What’s the fun in always taking Alabama?

If you want to be a bore, then the Crimson Tide are a smart play, even though they’re big favorites to win the national championship in 2017. With the playoff featuring four teams, it’s almost a sure bet that Alabama will at least be in consideration for the playoff.

But gambling is supposed to be fun and exciting, too, and laying your life savings on Alabama to win the national championship just seems way too easy. While the college basketball season hasn’t heated up and we’re only weeks away from spring college football, here’s the top teams with the best value heading into 2017.

For this exercise, I’ll look outside the favorites, which include Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and Michigan.

The LSU Tigers should be a top contender again in 2017. Flickr/http://bit.ly/1Kcczid/Phillip Hendon

LSU, +1200

The Tigers always have great talent and that won’t change with Ed Orgeron as head coach. The biggest issue every year, which also won’t change with the new head coach, is the coaching ability on the Tigers sideline.

Orgeron has always been able to get talent. His problem has been questions surrounding his coaching ability. But with the playoff system that currently resides in college football, I can withstand a clunker, as long as the team has the talent to run the table in the other big games.

That won’t be a problem for the Tigers. LSU returns pretty much its entire offensive line and with a better scheme, that should open up some opportunities for the offense. Leonard Fournette is really good, but we’ve seen teams replace running backs before. Fournette is better than the replacement, but something tells me the Tigers will be fine in the running back position.

Defensive is never a problem, no matter how many players leap to the NFL. The Tigers have some tough matchups, but what’s new in the SEC? The talent level is there and maybe with a new coaching staff, the Tigers may finally avoid the dreaded 8-4 or 9-3 record.

Oklahoma State, +3300

If a team other than Oklahoma wins the Big 12, it will likely be the Cowboys. And if Oklahoma State wins the conference, it will give it the inside track to the playoff.

The Cowboys were one of the most overlooked teams in 2016. Mason Rudolph and James Washington return, giving Oklahoma State one of the most potent offenses in the country. The Cowboys will return seven starters on offense and six starters on a defensive unit that didn’t look bad at times (that’s saying a lot for a Big 12 team).

Mike Gundy has proven in the past to lead a team to a gaudy record. This time, though, they can afford to lose a game, unlike the previous opportunity at a national championship. This is fantastic value for a team ranked in the top-10 in an early college football ESPN poll, especially with home games against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU in 2017.

Washington, +4,000

Is there any coach more undervalued than Chris Petersen? The Huskies win the Pac-12 and compete in the playoff, and then turn around and are mid-tier favorites to win the national championship in 2017.

Petersen can coach…and recruit. And despite losing some key members of the 2016 team, Washington has plenty left in the cupboard to compete at a high level again in 2017.

Jake Browning is back, along with an offensive line that should be one of the better units in the Pac-12. The offense should be dynamic, and while the defense will have some holes to replace, it shouldn’t take long to emerge as a solid unit.

The Huskies do have a couple tricky road contests against Colorado and Stanford, but they avoid USC, and host Oregon, Utah, Washington State and UCLA.

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