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Bettors load up on LSU, USC to win CFP national title

A Boston native, Brian Kelly didn’t convince anybody that he had a Southern accent when he tried to speak with one after becoming the Louisiana State football coach.

But bettors are clearly convinced that the former Notre Dame coach will lead the Tigers to the national title this season.

LSU, which went 6-7 last season and is 11-12 since Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase led it to the 2019 national championship, opened at 200-1 at the Westgate SuperBook to win it all. The book lowered the Tigers to 60-1 after a bettor wagered $1,500 on them at 100-1, making LSU its largest liability.

“We’ve taken a ton of LSU money to win the national championship, which is kind of shocking to me,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “That LSU team is not even close to the team Burrow and Chase was on. But they’re a big-time public team that everyone wants to bet.

“With Brian Kelly coming on board, they have new believers.”

A similar scenario has played out on Southern California, the ticket leader at the SuperBook that has seen its national title odds drop from 40-1 to 25-1 since former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley took the reins of the Trojans, 4-8 last season.

“I’m comfortable where we are with USC right now,” Salmons said. “Just getting into the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment for USC, let alone thinking they’re good enough to beat Alabama, Ohio State or Georgia.

“I have Utah as the best team in the Pac-12.”

Salmons increased USC’s power rating 16 points from last season after they added Riley and the nation’s top-ranked transfer class headlined by quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison.

“You never know how it’s going to go with all the new parts together. It could take a while. But Riley seems like a pretty smart coach,” Salmons said. “Maybe he’ll be able to recruit better players out of USC. But he hasn’t gotten to the elite level with Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia.”

USC is tied for 12th in the Westgate’s power ratings, 20 points behind the top-rated Crimson Tide, 17 behind the Buckeyes and 15 behind the defending national champion Bulldogs.

Alabama is the +150 favorite to win the national title. Ohio State and Georgia are tied for the second choice at +325. Salmons said all three teams project to be double-digit favorites in every game this season, and there’s a drop of seven points in his power ratings from No. 3 Georgia to No. 4 Texas A&M.

“The top three teams, on paper right now, are head and shoulders better than everyone,” he said.

And the Crimson Tide, who return Heisman Trophy-winning QB Bryce Young and arguably the nation’s best defensive player in Heisman candidate Will Anderson Jr., are a clear notch above the Buckeyes and Bulldogs.

“This could be the best Alabama team we’ve seen yet. They just look absolutely loaded,” Salmons said. “Their defense, on paper, is the best defense they’ll ever have in (coach Nick) Saban’s career.”

A Caesars Sportsbook bettor in Nevada wagered $100,000 on Alabama to win it all June 30 at 2-1 odds, causing the number to dip to +180. The Crimson Tide have attracted 27 national title bets of at least $1,000 at Caesars. Ohio State has attracted 26.

“This looks like a generational team for Alabama and bettors are in love with Ohio State,” Caesars lead college football trader Joseph Feazel said. “These two have definitely separated themselves from the pack in terms of action.

“Alabama has to be up there for biggest preseason favorites recently. I can’t think of many teams that had lower odds than them in July.”

The 2018 Tide were +175 preseason favorites and lost to Clemson in the national championship.

Clemson is the 14-1 fourth choice at Caesars, followed by Texas A&M and USC at 25-1.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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