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Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire)
January 12th, 2022
This just in: Alabama is expected to be good next year.
I wish I could have cut in with harder-hitting stuff, but a look at next year’s college football national championship futures reveal some unsurprising names at the top of the list. The Crimson Tide, who fell to Georgia in Monday night’s season finale, are +150 favorites to hoist the crystal football at the end of next season.
There are plenty of reasons for this. Barring something unexpected, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young is set to return for his junior season in Tuscaloosa. He may have top target Jameson Williams back for another year as well, depending on whether Williams opts to declare for this year’s NFL Draft (he left Monday’s game with a torn ACL, and doctors expect a full recovery after surgery).
Jameson Williams was injured on this play: pic.twitter.com/gfNZ7OAMkH— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 11, 2022
Jameson Williams was injured on this play: pic.twitter.com/gfNZ7OAMkH
Behind the Tide are some other traditional powers. Ohio State is the second choice at +250 after their recent Rose Bowl triumph over Utah. Newly-crowned national champion Georgia is the +500 third choice, and it’s a distance back to Clemson (+1400), Oklahoma (+1400), and Texas A&M (+1600), the only other teams below +2500 in the market.
I’m going to get a little crazy here, because I think there’s a big price that’s worth consideration. At +15000, few are looking the way of NC State, who finished the 2021 season at 9-3 and didn’t get a chance to play in a bowl game due to COVID-19 issues with the UCLA program. However, at that price, I think there’s a lot to like.
Over the past two years, Dave Doeren’s bunch is 17-7, with a 13-5 mark in conference play. In fact, toss out the 4-8 clunker in 2019, and you have a team that’s gone 35-15 since the start of the 2017 season. This is a program that has had one season of 10 wins or more in its history (led by plucky quarterback Philip Rivers, the 2002 Wolfpack went 11-3), and I think a second one is coming in 2022, especially since the ACC isn’t exactly filled with teams that routinely compete for national titles.
Devin Leary deserves a statue outside of CF pic.twitter.com/mlRGZ2HoFy— WolfpackNation (@NCSUFans) November 27, 2021
Devin Leary deserves a statue outside of CF pic.twitter.com/mlRGZ2HoFy
NC State figures to return as many as eight starters on offense, and could return as many as 10 starters on defense. Returning players include quarterback Devin Leary, who threw 35 touchdowns and just five picks this past season, as well as four of the Wolfpack’s five starting offensive linemen.
Defensively, the Wolfpack had some ups and downs this year, but they did hold a good Clemson team to just 21 points and sat a respectable 21st nationally in yards allowed per game (331.6). With a year of experience and so many key players coming back, that unit figures to be a stingy one in the year ahead.
This team, like all others, isn’t without holes left by departing players. In particular, losing offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu is going to hurt. However, NC State brings back a lot of talent from a team that was quite good in 2021. +15000 just seems like way too big a price, and if you like the Wolfpack at all, it may be enough for a very early flyer.
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