To win a national championship in the top-heavy sport that is college football, a few things are required.
First, you must be talented. Like, really talented. A coach, who also needs to be brilliant at his profession, must assemble a roster full of superhumans. He must then develop these superhumans into super football players.
If you look at current national championship odds heading into the 2021 season, they are reflective of just that. And yes, on top of a great roster with talent and depth at key positions (quarterback being one), a little luck is required as well. There's no shame in admitting that.
Using the current national championship odds from DraftKings, I have set out to do just that. Although I am not just picking three favorites.
Instead, like a quality meal at a three-star restaurant, I am providing options: one chalk, one team down the board a smidge and one long shot. The chalk is the team I believe will win, while the other two picks are ones that have value in my eyes.
As a reminder, Locks of the Week will be in full swing come the actual season. While we're diving into future betting now, I'll be getting into the biggest matchups—and best bets—of each week once the games begin.
We'll get to that. For now, here are my national championship bets.
The Chalk I'm Backing: Georgia (+650)
I have spent much of my offseason hyping up the Georgia Bulldogs, and I am not backing down from it in the least as we near the start of the season.
Sure, Georgia fans know this routine well. Heck, all of college football knows how this team has largely handled enormous expectations in the past. SPOILER: Not great.
But I feel like this could be a different kind of season. In fact, in my opinion, this is the most talented roster in the country.
Including the most recent 2021 class, here is how 247Sports ranks Georgia's last five recruiting classes nationally: fourth, first, second, first and third.
In that span, the Bulldogs have also landed 23 5-star recruits and secured the commitments of a few more 5-stars courtesy of transfer. By comparison, Alabama has brought in 22 5-star recruits in the same time frame.
That is not to say Georgia has finally caught Alabama and is poised to be the new yearly juggernaut. But at a time when Alabama loses its star QB, its Heisman-winning wide receiver, another spectacular offensive weapon, one of its greatest running backs ever, a shutdown corner and pieces across an offensive line, there is reason to believe the Bulldogs are in a position to take advantage.
JT Daniels, the team's starting quarterback, is also its most important player. To win a title, Georgia must be more explosive at the position. With him healthy—playing behind an offensive line that could be elite—this offense could be special.
And the weapons he's throwing to? Ridiculous. Even with the loss of wideout George Pickens to a knee injury this offseason, Daniels has a plethora of options.
Offseason arrival Arik Gilbert will transition from tight end to wide receiver. If the early signs at LSU were any indication of what is to come, he could be in for a massive year. The same can be said for tight end Darnell Washington and wideouts Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson. And that's just scratching the surface on the depth chart.
The defense will be led by its front, which was dominant much of last season. There are new faces, although there is no reason to believe this group won't be one of the top three in the conference.
The schedule, of course, starts with a bang. Playing Clemson in the opener will be a massive challenge. Although even a loss there shouldn't hurt the team much. The regular-season schedule is conducive for a lot of wins. Even Florida, one of the highlights at the end of October, is replacing a ton of snaps.
It could come down to Alabama yet again in the SEC Championship Game. After that? We'll have to wait and see.
If the team stays healthy, it should match up with anyone. The talent on this sideline is staggering, and it's time for that to finally flourish on the grandest stage.
Another SEC Team (Not Named Alabama) Worth a Look: Texas A&M (+3500)
If you gave me one bet, that bet would be Georgia. But if you are the type of gambler looking for potential greater return, entertain the following.
Keeping with the formula to find said contenders, Jimbo Fisher has done a magnificent job adding talent to a program that needed and perhaps still needs more. That was evident last year when the Aggies finished 9-1. The one loss came against Alabama early in the year, and they nearly rallied to make the College Football Playoff.
Few teams had as much momentum as Texas A&M heading into the offseason, and there is reason to believe this will continue. Running back Isaiah Spiller is one of the elite offensive playmakers in the country. Tight end Jalen Wydermyer might be the best at his position as well. And while Kellen Mond (and pieces of the offensive line) are gone, this is where years of promising recruiting will pay off.
A solid defense will mostly return, losing only a few players. Over the final five games last year, the Aggies allowed only 14 points per game on average.
The most interesting part of this wager, however, lies in the schedule. A&M will play Alabama at home this year, which is far and away its most difficult matchup on paper. The Aggies will also not play a true road game until the middle of October. A mix of home and neutral-site matchups make up the schedule before then.
Road games at Ole Miss and LSU near the end of the year could be difficult. As would a potential SEC Championship tussle against Georgia if the Bulldogs emerge from the SEC East.
But there is a lot to like—especially the odds—for a team that appears to have finally broken through and might be capable of more.
OK, but What About Some Real Value: Cincinnati (+8000)
If 35/1 isn't enough, allow me to dig deeper. For those looking for a true long shot, may I present Cincinnati.
Now, let's address the obvious: Cincinnati, while incredibly well-coached, is not a team chock-full of super-recruits. In fact, the Bearcats have not finished with a recruiting class ranked inside 247Sports' top 40 in the past four recruiting cycles. This shouldn't be all that shocking for those who have followed along.
Cincinnati, situated outside of the Power Five, is a fine school capable of some good years. At least that has been the norm. But now? This group is assembling into a pesky power under Luke Fickell.
The Bearcats are coming off a 9-1 season—a year that culminated in a hard-fought loss against Georgia in the Peach Bowl. It's a game that Cincinnati frankly should have won.
The good news looking ahead is that quarterback Desmond Ridder is back and working his way up NFL draft boards. He is an exciting talent still a long way from his ceiling, and he'll have many of his weapons back to see how close he can get to it in 2021.
The defense, which remains somewhat intact, is also wonderful news. This was one of the most dominant units in the country last season, and we should see more of the same again. Even with Ridder, this will be the fuel that powers the machine.
Now, the bad news: It's Cincinnati. This team finished the regular season unbeaten and still missed the College Football Playoff. Anything less than perfection likely won't be enough, and even that could fall short.
Still, the Bearcats play road games against Indiana and Notre Dame back-to-back. While these aren't massive resume-builders, they might be able to do enough to shift a reputation that is already on the rise after last year.
A win in South Bend could really bolster possibilities. Currently, the game is listed as pick 'em on DraftKings. That says a lot about the talent.
The American Athletic Conference is drastically improved. The rest of the schedule, while manageable, is certainly no walkover. With more games and a longer season, Cincinnati is an intriguing long shot.
Is it likely to happen? No. The odds are this way for a season. Anything beyond +2000 becomes difficult to figure in a sport that has become increasingly top-heavy. But there is value here and a foundation in place for those willing to take a stab.
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