Handicapping Notre Dame's title hopes

Our Will HarrisInsider took a look at the odds for next season's BCS title contenders. He divided 17 teams into three categories: favorites, contenders and longshots.

With 20-to-1 odds, Notre Dame falls into the contender category, joining Arkansas, Clemson, Michigan, Texas and Virginia Tech. Among teams from that group, Harris likes the Hokies' chances to emerge from the pack as a darkhorse title contender in 2012:

The Clemson defense that was vaporized by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl is an unlikely candidate for a quick fix, and as mentioned earlier, we want proven coaching for title futures. We're optimistic about Mack Brown's total overhaul at Texas, but Year 2 is too soon and there's still a black hole at quarterback.

At a little better price the Razorbacks would have our attention. Arkansas is a strong program with a top-10 coach. Bobby Petrino's regime will overtake LSU this year, and the man who went 41-9 at Louisville will eventually bring at least one SEC title to Fayetteville. This could certainly be the year, as the schedule is favorable, but a trio of new coordinators and a rebuilt receiving corps are reasons for caution.

Like Arkansas, Michigan and Notre Dame are on the rise behind excellent coaching, but the best of this group for 2012 looks like Virginia Tech. With Bobby Bowden gone, this is Frank Beamer's ACC. A national title is the only hole in Beamer's résumé, and he is setting up for one more run behind quarterback Logan Thomas. This will not be an experienced offense, particularly along the line, but the skill position talent is outstanding and the bulk of the defense returns. Virginia Tech is a physical, disciplined team that knows its identity. This program is a constant threat to post an unbeaten season, and at 25 to 1, the Hokies are the most appealing play on the board.

Irish opponents USC and Oklahoma fall into the favorite category, with odds of 8-to-1 and 12-to-1, respectively.

Surprisingly enough, Michigan has worse odds than Notre Dame, at 25-to-1. The Wolverines have had a higher preseason ranking than the Irish in virtually every way-too-early 2012 poll.