Once again, Alabama is the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC. However, for the first time in four years, Alabama is not the favorite to win the national title.
That changed the night of Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif. Following Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game, Alabama was no longer the favorite to win the national title. The Crimson Tide dropped to the second choice, behind national champion Clemson.
If Clemson remains the favorite, based on odds provided by the Westgate Superbook, it will mark the first time since 2015 that Alabama has not started the season as the national title favorite. That season, Alabama entered the season as the third choice behind Ohio State and TCU – yet the Crimson Tide eventually rolled to another title anyway.
All week, we will list the national title odds for each of the Power 5 conferences and the top non-Power 5 teams along with the 2019 power ratings from Collin Wilson of the Action Network.
Coming Wednesday: the Big Ten.
Odds to win 2019 national title via Westgate Superbook @LVSuperbook for each SEC school:
Texas A&M 50/1
Mississippi State 60/1
South Carolina 300/1
Ole Miss 1,000/1
*Missouri is ineligible for the SEC title game following last week’s NCAA ruling against the Tigers. Missouri’s odds before the NCAA sanctions were 300/1
Power ratings entering 2019 via Collin Wilson, the Action Network for each SEC school:
11. Mississippi State
13. Texas A&M
35. South Carolina
72. Ole Miss
The Favorite: Alabama
Despite having to replace Alabama’s offensive and defensive coordinators for the second consecutive year and a dozen assistants in the past two years, Alabama is still the team to beat in the SEC. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is confident Alabama will be in the title hunt once again this year. “I told Coach Saban after the (national title) game, ‘See you next year,’” Swinney said, “because I don’t think they’re going to go anywhere. They’ll be back.”
Alabama is the only team that has made the College Football Playoff in all five seasons, and it is favored to make it six consecutive trips. The biggest reasons: Nick Saban is still on the sideline and so is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Tide also return receivers Jerry Juedy and Henry Ruggs off last year’s offense, that ranked top six nationally in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense. Alabama again lost a lot of talent defensively, but Saban has shown the ability to reload every season so that shouldn’t be a big concern, especially with the Tide’s recent recruiting success.
Another reason to like the Tide in 2019: since the 2014 regular season, the New England Patriots and Alabama have alternated winning the Super Bowl and College Football Playoff championships each year. The Pats in 2014, 2016 and 2018; Alabama in 2015 and 2017.
Dark Horse: Mississippi State
It’s never easy sledding in the SEC West, but Mississippi State does catch a break in that it gets both LSU and Alabama in Starkville, while its toughest road games are at Auburn and Texas A&M.
Mississippi State returns four starters on defense and seven starters on offense, but must replace quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Keytaon Thompson is slated to take over for Fitzgerald and there’s a buzz in Starkville about Thompson having the “it” factor. What makes Mississippi State my dark horse candidate? This is Joe Moorhead’s second season with the Bulldogs. There have been a lot of coaches that have had breakthrough years in their second seasons: Nick Saban at Alabama, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Pete Carroll at USC and Tom Herman at Texas.
Last year, MSU lost four SEC games to Alabama, LSU, Florida and Kentucky. All four teams finished ranked in the top 12 of the final Associated Press poll. In those four losses, MSU was held to less than seven points in each game. With a more manageable schedule, I think Mississippi State and Moorhead will show a great deal of improvement in Moorhead’s second season in Starkville.
Best Value: Georgia
Based on Collin Wilson’s power ratings, I was ready to put Missouri in this category. The Tigers were 300-to-1 to win the national title, but Wilson had the Tigers ranked No. 12 in the nation. That, my friends, is great value. However, that all changed last week when the Tigers were handed a postseason ban by the NCAA and became ineligible for the SEC or national titles.
With Mizzou out of the picture, I’ll go with Georgia at 8-to-1. The Bulldogs could have (should have?) defeated Alabama in each of the past two seasons in the 2017 national title game and 2018 SEC title game, but fell short. This season, quarterback Jake Fromm returns, without having to worry about being replaced by Justin Fields, with Fields off to Ohio State. Also back for UGA is running back D’Andre Swift, one of the nation’s best, who will have the luxury of running behind an offensive line returning four starters. Kirby Smart’s club also will benefit from the fact they started 11 freshmen or sophomores last season. That should be a huge advantage for the Bulldogs in 2019.
Georgia’s schedule also features only four true road games – the toughest of which is at Auburn – plus the annual Florida game in Jacksonville and a monster home game with Notre Dame. If – and it’s a big if – the Bulldogs can finally get past Bama, they are a legitimate contender to win it all.