LITTLE ROCK — There is no rest for the weary or fans of college football.
Already, there is a preseason top 25 for 2014 and a sports book betting line on the national championship. Either out of habit or as homage to Nick Saban, Alabama is a surprising No. 2 in both.
A fan of A.J. McCarron, it is difficult to believe that the Crimson Tide can lose a quarterback who won 36 games in three years and not suffer some decline at the most important position in football. Questions about Alabama are not limited to quarterback.
Senior C.J. Mosley is likely to be the first linebacker taken in the NFL draft. Senior offensive guard Anthony Steen is supposed to be drafted in the first two rounds, a couple of rounds before cornerback Deion Belue. Although senior wide receiver Kevin Norwood had limited opportunities because of Alabama’s offense, he will be drafted. Two or three other Alabama starters are pondering early entry into the draft.
Understood is that Alabama’s recruiting classes in 2013-12-11 were ranked 1-1-2 by ESPN and that the Crimson Tide has quality skill players in T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, and Amari Cooper. However, sans a proven quarterback, Alabama is no bargain at the 6.5-to-1 odds offered by Bovada.lv.
There are four quarterbacks on the Alabama roster and a fifth, a true freshman, is to be available for spring practice. The lone upperclassman, senior Blake Sims, is the only one who has thrown a pass in college and his 29 attempts in eight games indicates he is no lock for the job.
Jerry Hinnen, college football writer for CBS, defended Alabama’s No. 2 ranking by calling the Crimson Tide the “most dependable brand” in college football.
The winner of the final edition of the BCS title, Florida State is No. 1 in the preseason rankings and the betting favorite at 5.5-to-1 odds. Much of the high regard stems from the return of quarterback Jameis Winston and recruiting classes that were ranked 9-2-1 the last three years. Like every team, FSU loses some top-notch players and is a worse investment than Alabama.
For one thing, the Seminoles’ non-conference schedule includes Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, and Florida. Secondly, FSU will be targeted by all opponents. Alabama’s schedule is not as difficult, but the Crimson Tide does sub Florida for Kentucky.
Other than Alabama, a proven quarterback is a common thread among the eight teams with the shortest odds. The list includes Kevin Hogan at Stanford, Marcus Mariota at Oregon, Braxton Miller at Ohio State, Nick Marshall at Auburn, Connor Cook at Michigan State, and Trevor Knight at Oklahoma. Knight qualifies for the list because of his impeccable play in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, a demonstration of touch that he might not duplicate.
Alabama and No. 4 Auburn are only two of the seven teams in CBS’s preseason top 25 that appear on Arkansas’ 2014 schedule. Also ranked are No. 9 LSU, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 17 Missouri, and No. 24 Ole Miss. Coincidentally, LSU, Georgia, and A&M are among five Southeastern Conference teams listed at 25-1 by Bovada.lv. The others are Florida and South Carolina.
For those who care, 33 teams are 66-1 or less and Arkansas is in the next group of 17 teams at 100-1.
At this point, polls and odds are talking points to bridge the gap from Pasadena to spring practice. Fans inclined to pooh-pooh the early endorsement of the Seminoles, the Crimson Tide, and the rest, can cite The Associated Press’ poll released prior to the 2013 season. Florida State was No. 11 and Auburn did not receive a single vote. Ranked in the top 10, Florida lost eight, Georgia lost five, A&M lost four, and Stanford lost three.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.