A pair of perennial powerhouses in Alabama and Ohio State are attracting the bulk of the betting action around the nation, but the story is a little different at one Las Vegas sportsbook, where more money has been bet on USC to win the College Football Playoff than any other team.
"America's team," Ed Salmons, veteran oddsmaker for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said of the new-look Trojans. "They're our biggest loser in the futures book."
USC's national title odds have improved from 40-1 to 25-1 at the SuperBook, giving the Trojans the sixth-best championship odds. USC went 4-8 last year, fired coach Clay Helton early in the season and lost six of its last seven games.
But the arrival of coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma and a bevy of high-profile transfers, including quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison, the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner, have brought optimism to USC.
USC has attracted more bets and more money to win the national title than any other team at the Las Vegas location for the SuperBook, which also operates out of Colorado and New Jersey. The increased interest has reminded some of the Trojans' dynasty of the early 2000s, when Vegas sportsbooks found themselves rooting against USC on a weekly basis.
"If they go out and roll a couple of teams early, the public will be all over them every week," Salmons said. "Sometimes when you put all these guys from different teams, it just takes a while. But if they happen to click from day one, absolutely, the public will be on them."
Salmons adjusted his power ratings on USC up 16 points from the end of last season, the largest improvement of any team, but the gap between the Trojans and the top-tier contenders such as Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia remains significant.
Alabama is the consensus favorite to win the national championship, with odds around +180. Ohio State and defending champion Georgia are close behind with odds around 4-1. No other team has odds in the single digits.
At DraftKings, Alabama has attracted four times as many national title bets as any other team. The largest reported national championship bet at Caesars Sportsbook placed so far is $100,000 on Alabama at 2-1.
"They're the most loaded Alabama team I've ever seen," Salmons said, adding that he believes the Crimson Tide could be favored by double digits in each of their regular-season games. "They literally could field two teams that could get to the playoffs."
Salmons said he'd have Alabama as a 3-point favorite over Ohio State if the teams met in Week 1. The college football season kicks off Aug. 27.