Evaluating National Championship odds with space force theory

Ian Boyd

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There are odds up now on the 2021 National Champions, I've listed them up to the +3000 bets.

Alabama Crimson Tide+300
Clemson Tigers+400
Oklahoma Sooners+750
Ohio State Buckeyes+750
Georgia Bulldogs+1200
Notre Dame Fighting Irish+1500
Texas A&M Aggies+1800
Iowa State Cyclones+2200
Florida Gators+2500
Texas Longhorns+2500
USC Trojans+3000
North Carolina Tar Heels+3000
LSU Tigers+3000
Cincinnati Bearcats+3000

If you've been following along the last few years, space force theory has been extremely useful in projecting how playoff matchups will go and was basically birthed out of observations I made while researching my book and then breaking down playoff battles.

It's early to guess at which teams will be able to field elite passing attacks, there was reason to believe Alabama might be capable in 2021 but it depended on understanding Steve Sarkisian's philosophy (which I didn't, yet) and projecting not only growth but even a starting job for quarterback Mac Jones. I anticipated the Tide would roll with Jones in order to best set up their experienced O-line and Najee Harris but I didn't realize he, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith were about to unleash vertical passing hell on college football.

Here's a few thoughts on the relative shape of the space force units for the 2021 favorites.

Alabama

I'm guessing Evan Neal slides over to left tackle for Alabama but Smith and Waddle are gone so the Tide will be breaking in some new linemen, quarterback Bryce Young, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, and then new receivers all at the same time. John Metchie is a fantastic start but there's just an awful lot of unknowns. They're also losing Patrick Surtain on defense.

Clemson

The Tigers have to replace Jackson Carman at left tackle, lead receivers Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell, and then obviously Trevor Lawrence. I think they're actually in pretty strong shape overall though. D.J. Uiagalelei is no joke as a passer and the younger crop of Tiger wideouts likely produces some fresh stars after getting a year behind a pair of veteran upperclassmen and then this coming offseason to hone their craft with Uiagalelei.

Clemson's tackles are solid, they have another blue chip who got his feet wet at tackle last year to replace Carman and their interior isn't likely to be worse than a year ago.

Oklahoma

As I noted the other day, Oklahoma's cornerbacks are a concern for next year. It's easy to imagine them getting into a shootout and getting into serious trouble because they can't even begin to cover the opposing team's NFL wideouts, ala 2019 against LSU. Otherwise, Oklahoma is in phenomenal shape in every other space force metric.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson return, so you can't do much better in terms of opening with a dominant passing game. I don't even know who will play quarterback for the Buckeyes but I'll remind everyone it was just a few months ago Alabama won the title with a quarterback no one thought much of who was replacing a top draft pick in Tua Tagovailoa who's struggled in the NFL. I don't even have to try to imagine something nearly identical playing out with Justin Fields and his replacement.

Cornerback is a concern though, the Buckeyes went from having multiple NFL defensive backs in 2019 to fielding four linebackers and getting torched in 2020. Obviously they could rebound but they have an awfully long ways to go in order to get back to their standard.

Georgia

To me this is the value bet. The Bulldogs had a young, athletic offensive line in 2020 which will return most of the key pieces. They have weapons outside in Kearis Jackson and George Pickens who showed out more often once JT Daniels was spinning the ball around. Kirby Smart maintains a revolving door of NFL talent across the defense, including at cornerback where Kelee Ringo has been waiting his turn, and they've been taking Ls every year from teams with more explosive passing attacks while quietly changing their offense some with the additions of Monkey and Daniels.

Notre Dame/Texas A&M

Two peas in a pod these days. Both squads have been trying to win championships in the trenches, which isn't where they're won. The Fighting Irish do have star tight end Michael Mayer (baby Gronk) back as a sophomore but the wide receiver room is going to need someone young to make a leap. They also have to replace the steady play of Ian Book and a lot of departing experience across the offensive line.

A&M is in more or less the same boat. They're replacing a steady-ish senior quarterback and while they return a future NFL tight end the wide receiver room is young and unproven, their two leading receivers in 2020 were the tight end and a running back. A&M is also losing experience across the offensive line, including at left tackle where guard Kenyon Green is expected to bounce out, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has tended to put emphasis on the run game.

Both teams will also be relying on young cornerbacks, for A&M it's all about former 5-star Jaylon Jones putting it together. I deeply doubt either team can put together a title run.

Everyone else is a longer shot by the odds and most aren't in obvious position to field elite spread passing attacks. Iowa State might have some such potential but it'd be quite a leap and they seem to be just below that level. UNC, Florida, and USC are losing key space force guardians in their passing attacks. Cincinnati and Texas aren't ready for that kind of game, LSU is trying to rebuild their house after it burned down but may be worth a closer look.

Right now the 2021 season feels pretty wide open and it's really Georgia's to seize if they can get this offseason right in terms of their approach to the passing game.
 

bHero

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Cincinnati and Texas aren't ready for that kind of game, LSU is trying to rebuild their house after it burned down but may be worth a closer look.

Right now the 2021 season feels pretty wide open and it's really Georgia's to seize if they can get this offseason right in terms of their approach to the passing game.
LSU is still recruiting like their HC will be around in a year. Fascinating stuff, will be interesting to see if 21' looks like a transition class (already some signs). And the kids they are taking now reflect respect for space force concepts. They likely aren't going back to power I anytime soon, nor a 4-3 bump and run.

Georgia always seems primed, but never really overcomes their own scheme of defensive self-preservation with offense. Lots of people think they are different this year, and maybe that's true. It's just hard for me to believe because I've been hearing it from SEC country since the Mark Richt days.
 

melodicmarc

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my top 5 would be:
1. Oklahoma
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State

Largely based off of returning QBs and defense. Also Oklahoma gets the slight nod over Georgia due to coaching and an easier conference.
 

stilesbbq

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my top 5 would be:
1. Oklahoma
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State

Largely based off of returning QBs and defense. Also Oklahoma gets the slight nod over Georgia due to coaching and an easier conference.
I really cant stomach an OU national title
 
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melodicmarc

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I really cant stomach an OU national title
Well even if they are my #1 or the odds on favorite, their odds are still around 10% or less. The field over any team is the safe bet. So take comfort in that. Also just know that I am a Falcons fan and an OU fan so I have experienced a lot of pain in my 30 years of existence, and I was too young to remember 2000. An OU Natty would add some peace to my life.
 
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kevinbelt

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OSU is probably stronger on offense and weaker on defense than you’re giving us credit for. We’ve got Thayer Munford, a three year starter who is Pro Football Focus’s #1 ranked returning tackle at LT and a five star multi year starter at RT. At WR, we could line up with 5 guys who were five stars, and that’s not even including Olave, who would’ve been a first round pick if he’d come out.

I know you don’t care about running backs, but I think that’s gonna end up being the key to the OSU offense. You saw the difference when Trey Sermon was the feature back instead of Master Teague. The whole offense clicked better.

On D, not only is corner still very much up in the air, but so is DE. We’ve got returning co-starters in Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith, but neither has really produced on the field yet. Harrison in particular has Chase Young athleticism, but he’s a super quiet dude who doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct. We lost a ton of infrastructure on D, too. All four LBs and a stud DT.

I think OSU is ranked about right in most polls, but for the wrong reasons. Everyone sees the new QB and wonders if he’ll be as good as Fields. I’m not worried about any of the three candidates; they’re all highly ranked recruits and Ryan Day is a good enough (good enough, not great, Ian!) play caller that any one of them should have success. But nobody seems worried about about D. We weren’t very good last year, we lose a lot, and our DC has only one season of experience calling plays (2020). Lot of questions there.

But it won’t matter because the Big Ten kind of sucks and we should win the conference pretty easily.
 

sherf1

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OSU is probably stronger on offense and weaker on defense than you’re giving us credit for. We’ve got Thayer Munford, a three year starter who is Pro Football Focus’s #1 ranked returning tackle at LT and a five star multi year starter at RT. At WR, we could line up with 5 guys who were five stars, and that’s not even including Olave, who would’ve been a first round pick if he’d come out.

I know you don’t care about running backs, but I think that’s gonna end up being the key to the OSU offense. You saw the difference when Trey Sermon was the feature back instead of Master Teague. The whole offense clicked better.

On D, not only is corner still very much up in the air, but so is DE. We’ve got returning co-starters in Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith, but neither has really produced on the field yet. Harrison in particular has Chase Young athleticism, but he’s a super quiet dude who doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct. We lost a ton of infrastructure on D, too. All four LBs and a stud DT.

I think OSU is ranked about right in most polls, but for the wrong reasons. Everyone sees the new QB and wonders if he’ll be as good as Fields. I’m not worried about any of the three candidates; they’re all highly ranked recruits and Ryan Day is a good enough (good enough, not great, Ian!) play caller that any one of them should have success. But nobody seems worried about about D. We weren’t very good last year, we lose a lot, and our DC has only one season of experience calling plays (2020). Lot of questions there.

But it won’t matter because the Big Ten kind of sucks and we should win the conference pretty easily.
Impressively even take for a fan, I hope I can sound this reasonable about Texas when we're coming off back-to-back playoff runs (2023 is gonna be a big **** talking off-season baby).

Agreed Fields is unlikely to be a huge issue to replace, and the Big 10 won't ask the right questions anyway.

What's Olave expected to run? I could see him not testing great and sliding. OSU has a ton of talent at WR, but they generally seem to be missing the elite speed guy from what I've seen
 

Ian Boyd

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OSU is probably stronger on offense and weaker on defense than you’re giving us credit for. We’ve got Thayer Munford, a three year starter who is Pro Football Focus’s #1 ranked returning tackle at LT and a five star multi year starter at RT. At WR, we could line up with 5 guys who were five stars, and that’s not even including Olave, who would’ve been a first round pick if he’d come out.
I thought I had OSU pegged for being potentially great on offense but suspect on defense for all the reasons you've listed.
I know you don’t care about running backs, but I think that’s gonna end up being the key to the OSU offense. You saw the difference when Trey Sermon was the feature back instead of Master Teague. The whole offense clicked better.
Well sure, but Master Teague also isn't very good.
 

kevinbelt

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Yeah, sorry, I wasn't clear on the first point. You're the *only* one thinking that way. Everyone else is dwelling on the QB battle. I think your analysis is pretty spot-on, as usual.

Sadly, that applies to your take on Teague as well. We've got some other guys who will probably be better, but the question is whether they'll actually get playing time over Teague. Sermon was clearly better and they still split carries.
 
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kevinbelt

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What's Olave expected to run? I could see him not testing great and sliding. OSU has a ton of talent at WR, but they generally seem to be missing the elite speed guy from what I've seen
No idea, honestly, but that's not why you're drafting Olave. He's a technician, not a burner. I'm a little surprised he was getting first round buzz in the first place, honestly. He's a guy not unlike Terry McLaurin, who goes quietly in the second or third round and then blows up in camp. But he's the best we've had in a long time, and I'm including Mike Thomas in that.

Your impressions of speed guys is shared by most OSU fans. Parris Campbell was supposed to be that guy a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, he ended up being better on crossing routes than going deep. Jameson Williams was our #3 receiver this past year, and he's a speed guy. But he's not good enough to take targets away from Olave or Garrett Wilson. Personally, I was fine with not having a deep threat in 2020, because I think throwing deep played into Justin Fields's worst tendencies. He's best when he's throwing timing throws to elite route runners. None of the three guys replacing him have thrown a pass in college, so I don't know what their strengths are yet. I generally prefer more of a West Coast short passing game than a deep shot game, I think it's more fun to watch, but that's just me.
 
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stilesbbq

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OSU is probably stronger on offense and weaker on defense than you’re giving us credit for. We’ve got Thayer Munford, a three year starter who is Pro Football Focus’s #1 ranked returning tackle at LT and a five star multi year starter at RT. At WR, we could line up with 5 guys who were five stars, and that’s not even including Olave, who would’ve been a first round pick if he’d come out.

I know you don’t care about running backs, but I think that’s gonna end up being the key to the OSU offense. You saw the difference when Trey Sermon was the feature back instead of Master Teague. The whole offense clicked better.

On D, not only is corner still very much up in the air, but so is DE. We’ve got returning co-starters in Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith, but neither has really produced on the field yet. Harrison in particular has Chase Young athleticism, but he’s a super quiet dude who doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct. We lost a ton of infrastructure on D, too. All four LBs and a stud DT.

I think OSU is ranked about right in most polls, but for the wrong reasons. Everyone sees the new QB and wonders if he’ll be as good as Fields. I’m not worried about any of the three candidates; they’re all highly ranked recruits and Ryan Day is a good enough (good enough, not great, Ian!) play caller that any one of them should have success. But nobody seems worried about about D. We weren’t very good last year, we lose a lot, and our DC has only one season of experience calling plays (2020). Lot of questions there.

But it won’t matter because the Big Ten kind of sucks and we should win the conference pretty easily.
Are there any Big10 teams that could credibly take a leap forward next season? Minnesota and PSU both looked like frauds last year but I wonder what Locksleys upside is at Maryland. He's been recruiting well of course
 

sherf1

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No idea, honestly, but that's not why you're drafting Olave. He's a technician, not a burner. I'm a little surprised he was getting first round buzz in the first place, honestly. He's a guy not unlike Terry McLaurin, who goes quietly in the second or third round and then blows up in camp. But he's the best we've had in a long time, and I'm including Mike Thomas in that.

Your impressions of speed guys is shared by most OSU fans. Parris Campbell was supposed to be that guy a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, he ended up being better on crossing routes than going deep. Jameson Williams was our #3 receiver this past year, and he's a speed guy. But he's not good enough to take targets away from Olave or Garrett Wilson. Personally, I was fine with not having a deep threat in 2020, because I think throwing deep played into Justin Fields's worst tendencies. He's best when he's throwing timing throws to elite route runners. None of the three guys replacing him have thrown a pass in college, so I don't know what their strengths are yet. I generally prefer more of a West Coast short passing game than a deep shot game, I think it's more fun to watch, but that's just me.
I think the game is moving towards speed everywhere, so even if you have a guy running a crossing route, it's better if he's a 4.45 guy than a 4.65 guy. Bama did so much damage with underneath throws into space and using the speed that threatens deep to create room underneath.

While it's always good to have a guy like Mike Thomas who can get a catch at the sticks using the softer WR skills, that entire skill set is getting outdated IMO, like a guy who's great at shooting the midrange, but everyone else is shooting 3s and getting to the rim.
 

kevinbelt

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Are there any Big10 teams that could credibly take a leap forward next season? Minnesota and PSU both looked like frauds last year but I wonder what Locksleys upside is at Maryland. He's been recruiting well of course
I’m intrigued by Locksley. They COVID-cancelled on us so I only got to see them in passing, but Locksley is probably the single best coach they could have hired. No one recruits the DMV like he does. Can he actually do anything with the talent? Stand by. I don’t know if they’ll ever win the division, but a season like Indiana had this year wouldn’t surprise me.

Speaking of which, if you’re betting Big Ten East futures, you could do worse than Indiana. Lot of returning talent on a team that wasn’t far from winning the division. They were everybody’s dark horse in 2020, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the success in 2021. I have a soft spot for them (my brother lives near Bloomington), so I hope they sustain it.

I’m still waiting for Nebraska to turn the corner, and I’m not sure why it’s taking so long. Losing Luke McCaffrey won’t help, because Adrian Martinez is an atrocious decision maker at QB. I really thought McCaffrey was gonna be the guy to take the next step.

But yeah, if you’re betting any real money, bet on OSU in the East and Wisconsin in the West, just like every other year.