Let's face it: The 2020 season was not college football's finest. There were empty or partial crowds, no tailgating and no atmosphere. In the run-up to the season, all of the sport's cracks and flaws -- the lack of centralized leadership, the outdated model for treatment of athletes, even the limitations of a four-team playoff without proper representation -- all shined brightly. The season still produced great moments (and, in Alabama, maybe the greatest team of all time), but it was also even more frustrating and exhausting than usual.
Perhaps because of that frustration, however, it feels like the sun is shining a little brighter this offseason, the optimism a little thicker in the air. Crowds will return to the stands, smoked meats will return to the parking lots and we get to once again enjoy a proper college football season.
There is far more to a season than its national title race -- the journey is as important as the destination. But it's still nice to be able to set the table in a format that allows us to discuss lots of teams and cover lots of ground.
This is my annual Ifs List piece -- an attempt to see just how many "ifs" it takes me to turn a team into a genuine national title contender. Below are the 19 teams with national title odds better than +10000 per Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, sorted by the number of "ifs" required. The top of the list features names extremely familiar to the title race, but there is quite a bit of new blood below that.
(As always, we're not going to worry about obstacles like injuries, which could strike any team at any time. Those concerns are obvious for everyone.)
Jump to a team: Alabama | Clemson | Ohio State | Georgia
Oklahoma | Texas A&M | Texas | Iowa State | North Carolina
Florida | Notre Dame | Oregon | USC | LSU | Miami
Wisconsin | Penn State | Oklahoma State | Iowa
Alabama Crimson Tide (+220 national title odds)
If ... Bryce Young is ready. Nick Saban fielded his best team, and one of the best in history, in 2020. Now he deals with the amount of turnover we've come to expect from great Bama teams. The offense alone had to replace playcaller Steve Sarkisian, three of the Heisman top five (receiver DeVonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris), Outland winner Alex Leatherwood, Rimington Trophy winner Landon Dickerson and No. 6 draft pick Jaylen Waddle.