The start of the 2013 college football season is just five weeks away, and conference championship odds are now becoming available at sportsbooks.
With that in mind, here is my take on the best picks for each of the five power conferences -- the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 -- in addition to a couple of value plays outside the major leagues (for the purposes of this analysis, I've used odds from Heritage Sports).
There are reasons no program in a century has won three straight consensus national championships. The most obvious issue is that college football's eligibility cycle makes it nearly impossible for a single school to continually field the nation's best lineup of battle-tested veteran talent. But even if a program does manage to assemble such a deep, perpetually developed roster of top-shelf athletes -- and it can be argued that Alabama is close -- there are even bigger challenges.
It's cliché that it's harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top, but it's true. Champions are typically hungry and humble, displaying a confidence and determination bereft of complacency, arrogance or entitlement.
The slightest slip in the championship mindset can wreck the goals of even the schools with elite talent on the field and the sideline. This is true simply because the sport is so competitive. The stakes are extremely high, and right now Alabama is being pursued by more than a few other multimillion dollar organizations led by brilliant, diligent, determined people. Ultimately, most bids to "stay on top" have failed because there were simply too many others -- nearly as accomplished and with world-class resources themselves -- who wanted it more.