3 Long-Shot National Title Contenders to Put Your Money on

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterJuly 8, 2014

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt (18) throws against Wake Forest during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 56-7. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Last year, Auburn fan Mark Skiba asked his father to put $100 down on the Tigers' 500-1 odds to win the BCS National Championship. 

With Auburn coming off a 3-9 season with no SEC wins, 500-1 odds may have appeared generous. But first-year coach Gus Malzahn coached the Tigers to an undefeated regular season and came 13 seconds away from winning it all. 

The bet looked silly at the time, but Skiba came oh-so-close to winning $50,000. 

Will anyone find a long shot that surprises like Skiba did last season?

According to Odds Shark, Bovada released updated national championship odds, and the usual suspects are at the top. Florida State is still the favorite at 11-2, with Alabama at 6-1 and Oregon at 8-1. Auburn? It's doing, er, "marginally" better this year at 9-1 odds to win it all. 

But there are also some teams who could make a championship run despite being listed at longer odds. Here are three teams with at minimum 50-1 odds who could do it: 


Clemson (66-1)

The Tigers are in the same division (the ACC Atlantic) as Florida State. Unless the Tigers can get into the College Football Playoff without winning their division, let alone the conference, getting past the Seminoles on Sept. 20 in Tallahassee is going to be important. 

In all, Clemson has three key games in an otherwise manageable schedule: The aforementioned road trip to Florida State, the season opener at Georgia and the season-ending rivalry against South Carolina. The Tigers could go 9-3, and it would be completely understandable. 

But Clemson looks to have a remarkable defense capable of being one of the best in the country, especially up front along the defensive line. ESPN Insider Travis Haney explains

For those who haven't followed the Tigers all that closely, the defense is going to catch people by surprise this fall (and might even be the ACC's best). Chad Morris' offense has been ahead of Brent Venables' defense the past couple of seasons, but that could easily flip in 2014. In fact, Morris agreed with that sentiment when I suggested it to him a month ago.

If you can believe it, Clemson's questions lie on offense given the departures of quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins. But Cole Stoudt has already been named the starting quarterback, and Morris has a history of plug and go at the skill positions. The group is going to have to gel and grow up quickly in the first month. If it can, there's plenty of reason to be excited about its future. 

It would be counterintuitive, and one could go so far as to call it an injustice, for Clemson to compete for a national championship one season after Boyd and Watkins leave. The odds are long for a reason, but the Tigers have the talent to make a surprise run. 


Missouri (66-1)

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Maty Mauk #7 of the Missouri Tigers runs the ball against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second quarter during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 3, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Missouri caught just about everyone off guard with its 12-2 season a year ago. Had it not been for a crushing overtime loss to South Carolina—the Gamecocks' comeback was the most Missouri thing to happen to Missouri since Fifth and Goal in 1990—and a shootout loss to Auburn in the SEC title, the Tigers may have been playing for it all. 

Several key names depart from last year's team: quarterback James Franklin, receiver Dorial-Green Beckham (dismissed), running back Henry Josey and defensive linemen Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. That's an impressive list, and in no way is this to suggest that replacing them will be easy.

That said, the proverbial cupboard isn't bare in Columbia. Markus Golden, Matt Hoch, Shane Ray and Lucas Vincent were key players along the Tigers' defensive line; they just didn't get the attention Ealy and Sam did. Quarterback Maty Mauk probably should have played the entirety of the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State with Franklin struggling. Mauk is a dynamic talent who, if he can improve his decision-making, can be one of the SEC's best. 

There's talent and some production returning on offense, just not as much as Mizzou fans may want. 

Mizzou has a key stretch in September and October with games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. If the Tigers can somehow get through that relatively unscathed, they have a good chance to make it to Atlanta. And, maybe, a playoff appearance. 


Kansas State (100-1)

It feels like folks are sleeping on Kansas State, which is usually when the Wildcats are at their best. Matt Brown of Sports on Earth certainly thinks so. 

Oklahoma is the early favorite to win the Big 12 and get to the playoff (12-1). Vegas is also higher on Baylor (28-1) and even Texas (40-1). But K-State returns one of the conference's better quarterbacks, Jake Waters, the league's best receiver, Tyler Lockett, and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, defensive end Ryan Mueller. 

Also, last time anyone checked, Bill Snyder is still the head coach. 

Elsewhere, Snyder reeled in a JUCO-heavy recruiting class this past February to fill in the gaps. The question is whether K-State can pick up where it left off, winning six of its final seven games in 2013. 

An early-season game at home against Auburn (Sept. 18) will be a fantastic litmus test for the Cats. B/R colleague Adam Kramer tabbed it his early pick for "Game of the Year." A stunning win over the Tigers—Auburn opened as a 13-point favorite via Golden Nugget (h/t National Football Post)—would propel K-State into the national title conversation. 

Not to mention, it would provide some leeway if the Wildcats dropped a conference game later in the year. 


Honorable Mentions: Nebraska (50-1), Arizona State (66-1)


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com