In 2020 college football faced increasing criticism for having the same teams emerge as the semifinalists and finalists for its playoff and national championship game. If the futures board is any indicator, nobody is expecting that to change for the 2021 campaign. The Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, and Ohio State Buckeyes are the top three favorites. On second-tier are the Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs. From there, the public likes the LSU Tigers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, and USC Trojans. When it comes to its championship, college football is the chalkiest of all sports. And while fans will grumble and College Football Playoff TV ratings suffer, there are no indications of that changing any time soon. Let's look at the top picks for the 2021 national championship.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Whatever is said about Nick Saban's Alabama program, it is utterly inadequate. Saban has proven to be the greatest college football coach of all-time, surpassing the late great Alabama legend Paul "Bear" Bryant in that regard. Since the founding of the College Football Playoff in 2014, Alabama qualified six times with five championship game appearances and three national titles. Overall, Alabama has won six national titles under Saban. Their recruiting classes have ranked at the top for over a decade. And this year's haul is touted as the greatest class in college football history. Is it any wonder that the Crimson Tide opened as +300 favorites?
In like manner to Alabama, the Clemson Tigers have six College Football Playoff appearances with four championship game appearances and two national titles. The betting public may have soured on Clemson after their poor performance in the 2020 CFP loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. But so too is head coach Dabo Swinney a recruiting machine, and the departure of Trevor Lawrence to the NFL is likely going to prove a positive. Lawrence became a security blanket for Clemson, causing them to lose their edge in 2020. Further, the humiliating loss to Ohio State in the 2020 College Football Playoff adds to the Tigers' motivational intangibles. Clemson opened at +350 for the 2021 national championship.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ryan Day stepped into the most oversized shoes imaginable when he replaced Urban Meyer in 2019. Thus far, Day has proven to be up to the task with two playoff appearances in two seasons. Ohio State learned to recruit like an SEC program under Meyer and has kept that going with Day. The Buckeyes are a +400 choice to win the 2021 national championship. Certainly, there is no evidence that OSU will be toppled in the Big Ten. But some gamblers understandably don't put them in the same class as Alabama or Clemson. The departure of quarterback Justin Fields is another concern.
At +800 odds to win the 2021 national championship, the Oklahoma Sooners could prove to be a bargain. In fact, many observers believe that OU was the second-best team, at the very least, in all of college football at the end of the 2020 campaign. As a freshman, quarterback Spencer Rattler rapidly improved after some early struggles. But the most crucial upgrade has been on defense. Oklahoma had no defense a couple of seasons ago. Now what was a team weakness has been converted into a team asset. Finally, head coach Lincoln Riley is one of the game's most brilliant offensive minds.
Georgia is a +1000 choice to win the 2021 national championship. Head coach Kirby Smart learned to recruit and win at a nationally elite level during his time with Nick Saban at Alabama. That has translated into four consecutive seasons with final rankings of seventh or better. Georgia consistently ranks near the top of the national recruiting rankings. Many gamblers consider the Bulldogs a program destined for their first natty since 1980, during the Herschel Walker glory years
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M is touted as the potential sleeper team for the 2021 national championship. The Aggies finished 9-1 straight up and 6-4 against the spread with their only loss at Alabama. Fourth-year head coach Jimbo Fisher is recruiting at an elite level. Fisher won a natty at Florida State in 2013, thus proving he knows what it takes.