Heading into the college football season in 2019, all signs are pointing to another matchup between the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide for the national championship at the end of the College Football Playoff. But there are over 100 other teams looking to spoil that rematch, with plenty of top contenders in the sport who are nothing if not capable of giving either squad a run for their money. These two teams, in particular, are going to be the main challengers to the top two in the college football world this upcoming season.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship last year, but failed to qualify for the College Football Playoff thanks in large part to a bad loss at Purdue during conference play. Before this season begins, they suffered another important loss with Dwayne Haskins leaving to become a pro. But this Ohio State team still has the potential to be much better than last year’s squad, with their defense set to lead them this year.
Around the Ohio State program, there is some buzz surrounding the team’s linebacking corps. That unit was much maligned last season, as the Buckeyes had to win most of their games on the back of Haskins and their offense. This year, they should have the best of both worlds, as Justin Fields gets set to lead the offense, while the defense appears poised to step up.
Also important is the schedule that Ohio State will face in 2019. Their most challenging non-conference opponent this year is a Cincinnati team that was maybe the third best team in the American Athletic Conference last year. And with Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all not at their highest levels heading into this season, it could be a two-horse race between Ohio State and Michigan for the Big Ten crown. More importantly, Ohio State could very well end up undefeated heading into the playoff.
Heading into the 2019 season, American football odds for college football have Oklahoma at +1400 to win the national title. But the Sooners have one thing that should make the top programs in college football nervous, and that is quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts transferred to the Sooners from Alabama after last season, which saw his starting spot get taken from him so the Crimson Tide could use elite prospect Tua Tagovailoa in his place.
This year, Hurts is out for revenge. But, more importantly, he brings leadership qualities to the Sooners that could be a huge factor down the road. Also, Hurts has knowledge of the Alabama program that could come in handy should the two teams meet in the College Football Playoff the way they did last year when the Tide got out to a huge lead on the Kyler Murray-led Sooners.
It isn’t likely that Hurts is going to make it a third straight Heisman Trophy for Oklahoma this year. But he is a steady hand who may have some inside information that could get the Sooners to a national championship game