 2.0, but he’s close. It took him a while to prove he could win a big game, but his teams operate in a similar way to Saban’s. The offense returns almost entirely intact, and outside of the Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama, that’s a good thing. Five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence enters the mix, and his development early is something to watch. While I don’t foresee Kelly Bryant losing the starting job, if the offense struggles early you might see get Lawrence some reps early this fall. While the Tigers return numerous starters on both sides of the ball, the biggest reason the Tigers open the season at 6-1 is Brent Venables returns as defensive coordinator. Venables again will oversee one of the nation’s best defenses.

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