NCAA Football News

9 Teams with the Best Odds to Qualify for the 1st College Football Playoff

We are inching—inching—closer to the 2014 college football season, and our good friends at the sportsbooks have noticed.

Early last week, offshore betting outpost 5Dimes.com posted its first over/under win totals of the season, and now Bovada has followed suit with a few props on which teams will make the College Football Playoff (h/t Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com).

The nine teams posted are predictable—the biggest long shot is UCLA at 12-5 odds to make it and 5-19 to not. But it is interesting nonetheless to see where the juice lies on certain favorites.

All of these teams have the roster to win their conference and compete for a spot in the CFP. If they didn't, they wouldn't be listed here. But taking into account factors such as schedule and the lines that were posted, let's look at which bets seem smartest, which bets seem foolish and which bets should be avoided altogether.

Chime in below with where you disagree.

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How Kyler Murray's Texas A&M Commitment Could Hurt 2015 Alabama Recruiting Class

Look beyond the immediate ramifications of 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray's commitment to Texas A&M, and it's apparent that his decision resonates on different levels within recruiting departments far beyond College Station.

A massive domino just fell in the 2015 class, and its effects are being felt on football-crazed campuses like Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Eugene, Ore.

Sure, the primary storyline is apparent.

The Aggies landed a heralded in-state standout who hasn't lost a game in two seasons as a high school starter while accounting for 107 total touchdowns. He's also the son of former Texas A&M star quarterback Kevin Murray—a member of the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin has assembled a crop of quarterbacks that could allow Texas A&M fans to quickly move on from Johnny Manziel. Assuming the roster remains intact between now and next year, Murray will join top-ranked 2014 signee Kyle Allen and 4-star 2013 recruit Kenny Hill.

Aggies faithful, feel free to rejoice. You may have America's most talented group of passers entering the 2015 season.

Now let's shift the spotlight to a secondary storyline—one that revolves around Southern California quarterback Travis Waller.

The Anaheim standout has swiftly ascended on the recruiting board as his contemporaries continue to announce commitments. Waller, a 4-star prospect at Servite High School, may suddenly be the hottest commodity on the 2015 quarterback market.

The 6'3", 190-pound playmaker is less than two weeks removed from an outstanding performance at the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in Oakland. That effort, combined with a junior season that featured nearly 3,000 total yards and 25 touchdowns, helped ensure that he would continue to attract significant collegiate attention.

Alabama extended an offer the very next day:

The Crimson Tide have struggled to secure a quarterback commitment during this cycle despite remaining on pace for a fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.

Ricky Town, a 5-star California prospect, pledged to Nick Saban last summer. However, he flipped to USC in January and left Alabama with a substantial hole to fill in an otherwise well-rounded and deep class.

The Tide have attempted to fill the position with a series of players in past months, but each opted to commit elsewhere.

Jarrett Stidham joined Texas Tech in March and Brandon Wimbush went with Penn State in early May—just five days after receiving his Alabama offer. Zach Gentry chose Texas less than a week later.

Left looking for yet another option, Saban and first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin again set their sights on the West Coast. Waller became the "next man up" in a growing line of quarterback targets.

However, the team's pursuit of the dual-threat passer became significantly more convoluted Wednesday when Murray spurned Oregon. The Ducks, the biggest threat to steal Murray away from his home state, are likely to turn to Waller in the aftermath of Murray's decision.

Experts project Waller to sign with Oregon in 94 percent of predictions that currently comprise 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Given his mobility (nearly 1,293 yards rushing in 2013) and regional proximity, it isn't hard to imagine him finding a fit in Eugene extremely soon.

Waller already has a rapport in place with the Ducks' staff.

He visited Oregon during the winter and should view the team's quarterback depth chart as desirable given the impending transfers of redshirt sophomore Jake Rodrigues and redshirt freshman Damion Hobbs.

Alabama's efforts to secure a commitment from Waller just became more difficult and the Tide can thank Texas A&M. Saban won't just have to contend with Murray on the field someday, he's now faced with an uphill battle for his latest primary passing target as a direct result of the Texas star's choice.

In the thick of a recruiting cycle that's seen so much go right for Alabama, locating a quarterback continues to be the Achilles' heel. 

Expect Texas A&M's big day to complicate things even more.

 

Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Kyler Murray to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 5-Star QB Prospect

Kyler Murray could very well be the next dual-threat dynamo to star as a college quarterback, and now the 5-star recruit has decided to commit to the Texas A&M Aggies for the next stage of his promising career.

Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News broke news of Murray's commitment on Wednesday:

Murray spoke about his decision via Zwerneman: 

Zwernemen also reported that Murray got some help making his choice from a famous former Aggie:

Any premier program would have been pleased to welcome Murray to the fold thanks to his unique talents throwing the football and beating defenses with his feet. The pride of Allen High School in Texas could only choose one destination, though, and the Aggies have to be thrilled to have him.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Murray is the No. 1-rated dual-threat QB prospect and the No. 23 overall recruit in the class of 2015. As a junior, he threw for 3,669 and 46 touchdowns and scampered for 1,274 yards and 19 additional scores.

Murray's father, former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, runs the Air 14 Quarterback Academy and has evidently done an excellent job drilling his son on fundamentals. That should help ease Murray's transition to the college game on the field, as well as how to handle expectations and responsibilities away from it.

To give an idea of what Murray brings to the gridiron, one good comparison ironically rests in a recent Heisman Trophy winner: ex-Aggies superstar Johnny Manziel.

The chief and perhaps only significant concern about Murray—though it's a big one—is his diminutive stature. At 5'11" and 170 pounds, questions remain about his ability to absorb punishment in college. It does help that he's elusive and speedy, but he must put on more weight now that he'll soon be facing bigger, stronger and faster athletes.

What helps a lot is that Murray has already faced top-notch competition in high school and has thrived under the pressure.

Allen won the Texas 5A Division 1 state championship in Murray's sophomore and junior campaign, prompting this appropriate analysis from Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com:

On Murray's 247Sports profile, key attributes are rated on a scale of one to 10. Although he gets just a four for his size, Murray is also rated a perfect 10 on intangibles and receives scores of nine on accuracy, pocket presence, release, footwork and elusiveness.

That combination of skills should make Murray a force and perhaps an immediate starter if he can pack on an extra 15 pounds or so. Many mobile quarterbacks struggle with footwork and throw off platform, but that isn't a problem for the technically sound Murray, whose mechanics are further along at such an early stage of his career and should set him up for future success when his frame begins to fill out.

There aren't any holes to poke in Murray's game. His release is clinical, and despite his limited size, he still has a strong enough arm to make any throws required. Plus, when he's carrying the ball, he looks like a running back but has shown the ability to avoid big hits.

Murray is cerebral and has already shown that he can work through progressions and deliver on time and to the right spots. All of his skills translate well to any offense he runs, and he's equally dangerous from the pocket as he is as a ball-carrier. It is truly rare for that to be the case, but such is the truth when it comes to Murray and his incredible talent.

One potential concern looking ahead is that Murray plans to play baseball in college, which he made known before he decided on a school to attend.

"Wherever I go, I’ll be able to play [both]," said Murray, per an April 2 report by The Dallas Morning News' Greg Riddle.

Jameis Winston was able to win the Heisman and national title at Florida State as a freshman, and he also plays baseball. However, he and Murray are very different cases, since these two-sport superstars come along so rarely.

As long as he stays focused enough on football, gets into the weight room and bulks up without sacrificing any agility or breakaway speed, there's no doubt Murray will shine. He has the polish to be a Heisman Trophy contender at some point in college and the upside to be one of the better collegiate QBs in recent history.

Imagine how dangerous Murray will be with a little extra meat on his bones and perhaps an inch or two of growth, which is still possible at this point (he's not yet 17). Rarely does a quarterback display this much of a complete package so young, so the Aggies fanbase has to be thrilled that Murray is arriving with a ton of pedigree yet with room to become even better.

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Alabama Football: Scheduling Becoming More of an Issue for Tide, Nick Saban

Late last month, the Southeastern Conference announced that it would be sticking with an eight-game league schedule in football. Last week, it released a 12-year rotation so that its 14 affiliates could start locking up opponents.

That was the end of the discussion about scheduling, right?

Not even close.

With the conference gathering this week for its annual spring meetings in Destin, Florida, the biggest topic so far as been scheduling.

Some coaches want to do away with playing teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), while others are still upset about which non-division SEC team it has to annually face.

And then there’s Nick Saban.

The University of Alabama coach has long advocated going to a nine-game league schedule, which numerous other conferences have adopted.

In addition to preserving non-divisional rivalries like the one the Crimson Tide have with Tennessee, it would give players a chance to at least face every other SEC team during their careers.

“I’m saying the same thing as from a year ago,” said Saban. When the measure came up to a vote in 2013, the coaches casted their ballots 13-1—with Saban being the one.

However, with the power-five conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) on the verge of being granted more autonomy by the NCAA, Saban is now also advocating that the teams in those leagues only play each other during the 12-game regular season.

No one would face an opponent from the American Athletic, Mountain West or, closer to home, the Sun Belt.

“There’s so much emphasis on the championship game and playoffs that more teams would be involved because you could lose a game or two if you played a really strong schedule and still have a chance,” Saban recently said at his final Crimson Caravan stop of the offseason. “Fans would have more interest that you still might have a chance to get into the mix.

“That’s just my opinion, but when I was in the NFL we had 32 teams and had to play someone every week among those 32. So I don’t know why it’s not a good thing for college.”

Saban would also like to do away with six-win minimum and conference affiliations for all bowls, with the NCAA selection committee deciding the playoff pairings and setting all bowl matchups.

That’s all obviously well beyond the scope of the SEC, and considering how long it took everyone to get on board for a playoff, there’s good reason why commissioner Mike Slive recently said, "Turning the NCAA is not unlike turning an aircraft carrier from north to south.”

It wasn’t until Missouri and Texas A&M had played two full seasons in the SEC that his own league could agree on a schedule format.

Although the strength-of-schedule component for making the playoff will hopefully lead to fewer teams facing FCS opponents, the recent flip side to that is it hasn’t been easy for the Crimson Tide to schedule nonconference games—period.

Last season was a good example.

Alabama had an open date after facing Virginia Tech in the neutral-site opener in Atlanta. It would have preferred that bye to be at almost any other time, but couldn’t get a game for that weekend.

When another opponent pulled out of its game, Alabama was in danger of not having a full schedule. It eventually approached former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and Colorado State, who negotiated a two-game deal for $1.5 million per appearance.

"Look, it's difficult, all right, because if you're not willing to go home-and-home with somebody, if you're playing a neutral-site game you don't want to go home-and-home with other people," Saban said during a press conference in September 2012.

"You've got to get people to come here and play. That's been very difficult for the next few years because the SEC's got to tell us who we're going to play and when before we can go and schedule other games."

Next season, Alabama is set to return to the Cowboys Classic in Texas, where it kicked off its 2012 title run with a blowout victory over Michigan. This time, it’ll face Wisconsin.

It’ll also host Louisiana-Monroe, with Colorado State to return in either 2015 or 2017. That’s it so far.

According to the Virginian-Pilot's Harry Minium, Old Dominion, which is joining Conference USA this season, was recently approached about visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2015 for $1.3 million. Who did the initial asking? ESPN.

Alabama and Georgia Tech had agreed to play in 2013 and 2014, but the series was later pushed back to 2019 in Tuscaloosa and 2020 in Atlanta, and then eventually cancelled.

A home-and-home series with Michigan State was also set for 2016 and 2017, again to be cancelled, partially due to the game’s changing climate, but Alabama and Southern California have confirmed that they're considering a possible 2016 meeting in Dallas.

Factor in tradition, the amount of money each home game brings in and all conferences not being equal, and the only conclusion one can draw is that the SEC’s recent announcements weren’t the end of the scheduling debate, but just the beginning.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Oregon Misses 5-Star QB, Target 4-Star Travis Waller, Irish Commit Blake Barnett

With No. 1 dual-threat QB Kyler Murray committing to Texas A&M, Mark Helfrich must continue to search for Oregon's future QB. With Morgan Mahalak, No. 6 dual QB in 2014, already joining the Oregon offense, the Ducks are still looking to bolster their QB depth. 

What other top dual 2015 QBs are likely to land with the Ducks? Will Oregon find its future QB in the 2015 class?

Watch Adam Lefkoe & Andrew Greif of The Oregonian discuss The Ducks' remaining options at QB. 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247 Sports Composite

 

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5-Star QB Kyler Murray to Texas A&M, Has Intangibles to Be Next Johnny Manziel

The No. 1 dual-threat quarterback of the 2015 class, Kyler Murray, has committed to the Texas A&M Aggies, per The Dallas Morning News. The 5'11", 170-pound playmaker has incredible breakaway speed and the arm to make any throw on the field. 

Murray will inevitably draw comparisons to Johnny Manziel, as he has amazing football knowledge and intangibles. But does he have what it takes to compete with the No. 1 pro-style quarterback of 2014, Kyle Allen, for the starting role when he arrives on campus in 2015?

Watch Michael Felder break down what Murray means for Texas A&M in the video above. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247 Sports.

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