It's never too soon to look ahead, and many sportsbooks already are accepting future wagers on teams to win the 2018 college football championship.
Here is a look and brief overview of the top 12 teams offered on the board at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook:
Alabama (3/1): Anyone who bet Alabama in this year’s future market or in the 2017 title game might be a little squeamish about throwing more money on the Crimson Tide. But both current form and recent history suggest this is the best time and price with which to do so.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts and most of his weapons will be back because most of them are too young to be draft-eligible. The Tide also will return plenty on the defensive side, and has another top-rated recruiting class coming to campus.
Alabama went 26 straight games and won a national title in between its two previous losses, so it stands to reason the Tide are the deserved, shortest favorite on the board.
|Odds to Win 2018 CFB title|
Florida State (7/1): Explosive all-purpose back Dalvin Cook is NFL-bound, but quarterback Deondre Francois is likely to be in the Heisman conversation and he will have plenty of weapons.
Florida State will also return a good portion of a defense that made great strides this season, and will benefit from an ACC race that will likely see new national champion Clemson have a bit of a letdown because of its massive roster overhaul.
Oklahoma (8/1): Oklahoma will lose one of the best college backfield duos in recent memory as the bruising Samaje Perine, who leaves the program as the all-time rushing leader, and the speedy Joe Mixon are both headed to the pros.
But two-time Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield will return for his final year of eligibility, although he will likely lose standout receiver Dede Westbrook to the NFL draft. Even so, the Sooners are expected to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
Ohio State (8/1): Last season, the Buckeyes had the look of a team that was a year away from being a clear-cut favorite for the national title, as they were powered by one of the highest-rated incoming classes in recent memory but just a handful of experienced veterans.
Their core will return with needed experience and will be led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, who recently announced he’s returning for his senior season. Barrett took some criticism for the team’s late-season woes in the passing game, but he will be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
USC (8/1): early NFL departures will play a big role in the Trojans’ prospects for next season. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster recently announced his entry in the draft, and he is likely to soon be followed by cornerback-return man Adoree Jackson.
The potential loss of explosive playmakers should tame expectations, even though quarterback Sam Darnold and a host of core players will return. But with USC’s sparkling finish to the season, which included a Rose Bowl victory, it’s reasonable to expect the Trojans to again be overvalujed int eh betting market. We’re already seeing it with this price.
Louisville (12/1): Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson will return, as he just completed his true sophomore season. The offense should have plenty of surrounding weapons, but defense could be a major question.
The senior-laden squad will be decimated, led by lineman Devonte Fields and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who are headed to the next level. They will have to be replaced, and Louisville also has to shake its habit of faltering against top-quality opponents.
Michigan (12/1): Michigan's defense will undoubtedly be hampered by the departure of linebacker Jabrill Peppers, the Heisman finalist who recently announced he is turning pro. The Wolverines have holes to fill on defense, but their concerns don’t end there.
Quarterback Wilton Speight will return, but Michigan is set to lose almost its entire offensive line and top playmakers in tight end Jake Butt and running back De’Veon Smith. There's zero value on the Wolverines at this relatively short price.
LSU (12/1): The permanent hiring of the much-adored Ed Orgeron was a feel-good story for followers of the program in the wake of the mid-season firing of Les Miles. However, if Orgeron duplicates the results he produced as head coach at Ole Miss -- he went 10-25 in three seasons -- those warm feelings will turn cold fast.
In addition to questions about his long-term viability as coach of a top-shelf program, LSU also faces some serious personnel issues. The Tigers are looking at losing all of their top receivers and the bulk of their defensive line to the NFL draft. A future wager at this price is a tough sell under the circumstances.
Clemson (18/1): Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams and Wayne Gallman are NFL-bound, and others might follow suit, so the Tigers will surely be starting a new era on the offensive side. Some defensive prospects might also turn pro, and leader Ben Boulware will graduate.
Even so, coach Dabo Swinney has continually shown he recruits well enough to keep the program among the country’s elite on an annual basis. But it's still a stretch to envision the Tigers competing for the title next season.
Texas (25/1): New coach Tom Herman developed a reputation as something of a wunderkind for elevating Houston to national prominence in short order. The noted offensive guru should have plenty of resources in place to do the same at success-starved Texas.
Budding quarterback prospect Shane Beuchele returns, along with the bulk of his offensive line and weapons on the outside. The running game will suffer from the NFL departure of D’Onta Foreman, who led the country in rushing yards, but the Longhorns still have powerful back Chris Warren III.
The defense will need some work, but this is still a decent value position on a viable longshot.
Oklahoma State (30/1): Mike Gundy's Cowboys had one of the most explosive offensive units in the country, and they should be even better next season.
The program received welcome news with the recent announcement that star quarterback Mason Rudolph and wideout James Washington are both skipping the NFL draft and returning to school.
Freshman running back Justice Hill emerged as a breakout star, and Oklahoma State will return the bulk of its offensive line as well.
The Cowboys made significant strides with their once-leaky defense, but some shortcomings showed in losses to Baylor and Oklahoma. They will have to reach another level in order to be a serious playoff contender.
Auburn (30/1): The Tigers fixed their long-problematic defense by fielding a unit that emerged as one of the tops in the country, allowing just 17 points per game. Although they will lose edge rusher Carl Lawson to the NFL draft, they will return several key players.
In an about-face for offensive maven Gus Malzahn, the team’s woes came on the offensive end, where it struggled to get consistent production from a rotation of quarterbacks. This will likely be remedied with the addition of Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, who will be eligible next season. The highly touted recruit showed flashes of stardom in limited action as a true freshman with the Bears.
Although unseating Alabama in the SEC West will always be an enormous obstacle, the Tigers are worth a look at this lofty payback.