College Football National Championship Game Betting Trends
This is the fourth year of the College Football Playoff. I was skeptical about the concept before it started, and some of my issues still exist - mostly that it is moronic to have a four-team playoff when you have five champions of major conferences. But there is no denying that the playoff has led to some great games, and you can never complain about seeing another game each year between the top teams in the country. The sample size is small with just three prior championship games played, but there have been enough games played that it isn't a total waste of time for us to look back at what has happened in the past three editions of this game to see what we can learn that could help us pick a winner this time around. Here, then are six of the most interesting trends from past CFP championship games.
Shortest turnaround: Because of the way the calendar worked out this year this is the shortest turnaround we have seen between the semifinals and the finals. The semis will always be played on New Year's Day unless it is a Sunday, and the championship is always the Monday after NFL Wild Card weekend, so the gap between games can't be any closer than it is now. Teams are used to playing games a week apart, so this isn't the biggest deal ever - especially because the travel is so reasonable for both teams, and they were both well rested heading into the semifinals. The media demands are more significant for this game than any other the teams have played, though, so focus could be a challenge. And the coaches have the toughest job of anyone, because they couldn't afford too much time looking ahead to the two potential opponents in this game because they had to make sure they won the last game first. The most important game planning of the year against the strongest opponent of the year comes in the most challenging week of the year. That's why the coaches get paid what they do.
Alabama defensive struggles: Alabama is making their third appearance in the CFP championship game in four years and their fourth in the playoff. Each of those years it has been their defense that has led the way to the final four. And each time that defense has really let them down in the final game they have played. First, they allowed 42 points to Ohio State to lose in the semifinal. Then they let Clemson score 40 in a crazy win of the championship. Last year Clemson scored only 35, but that was good enough for a win. And these defensive struggles in the finale didn't start with the CFP - in the last year of the BCS Oklahoma scored 45 in a laughable massacre of the Tide. For some reason Alabama has let their foot off the gas when the game matters most. They simply can't afford to do the same here.
Pick the underdog: So far it hasn't been difficult to make the right bet in the CFP championship game - just bet on the underdog. The underdog has covered the spread in all three title games and has won two of the three games outright - only Alabama has won the game as a favorite. The favorites have covered both spreads so far this year, which means that no matter what this will be the first year in which underdogs have not been profitable over the three game CFP schedule.
The "over" has been strong: The last two title games have gone over the total, and not just by a little bit, either. The teams went over the number by 14.5 points last year and 31.5 points the year before. And even though Ohio State and Oregon didn't go over the total in the first playoff game, they still combined for 62 points. This is a showdown between two strong defenses, but then so were the last two years and those games just got crazy.
The lower seed: Georgia was the third seed coming into the playoff, and Alabama was fourth. This marks the first year that at least one top two seed has not made the final. Those seeds are also a bad omen for Georgia, because the higher seed in the final has never won the national title. Ohio State, a fourth seed, beat No. 2 Oregon. No. 2 Alabama beat top seed Clemson, and the seeds were reversed the next year. Alabama has another edge on this front as well - they are the only lower seed that was favored in the prior three games, and they won then, They are, of course, favored as the lower seed this time around as well.
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