So I’m supposed to write about potential sleepers to win this coming season’s College Football Playoff. That’s tough because for the most part, the preseason favorites tend to win the title. That’s because it’s usually Alabama. The Tide are currently +800 second-favorites to repeat on college football odds, behind Clemson, the team Alabama beat in last season’s championship game, and Ohio State. The Tigers and Buckeyes are each +700.
A Brief Analysis on the Top Sleepers For The 2016-17 College Football Championship
— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) May 14, 2016
Here are three longer shots worth a look in my opinion.
UT returns nine starters on offense, eight starters on defense, and is coming off a nine-win season that finished with a 45-6 rout over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Obviously one thing working against the Vols is that they’d probably have to get past Alabama in the SEC title game to reach the playoff. But UT has one of the best returning dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation on Joshua Dobbs. He progressively has gotten better since he arrived in Knoxville, and last year, his first full season as the starter, he threw for 2,291 yards with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. If you include his 671 rushing yards, he finished fourth among all SEC quarterbacks in total offense. The defense has a future NFL first-round pick in end Derek Barnett, an SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Tennessee gets both Florida and Alabama in Knoxville but has to go to Georgia. The second half of the schedule looks easy as the last five games are against teams that didn’t go bowling last year
The Bears finished 10-3 last season, beating North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl. As usual, the Bears have one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country. If the offensive line can be effective in replacing four starters, Baylor’s offense should again be among the nation’s best. Even without two outstanding wide receivers (Corey Coleman and Jay Lee), there is plenty of talent and speed at the skill positions. Senior QB Seth Russell is back and has the most experience. He has recovered from surgery on his scary neck injury that ultimately wrecked Baylor’s season. Before injuring his neck in late October, Russell was playing about as well as any quarterback in the country, with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29-to-6 and a Big 12 best-QBR of 87.8. Running back Shock Linwood is on the verge of becoming Baylor’s all-time leading rusher with 3,462 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns over the past three seasons. Baylor also doesn’t have to worry about playing in a conference title game because the Big 12 doesn’t have one.
The Bruins finished 8-5 last season and closed the season by dropping three of their final four games. They bring back quarterback Josh Rosen, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 5-star recruit lived up to his billing in a stellar freshman season, setting a program record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Rosen threw for 3,670 yards while also adding 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was selected as the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. One question is who will be catching Rosen’s passes. The Bruins lose four of their top five receivers from last season, including the school’s all-time leading receiver in Jordan Payton. Also gone is Thomas Duarte, who led the team with 10 touchdown receptions. UCLA gets to avoid Oregon from the Pac-12 North in the regular season. it also gets Stanford, Utah and USC at home.