BRISTOL, Conn. — During his visit Tuesday to ESPN’s campus, Alabama coach Nick Saban happened to see Vegas odds that again had his Crimson Tide the favorite to win the national title.
But Saban said he disagreed with the sportsbooks. He said the favorite should be Clemson, which pushed the Tide in the January championship game. The primary reason: The Tigers return Deshaun Watson.
Saban called the junior quarterback “the best player in college football since Cam Newton,” who won the Heisman Trophy and a national title at Auburn in 2010.
Watson accounted for 5,214 total yards and 47 touchdowns a year ago, finishing third in the Heisman race behind Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Watson and McCaffrey, along with LSU running back Leonard Fournette, are the early favorites for the award in 2016.
Meanwhile, at this point, Saban isn’t sure who his quarterback will be in the fall. It will be the third consecutive season Alabama will have a new starting quarterback.
It will be Watson’s third year as the starter for Clemson.
“I don’t care who we start at quarterback,” Saban said. “He ain’t going to be that good.”
Saban said he entered the title game thinking that Watson was a skilled runner with a powerful arm. But his accuracy impressed the veteran coach.
“He could get the ball into spaces about like this,” Saban said, holding his hands about a foot apart. He added that he didn’t see any real holes in Watson’s game.
Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Tide, adding another 73 rushing yards in the thrilling 45-40 Alabama win.
Watson, who is set to graduate in December, has indicated that he will turn pro after this season. Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Watson No. 4 (No. 1 quarterback) on his Big Board.