Alabama looking to break all the rules in quest for three-peat - NBC Sports

Alabama looking to break all the rules in quest for three-peat
Odds, history against Crimson Tide's pursuit of national title
August 28, 2013, 4:30 pm

College football has seen repeat national champions 10 times since The Associated Press' first poll 77 years ago in 1936.

None, however, have been able to win three in a row nor have they gone wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team since USC in 2004.

With the season set to kick off Thursday night with 17 games, two-time defending national champion Alabama is the consensus favorite to three-peat at sports books monitored by OddsShark.com.

It really should come as no surprise with AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, C.J. Mosley and an array of additional NFL prospects back for this season.

“They sent three players in the first 11 picks of the 2013 draft and had four of the first 25 in 2012, but this is an NFL prospect factory in Tuscaloosa,” said Jack Randall of OddsShark.com. “The fact they are a 5-2 bet to win again is no surprise.”

Indeed, Alabama has plenty of motivation to make it three in a row this season, as the "third time's a charm" theory kicks in. Alabama will try to succeed where it failed the previous two seasons in finishing the campaign undefeated. Last season, Alabama finished 13-1 SU (straight-up) and 7-7 ATS (against the spread).

The defending champs, who closed the regular season on a 1-4 ATS slide, begin their quest for three in a row -- and a fourth title in five years -- this Saturday against Virginia Tech, which is coming off season marks of 7-6 SU and 4-9 ATS. The game will be played at a neutral site in Atlanta.

The Tide, laying nearly three touchdowns in the game, come into the season on a 9-6 spread streak when laying 20 or more points. Alabama’s season-opener will show us just how good this offense is going to be this season, despite losing several offensive linemen to the pros.

Some, in fact, believe this might be coach Nick Saban's best offense overall in the past five seasons.

However, before the champs take the field there are some very good football games taking place, including Thursday's spotlight game between North Carolina and No. 6 South Carolina, one of six Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the Top 12 of The AP preseason poll.

It'll be our first viewing of Heisman Trophy-hopeful Jadeveon Clowney, who will be keying in on Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner. It'll also be the first time the 6-foot-6, 275-pound junior defensive end steps on a field since his jaw-dropping hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in last year's Outback Bowl.

The border rivals haven't met since 2007, when South Carolina went into Chapel Hill laying seven points and failed to cover despite a 21-15 win. UNC, which opens the season mired in a 1-5 ATS road slide, has covered four straight Thursday night games. The Gamecocks, who have started on a Thursday four of the past six years, are on ATS win streaks of 7-3 on Thursday nights and 5-1 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.

The biggest game of the weekend, one that will put a major crimp in one team's national championship dreams, is the battle in Death Valley -- and not the one in Inyo, California; the one in Clemson, South Carolina.

No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia, which is favored by two points. It'll mark the Tigers' third straight contest against an SEC foe after closing out the 2012 campaign with a loss to South Carolina in the regular-season finale and a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Aside from Clemson, which comes into the season having covered eight of 10 games, teams out of the ACC went 0-5 against the SEC last season. The Bulldogs closed out their season last year on a 6-1 ATS run, while the Tigers come into this season mired in a 2-5 ATS slide playing outside their conference.

Also on Saturday on NBC, Notre Dame opens its season against Temple. The Irish lost the BCS title game in January and are a longshot to return. They are favored by nearly 30 points against the Owls, but have been a money loser over the years as a huge favorite (2-9 ATS since 1997).

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