College Football Championship 2019: Latest Odds, Expert Predictions

After the two-game appetizer that was Week Zero, the FBS college football season begins in earnest on Thursday.

For the fifth consecutive year, the road to the national title is expected to go through Clemson and Alabama. The two have played each other in the championship game in three of the last four seasons, with the only exception being the 2017-18 season when the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in the semifinals.

Clemson got its revenge in January, thrashing Alabama 44-16 in the College Football Playoff National Championship to become the first team in the history of the playoffs era to go 15-0.

The Tigers have retained the core of its championship team and will take some stopping.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has had a full off-season and is expected to be starting under center, with Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross just some of the options at his disposal.

Alabama, meanwhile, recruited some of the best talent available in the summer and will be desperate to reclaim the national title.

Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy will again run the offense for the Crimson Tide, while coach Nick Saban has made significant changes to is coaching staff on both sides of the ball.

Behind the duo, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Ohio State are all in the mix to make the playoffs.

Here's who the experts expect to be among the four teams contesting the national title come January.

Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers
Josh Jacobs #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes against the Clemson Tigers during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at Levi's Stadium on January 7 in Santa Clara, California. The Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16. Jamie Schwaberow/Getty

Mark Schlabach—ESPN

Schlabach expects Clemson to cruise through the ACC en route to another appearance in the College Football Playoff.

"The [Clemson] Tigers still are head and shoulders above everyone else in the ACC, albeit with a lot more youth in key positions. It won't matter. No one else is close to toppling the defending national champions."

Ross Dellenger—Sports Illustrated

Alabama and Tua Tagovailoa have a point to prove after losing to Clemson in the national championship game last season and Dellenger expects them to deliver.

"Tagovailoa finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and his team finished runner-up in the national championship. What more motivation does an already supremely talented player need? Also, take a look at the Tide's schedule and tell me what game is even remotely losable. The toughest is probably at Auburn or at Texas A&M, two teams that combined last year for nine losses."

Max Olson—The Athletic

Like Dellenger, Olson suggests Alabama will be hard to stop as it is fueled by the desire of overcoming last year's defeat.

"A hungry Alabama team bent on revenge is the scariest Alabama of all. That offense is just too loaded, the Tide can replace what they've lost on defense and the path to another 12-0 start doesn't seem too daunting this year."

Chip Patterson—CBS Sports

After two years of near-misses, Patterson believes Oklahoma will finally end its national title drought.

"Two years in a row, the Sooners have brought a championship contender into the College Football Playoff only to be stopped short by the SEC. I think this is the year Lincoln Riley gets over the SEC hump and brings Oklahoma its first national championship in nearly two decades."

Wayne Staats—

Staats suggests Clemson's schedule is easy enough for the Tigers to make a statement of intent ahead of the College Football Playoff.

"The toughest road games are Syracuse, North Carolina State and South Carolina. Texas A&M, Florida State and Boston College all come to Death Valley. So there will be blowouts—a lot of them. No one in the ACC should, on paper, come within two scores. Last year, only Syracuse came within three score in ACC play."

College Football Playoffs odds

Bookmakers consider Clemson and Alabama as shoo-ins to make the College Football Playoff again this season. According to BetOnline, the Tigers are 1/6 (-600 in moneyline terms) to be among the final four, while the Crimson Tide is second-favorite at 1/5.

Georgia follows at 11/10, with Michigan at 2/1 and Oklahoma and Ohio State both at 12/5.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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