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Phil Agius has had an in-depth look into the new NFL season
  1. NCAAF

NCAAF - US Sports: New contenders could emerge

Alabama are invariably the team to beat, but with college football in a state of flux, a subtle shift in power may produce new championship contenders in 2022.

College football has rarely seemed so unsettled with more players frequenting the transfer portal now than ever before and well-established coaches willing to jump ship to align themselves with the best talent.

A frenzied offseason will soon give way to the usual drama on the gridiron as new stars bid to grab the spotlight and familiar faces plot the downfall of the reigning NCAAF champion Georgia Bulldogs, who are 3/1 to win the 2022/23 NCAAF Championship.

Georgia have 'repeat' on their mind

There's no denying that Georgia's stunning levels of performance and consistency throughout 2021 made them deserved national champions as they avenged their SEC title game loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff.

The Bulldogs were defined by their smothering defence, but lost nine players from that unit within the first three rounds of the NFL draft with five taken inside the first day.

Kirby Smart and his coaches will have their work cut out to remodel it, but they have been recruiting well and return highly-rated tackle Jalen Carter to anchor the defensive front.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett provides continuity on offense while reigning Freshman of the Year Brock Bowers is tipped to turn heads at tight end.

Georgia may still be ahead of their rivals in terms of defensive scheme and the calibre of their recruits, but it won't be long before others catch on and follow suit.

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SEC still the place to be

The Bulldogs' greatest challenge should again come from Southeastern Conference champions Alabama, priced at 11/5 to win the NCAAF Championship, who have featured in the national title game in no less than six of the last seven seasons.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide slipped to No.5 in the polls after a mid-season defeat to Texas A & M, but answered their critics later in the year with the win over Georgia.

The fact they will be returning one of the top two draft-eligible quarterbacks - Bryce Young - and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Will Anderson Jr, who led the nation in sacks last year, suggests they will be strong on both sides of the ball.

The level of talent across the board in the SEC seems to get higher year on year and, with five of the past seven national champions emerging from the conference, it's hard to look beyond it for the next.

Kentucky can be backed at 125/1 to win the NCAAF Championship and are an SEC team on the up that could sneak into the playoff mix as they avoid playing either Alabama or LSU this year.

The Wildcats have won a Bowl Game in four straight years and won ten games in 2018 and 2021. Returning QB Will Levis has a great arm, but needs to cut down on the turnovers to step up to the top tier.

Buckeyes aim to stand proud with Stroud

Ohio State, available at 6/1 to win the NCAAF Championship, are pinning their hopes for this season on the arm of sophomore QB CJ Stroud, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season.

The Californian now seems acclimatised to life in Columbus, as the back half of last year showed when won eight straight starts capped by a monster game against Michigan State when he went 32-of-35 passing for 432 yards, six TDs and no interceptions.

The Buckeyes could even run the table in the Big Ten Conference and win out - with ESPN recently giving credence to this notion by spitting out some algorithms that claim Ohio State has a 32.5% chance of winning all their games in 2022. 

Harbaugh has raised expectations in Michigan

Stroud's only setback in the latter half of his redshirt-freshman campaign came in Ohio State's 42-27 defeat to rivals Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines were a real force last year under ex-San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, but fans are wondering if he can keep them up there after the inevitable losses of star players in the NFL draft.

The bigger problem for Michigan, however, is Ohio State, who will have home advantage for their Big Ten East clash in November and be hell-bent on revenge for last year's upset.

USC recruits in a Hollywood fairy tale?

One of the most interesting stories of the season ahead will unfold in California, where USC, who can be backed at 28/1 to win the NCAAF Championship, have been making plenty of noise under ex-Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Riley recruited highly-rated Sooners QB Caleb Williams in one of 14 forays into the transfer portal as he attempts to turn the Trojans back into title contenders after several wilderness years.

Williams lost his starting role in Oklahoma last year and was always likely to go elsewhere, but the fact that he - and two other starting calibre players chose to follow Riley west adds more spice to the mouthwatering mix of possibilities ahead in 2022. 

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