Odds for Top College Football Teams to Pull Off an Undefeated Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2018

Odds for Top College Football Teams to Pull Off an Undefeated Season

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Ending a season undefeated doesn't guarantee a national championship, but every college football team enters the 2018 season hoping to do so.

    For several of the nation's most respected programs, how likely is that to happen?

    We've highlighted the seven schools OddsShark lists with odds better than +2500 (bet $100 to win $2,500) to win the national title and pegged the chances of an undefeated year.

    The definition of undefeated can vary between the 12-game regular season, the 13-game stretch with the conference championship or the 15-game all-inclusive total with a national title. We're focused on the whole shebang.

    If any of these programs pull it off, they'll supplant UCFthe real national champion of 2017as the latest to finish undefeated.

Washington Huskies

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Title odds: +2200 (22-1)

    Washington opens the season against Auburn in Atlanta. We'll know quickly if Chris Petersen's team is capable of an undefeated year.

    After that contest, the Huskies might not face a more talented team. One exception could be Stanford, although Bryce Love and the Cardinal travel to Seattle in November. The other may be USC if it reloads quicker than expected and wins the Pac-12 South.

    But UW's undefeated odds are relatively similar to its championship number. Why? Well, if the Huskies show a clear weakness during a regular-season loss, it's difficult to envision them surviving the College Football Playoff without falling. That's what happened in 2016 when Alabama cruised to a 24-7 win.

    Washington could be tremendous, but its margin for error compared to other top programs isn't as high.

    Undefeated odds: 28-1

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Title odds: +1800 (18-1)

    The Big Ten's West Division should be improving thanks to new head coaches Jeff Brohm (Purdue) and Scott Frost (Nebraska). However, 2018 should offer one final opportunity for Wisconsin to stand high above its division foes.

    After years of consistent excellence on defense, the offense finally is a true complement, not a letdown. Star runner Jonathan Taylor is back behind an O-line that returns all five starters, and the Badgers' young receiving corps should be formidable in 2018.

    The wild card is junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook, whose performance can waver between sensational and ugly on any given weekend.

    Similar to Washington, consider us skeptical that a one-loss Wisconsin team would celebrate a national title. That journey includes road games against Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State, plus the Big Ten title and two CFP clashes.

    Either the Badgers are winning everything, or there will be at least two stumbles along the way. Considering the schedule, that shouldn't be considered a failure. It just isn't undefeated.

    Undefeated odds: 18-1

Michigan Wolverines

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    Annie Rice/Associated Press

    Title odds: +1600 (16-1)

    Michigan is relying heavily on junior quarterback Shea Patterson to transform a mediocre offense into a nationally respected unit. The 2017 squad ranked 101st out of 130 teams in yards per play.

    If the Ole Miss transfer can accomplish that, the Wolverines should pair that improvement with an elite defense. Every level of the defense has a potential All-American and multiple All-Big Ten possibilities. 

    But Michigan's schedule should be equally as tough.

    Beyond the Big Ten East trio of Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, the Wolverines travel to Notre Dame and host Wisconsin. The defense can contain any of those opponents, and no potential CFP matchup seems like an overwhelming task.

    The burning question is whether the Patterson-led offense can match that level of play on a consistent basis.

    Undefeated odds: 25-1

Georgia Bulldogs

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Title odds: +750 (15-2)

    Two notable obstacles stand between Georgia and a perfect regular season: A road trip to LSU and home date with Auburn. Regardless, the Bulldogs could be favored in every game this year.

    After all, the Dawgs boast an experienced offensive line, a dynamic running back, a promising group of receivers and a standout quarterback. Head coach Kirby Smart has consistently fielded top-20 defenses, so concerns shouldn't be high despite the unit's turnover.

    Undefeated or not, the gauntlet will await Georgia in December. The Dawgs would face the West champion—either Alabama or Auburn, most likely—before challenging two CFP teams.

    Since the path to 12-0 is obvious, the likelihood of few upsets prior to championship season improves Georgia's chances of an undefeated year. The three-win finish will always be challenging, but making it there unblemished is a reasonable expectation for Smart's team.

    Undefeated odds: 9-1

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Title odds: +700 (7-1)

    With or without Urban Meyer at the helm, Ohio State's schedule is brutal. 

    In addition to the Buckeyes, each of Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are legitimate contenders for the Big Ten East crown. They all have experienced quarterbacks, and the Buckeyes must travel to both MSU and Penn State this season.

    While navigating that trio of games after defeating TCU at a neutral site is possible, that's an immense  challenge.

    It's important to remember that one loss doesn't derail CFP hopes. Two Ohio State teams have reached the College Football Playoff despite carrying a blemish on their respective resumes.

    But we're talking undefeated. Knock off those four, avoid upsets and then topple two premier opponents? What a season that would be.

    Undefeated odds: 22-1

Clemson Tigers

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Title odds: +600 (6-1)

    The ACC is strong overall, but Clemson may be the conference's only elite team in 2018. Out of every program in the country, the Tigers boast the best chance to reach 12-0.

    Although road trips to Texas A&M, Florida State and Boston College aren't to be overlooked, Clemson avoids both Miami and Virginia Tech in crossover play. Dabo Swinney's crew will be favored at home opposite NC State and South Carolina, too.

    Defense shouldn't ever be a worry. NFL-caliber players are all over the roster, including four potential first-round defensive linemen.

    Instead, the question is mostly how good the offense will be. Kelly Bryant is a terrific runner and a capablethough unspectacularpasser. Prized freshman Trevor Lawrence offers higher upside as a thrower, but there are worse ideas than sticking with the quarterback who led Clemson to the College Football Playoff last season.

    But if the 2017 taught us anything, it's that a talented freshman might be ready to thrive on the biggest stage if given opportunities throughout the year. The combination of a friendly schedule and elite talent should put the Tigers in that position.

    Undefeated odds: 7-1

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Title odds: +175 (7-4)

    Nick Saban has only one undefeated season in his 11 years at Alabama. What a failure.

    OK, no reasonable person will doubt the Tide. They return two tremendous runners behind a seasoned offensive line, and no quarterback competition features two better options. Whoever wins the job between Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa, the offense should excel.

    Yes, Alabama had eight defenders drafted, but that unit reloads annually thanks to top-tier recruiting and coaching.

    We shouldn't need to convince you about the Tide. What they need to prove is that a campaign including LSU on the road and both Mississippi State and Auburn at home won't contain a loss. Georgia would then be the likely opponent in the SEC title game.

    Alabama hasn't hoisted the national championship trophy while undefeated since 2009. Still, it's only logical to give the program with six appearances in the title game during that span the best odds.

    Undefeated odds: 9-2

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