We haven't quite even seen the start of camps for college football teams yet, so it is very premature to be thinking seriously about the playoff. There are plenty of different ways to bet on those playoffs, though, and that's always a reason to take a look at anything. One of the more interesting betting opportunities come courtesy of BetOnline. They pick 16 different teams and let us bet whether each one will make the four-team playoff. There are some interesting plays and a few tough calls. Let's take a look:
Alabama (+150 "yes", -180 "no"): Given the public attention this team always rightfully draws, I am surprised at this price. They need to find a quarterback, and they have some personnel challenges to overcome because of departed players, but they are loaded with talent as always. The SEC isn't quite as deep as it has been, and the schedule works fairly well for the team, too. They know exactly what it takes to get to the playoff. I don't see any good reason to tie your money up betting on the yes, but it seems fairly likely that they will again be among the final four.
Clemson (+200 yes, -260 no): The ACC is a bad joke, so the season essentially comes down to one game this year as it has the last couple of years for the most part - their conference showdown with Florida State. That game is on the road, but they have the Heisman favorite at quarterback and the experience of being in the finals last year to build on. A team from the ACC is going to make the playoff in all likelihood, and I like Clemson more than Florida State. I can't argue that there is value here, though.
Florida State (+350 yes, -500 no): You can extrapolate what I will say here from what I said about Clemson. There is one big difference, though - this team has to open up on a neutral field against Ole Miss. That is a much tougher game than Clemson plays at any point, and a loss would be a big blow. They could overcome it if they don't lose again and beat up on Clemson, but they don't have many other chances to score style points during the season because the ACC is so underwhelming. I don't like their chances this year.
Michigan (+240 yes, -300 no): If you have read stuff I have written over the last decade at all then you know that I struggle to be objective about Michigan. Here's what we do know, though. This is the second year of the Jim Harbaugh era, and they have a lot to build on. The offensive line should be good, and the defensive line has a chance to be great. The secondary is excellent. They receivers are deep and dangerous. They have depth at running back. There is an open contest at quarterback, but they have good options. The schedule is manageable, and Michigan State may not be quite as good as they have been. There is a decent chance that the whole thing could come down to one game - a season-ending showdown at Ohio State. The Big Ten is very likely to have a playoff team if things go to form, and Michigan has a decent chance of being that team. The price is fair here.
Ohio State (+190 yes, -240 no): The Big Ten is much like the ACC this year, though a touch deeper. There are two top contenders, and their season is likely to be defined by how they play against each other. They have more stability at quarterback than Michigan, and they have all sorts of talent - though they have to replace far more starters than Michigan does. They have a lot more experience with the playoff, though, and they get to play the big game at home - both big advantages. Like Florida State, though, they have a tougher nonconference challenge by far than their rival - they play their third game at Oklahoma. Add it all up and I don't like this price much - they should be much closer to tied with the Wolverines.
Oklahoma (+175 yes, -220 no): This is a horrible price - and that's coming from a guy who really likes where this team is at. It's an off year for the Big 12, and Oklahoma is rightly the strong favorite to win that conference, but games at TCU and on a neutral field against Texas can both be challenges. Their nonconference season is much tougher, though - they start by playing Houston in Houston and then that home game against Ohio State we have already discussed. Tough. No value here at all.
Tennessee (+325 yes, -450 no): There are a lot of people climbing on the Tennessee bandwagon. I am not one of them - especially not at a ridiculous price like this. There is plenty of talent, their nonconference schedule is manageable, and they could have a tougher conference schedule. They still play Florida, Georgia and Alabama, though - and likely either Alabama again or LSU if they make it to the conference championship. That's a lot to ask for a young team like this. The enthusiasm is a year or two too early for the Vols.
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