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ESPN: How Each Top College Football Contender Can Win A National Title

Clemson and Alabama lines face off during college football national championship.

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Patrick Phibbs #58 of the Clemson Tigers snaps the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

17 college football teams have odds of +10000 or better to win a national championship at Caesars Sportsbook as of today. Realistically, not all of them will be true contenders, but the title-winner will almost definitely come from that group.

For programs like Alabama and Clemson, there are few questions to be answered. The Tide and Tigers are +240 and +250 to win the championship, respectively, and sit in a tier of their own in the sport.

New ESPN college football writer Bill Connelly recently broke down the things that need to happen for Alabama, Clemson, and these 15 other contenders to take home a championship. The list of factors is obviously much shorter for Saban and Swinney's teams than, say, Nebraska, which is a trendy pick from the Big Ten but still coming off of a 4-8 season.

For Alabama, the biggest question on defense is centered on big plays allowed by the secondary, while the primary offensive questions naturally come from new coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

Bama's latest offensive coordinator, Sarkisian, comes from Atlanta, where his Falcons struggled mightily in the red zone in 2017 and did just fine in 2018. Maybe he can find a couple of extra-magical playcalls to help out a Tide offense that was ultra-efficient over most of the field (first in overall offensive success rate) but labored near the goal line (68th in success rate inside the opponent's 10). That, too, was awfully costly in the national title game.

For Clemson, the national championship hangover factor comes in. No team has repeated since 2011-12 Alabama, including some expected powerhouses. The more tangible factor, however, is the loss of last year's historically strong defensive line group:

No one is going to doubt either the defensive line talent Dabo Swinney is able to attract or his staff's ability to get the most out of their guys. But anytime you lose this much talent in a single unit (No. 4 NFL draft pick Clelin Ferrell, No. 13 pick Christian Wilkins, No. 17 pick Dexter Lawrence and No. 117 pick Austin Bryant, plus another rotation piece in Albert Huggins), that means a ton of new roles for new players.

Here are some of the other questions that Connelly outlines for the other top college football national championship contenders.

Key coaching changes and questions about quarterbacks headline many of these teams.

  • Georgia (+650): New OC James Coley helping fix red zone issues.
  • Ohio State (+900): Justin Fields fulfilling his potential.
  • Oklahoma (+1200): Improved secondary playmaking.
  • Michigan (+1500): New OC Josh Gattis building a more unpredictable Michigan offense.
  • Texas (+2000): Improvements in the running game outside of Sam Ehlinger.
  • Florida (+3000): Feleipe Franks plays like he did late last season.
  • LSU (+3000): Joe Burrow continuing to improve.
  • Oregon (+3000): More consistent excellence from Justin Herbert.
  • Washington (+3000): Jacob Eason's development.
  • Notre Dame (+3500): Dramatic improvement in rushing attack.
  • Nebraska (+4000): Year two jump under Scott Frost.
  • Auburn (+5000): One of the two Tigers' freshmen QBs emerge.
  • Texas A&M (+5000): Jimbo Fisher's recruits starting to step up.
  • Wisconsin (+5000): Quarterback play exceeds what Alex Hornibrook gave last season.
  • Miami (+6000): Offensive line improvement despite heavy turnover.

For the full lists and write-ups for each team, head to ESPN.