While the SEC has captured the last five BCS national titles, a team from another conference is favored to win the BCS championship heading into the 2011 regular season.
Here’s a look at the top five favorites and a viable long shot to win the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans:
Oklahoma Sooners (+385)
After finishing 6th in the nation last season, the Sooners could be poised to fare even better in 2011. An explosive passing game should enable Oklahoma to light up the scoreboard this season. Junior quarterback Landry Jones (38 TD passes in 2010) and senior wideout Ryan Broyles (131 receptions in 2010) form one of the top air tandems in the nation heading into this year. On defense, there is also plenty of talent. With the exception of an early game at Florida State, the schedule is manageable. After the departures of Nebraska and Colorado from the conference, there is no longer a Big 12 title game.
Alabama Crimson Tide (+800)
While the losses of Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Marcell Dareus will certainly be felt in 2011, Alabama head coach Nick Saban should be able to reload instead of rebuild this season. On offense, junior running back Trent Richardson (700 yards in 2010) will carry the load. The defense should be the strength of the club. As expected in the SEC, the schedule won’t be easy. Road games against Penn State, Florida and Auburn could be obstacles to a national title.
Florida Gators (+1200)
New head coach Will Muschamp will try to get the Gators back on track this season. Despite last year’s struggles, there is a lot of promising talent on both sides of the ball for Florida. A quarterback will need to emerge for the club to make some significant strides in 2011. While the Gators will get to play Alabama and Florida State at home next season, the team must deal with LSU, Auburn and Georgia away from Gainesville in 2011.
Florida State Seminoles (+1200)
After making some strides in his first season on the sidelines in 2010, head coach Jimbo Fisher will be seeking some more improvement in 2011. Junior quarterback E.J. Manuel has shown some ability in his first two collegiate seasons. He will now take over as the starting signal-caller after the graduation of Christian Ponder. The defense did improve last year but still might not be good enough to win a championship this season.
Boise State Broncos (+1200)
With only two losses in the last three years, Boise State should be poised for another strong run in 2011. Senior quarterback Kellen Moore is a steady leader for the squad. The Broncos will face a tough opener against Georgia in Atlanta but will get to face TCU and Nevada at home this year.
(ROI Dark Horse Pick)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+3000)
Head coach Brian Kelly has shown an ability to quickly improve teams in previous stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He appears to be on a similar track at Notre Dame after some important victories to close his debut season at the school a year ago. With a couple of outstanding recruiting classes, the Irish could be ready to make a title run sooner than expected. Stanford and Michigan State are the only two opponents on the 2011 slate to finish in the top 20 in 2010.
2012 BCS Bowl Game Champion Odds:
(odds below are from BODOG SPORTSBOOK (click BODOG to receive a $100 betting bonus!)
(odds updated July 18, 2011)