University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban said he’d celebrate his latest national championship for two days before looking ahead to next season.
Las Vegas oddsmakers didn’t wait that long, installing the Crimson Tide as 5-2 favorites yesterday to become the first school to win three straight titles since the Associated Press media poll began in 1936. Alabama also won championships after the 2009 and 2011 college football seasons.
“I think that you may be more committed to what you need to do in the future to continue to be successful,” Saban told reporters yesterday. “Every opponent that we play next year we’ll certainly have it targeted on their schedule to beat us, so we’ll have a lot of challenges.”
The University of Oregon is the second choice at 5-1, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, followed by Ohio State at 6-1. No other team has odds better than 12-1. Next season’s Bowl Championship Series title game is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2014, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
“People pounce on these futures much earlier than they did quite a while ago,” Jimmy Vaccaro, a spokesman for William Hill U.S., which represents 150 sports books in Nevada, said in a telephone interview. “They like to have these long-term tickets in their pocket.”
Vaccaro said Alabama’s 42-14 rout of the University of Notre Dame two days ago probably drew more bets in Las Vegas than any other college football game in history, estimating William Hill took in $12 million to $15 million in wagers.
With the victory in Miami, Alabama became the third team in the poll era to claim three titles in a four-year span, joining the University of Nebraska (1994-95, 1997) and Notre Dame (1946-47, 1949).
The next challenge for Saban and the Crimson Tide is a three-peat. Alabama will lose two key members of its offensive line and possibly starting running back Eddie Lacy to the National Football League. AJ McCarron, who threw four touchdown passes against Notre Dame in becoming the first quarterback to win consecutive BCS titles, is expected to return.
“We certainly have to build the team around him,” Saban said. “AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year.”
Also returning are running back T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,131 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Amari Cooper, who scored two touchdowns against Notre Dame after leading the team with 1,000 yards receiving during the regular season. Yeldon and Cooper are freshmen.
Saban, 61, will be back too, saying he’s not interested in any overtures from the NFL after going 15-17 in two seasons with the Miami Dolphins in 2005-06.
“I didn’t feel like I could impact the team the same way that I can as a college coach in terms of affecting people’s lives personally,” Saban said. “There’s a lot of gratification in all that, all right. So I kind of learned through that experience that maybe this is where I belong, and I’m really happy and at peace with all that.”
In addition, the Crimson Tide have a favorable schedule, as they don’t play Southeastern Conference rivals Florida, Georgia or South Carolina during the regular season. Georgia and South Carolina are tied with Texas A&M for the fourth-best BCS championship odds at 12-1, with Florida at 20-1.
Alabama’s biggest game may be Sept. 14 in College Station, Texas, against Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The Aggies and Manziel handed the Crimson Tide their only defeat this season, 29-24 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Nov. 10. Alabama also plays Louisiana State, which has 15-1 odds of winning the BCS title, at home on Nov. 9.
“They’ll be favored in every game they play next season,” said Jeff Sherman, the assistant manager at the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book.
Saban cautioned that nothing is a given in the SEC, especially with every opponent gunning to knock off the nation’s No. 1 team.
“Almost every game that you play in the SEC is a game that you could lose,” Saban said. “You have to be very well prepared and play with consistency. You can’t play up and down, or you’re going to have problems. All those things really help the consistency and the players to understand and appreciate what it takes to be successful.”