Maybe it's my age showing, but is college football beginning to look the same every year?
Sure, when I was growing up, Florida State, Nebraska and Florida dominated much of the college football landscape. But there was just something about every year that a handful of "other" teams had a chance.
It doesn't seem that way anymore.
The 2018 college football title odds paint that picture once again. Alabama is once again the favorite at +275, and it's almost a guarantee that we'll see the Crimson Tide at least in the playoff. They played a handful of true freshmen in meaningful spots in the national title game.
So, much like every year, we'll see Alabama lose at most one game and make it into the playoff. And just like recent years, we should expect Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma to at least compete for the title. Oddsmakers have those teams listed in the top-seven of likeliest to hoist the national title trophy.
So, it's just another year of basically the same teams competing for the ultimate prize. Maybe it's the dominance of the SEC or the fact I've seen only nine total teams compete in this playoff during the four years of its existence that has me grouchy.
To make me feel better about college football, I'm looking for some value in my college football futures. I'm not taking the easy way out and picking Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State. I'm looking for some under-the-radar teams that could add some excitement to this playoff system that features the same teams year in, year out.
Here's three teams that offer some value heading into 2018.
The Longhorns are tough to trust, but there's talent on that roster. They just need to be more consistent on both sides of the football, which should take a step in the right direction in Tom Herman's second year at the helm.
Inconsistency was the name of the game for the Longhorns in 2017. One game, the defense would dominate. The next, it would falter. And the offense just couldn't find its footing.
That should change in the second year of Herman's system, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Texas will return eight starters on offense, which should help to stem the losses on defense for 2018, especially in the early going.
All you have to do is win your conference and you have a chance at the playoff. The Longhorns should be considered a team with that opportunity, and I expect Oklahoma to take a step back now that we're in year two without Bob Stoops. The Longhorns should be better, and they offer some decent value in this slot.
This number actually produces the best value of any team in college football. The Pac-12 is tough because the teams are so balanced. The conference didn't perform well in the bowl season in 2017, but if the Cardinal perform well with only one loss with a conference title, they should have a shot at the playoff.
The Cardinal are going to return basically their entire offensive line and should have a veteran-laden defense in 2018.
Even with some tough road games, that should be enough to be the leader in the Pac-12. I'm a little surprised oddsmakers have Stanford valued this low, especially with a team that was more than likely a year away this past season.
Stanford is trending upward, so I love this value.
If you want to find a complete darkhorse, then the Wildcats at least offer some hope.
Northwestern has an easy West schedule, with home games against Michigan and Wisconsin, and the enjoyment of not playing Penn State or Ohio State.
The defense was good in 2017 and that should be the case once again in 2018. As long as the offense can be more consistent, the Wildcats have an outside opportunity at winning the Big 10 West. And if they can mitigate the losses along the way, then the Wildcats could enter the Big 10 championship with one loss, and a chance.
And at +15000, that's all you're buying — a chance.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. Check out more at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH