College Football Playoff Scenarios with Betting Odds
We are now just one set of games away from the College Football Playoff, and it doesn't really feel like there is too much left to be determined. In fact, it feels really short of drama. Three of the four spots feel quite established, and even the fourth isn't as competitive as it has been in some years. Let's take a look at the remaining contenders, their odds to win the national title from Bovada , and their path to glory:
Alabama (-260): Alabama still has to play the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, but they are all but a lock to be in the playoff. They are favored by 13.5 points against the Bulldogs, so it is very likely that they will be undefeated and the clear and obvious No. 1 seed in the playoff. But even if they aren't, they will still be a one-loss team with that loss coming against a playoff team in Georgia, and that would be enough to get them in almost certainly. If you are really not a Tide fan and don't want to see them in the playoff, then the best you can hope for is a truly humiliating loss in the championship game - think Michigan at Ohio State last week as a model - and a truly impressive win by Ohio State or Oklahoma in their championship game. But those results would have to be really extreme for that to even be a possibility.
Clemson (+350): Clemson is a 27-point favorite in the ACC title game against Pitt, so it would take a truly shocking outcome for Clemson to be anything other than an undefeated playoff team. But if they did somehow lose to Pitt, then they would be in real trouble - especially if Oklahoma and Ohio State are both dominant in winning their games. In the end, though, we can write Clemson into the playoff, even if we do it in pencil.
Notre Dame (+900): This is technically the only team that absolutely and unquestionably has a spot wrapped up. They don't play again, they are unbeaten, and they are Notre Dame, so there is absolutely nothing that could happen that could threaten their position - unless Georgia, Oklahoma, and Ohio State all go back in time and wipe out their loss.
Georgia (+1200): Georgia is in a playoff spot right now, but it would be a serious challenge for them to stay there. They already have one loss, and it was an ugly one to LSU. That would be irrelevant if they win the SEC title - a win over Alabama would guarantee Georgia a playoff spot and would very likely mean two SEC playoff teams. If, as expected, Georgia loses to Alabama, then they would need some help. If it was a close loss, they would likely be the top two-loss team in the country no matter what. But that would only be relevant if both Oklahoma and Ohio State lose this weekend. It's very hard to see that happening, and I don't see Georgia measuring up to the Tide, so I just really struggle to see any value in this futures price at all.
Ohio State (+1500): The Buckeyes went from irrelevant to being in great shape with one dominant win over Michigan - a game that is going to take me several years to get over, by the way. Ohio State doesn't technically control their fate, but it feels like they are in the next best position. Their job here is simple - go out and absolutely dominate Northwestern in the Big Ten title game, and then hope for the best. The first half of that should be straight forward unless they regress to pre-Michigan form. And as for the second part, the biggest thing they need to do is cheer for Alabama in the SEC title game. A Georgia loss opens up a playoff spot. And for my money, Ohio State has the best claim for it - unless they barely beat Northwestern and Oklahoma crushes Texas. It will be a tense wait for the team if they are 12-1 alongside the Sooners and have to hope the selection committee goes their way, but I expect they would.
Oklahoma (+1800): For the Sooners, it is almost as straightforward as Ohio State. They need to kick the ever-loving crap out of their hated rival from Austin, hope Clemson or Georgia loses, and then hope Northwestern tests Ohio State. Their offense would certainly get a lot of attention from the selection committee, but the defense is so laughably awful that they are in a bad shape in a fair fight.
Central Florida: Let's be clear - UCF isn't making the playoff. Amazing story, but not enough of one to break through. The clearest proof is that Bovada didn't even bother to post title odds for them this week. They aren't even viewed as big long shots in the eyes of the oddsmakers. The team took a massive hit when QB McKenzie Milton went down with one of those injuries that leaves lasting scars on the eyes of people who saw it - a leg just isn't meant to bend in that direction. With Milton, they would have been very strong favorites to beat Memphis in the AAC title game to close out their second straight unbeaten season. But with Milton out they are favored by just a field goal, and a loss would be far from shocking. They have played a very weak schedule and would need about nine miracles - massive, historic losses by Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State, and a win over Memphis by five or six touchdowns for a start - to even begin to have a chance. And then they would get truly and stunningly humiliated by Alabama in the playoff anyway.
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