The degree of difficulty of a national championship contender’s path to the College Football Playoff matters as much as its potential when playing the futures game.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are the -140 favorite on the college football championship odds with the Georgia Bulldogs drawing in as a +400 second favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The two SEC heavyweights each have the Auburn Tigers on their remaining schedules, but given the reputation of the SEC, there’s a chance both could get into the Playoff if they win their divisions.
The last three national champions have all ranked in the top 15 in the country in total defense, where Alabama ranks second and Georgia ranks fourth. Georgia has played a slightly more difficult schedule, and to have an undefeated top-ranked team still offering 4-to-1 value is rare this late in the game. Georgia’s price will come down if it clears its next hurdle against the Auburn Tigers, but a victory won’t nuke its value.
Beyond that big two, the defending national champion Clemson Tigers (+700), Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+700), Oklahoma Sooners (+1400), Miami Hurricanes (+1600), Wisconsin Badgers (+1600) and Washington Huskies (+2500) populate the top of the board. The TCU Horned Frogs (+4000) and the two-loss Auburn Tigers (+4000) are darkhorses.
The value with Wisconsin, the Big Ten’s only CFP aspirant, will be worth jumping on should they show they can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball during their upcoming game against Michigan. A loss or uninspiring win against Michigan might lead to the experts writing off Wisconsin as a product of a soft schedule.
Clemson likely has the easiest path to the CFP, but a huge drop-off in the passing phase – from third nationally last season to 69th presently – might limit their ability to win in the postseason.
Notre Dame rates consideration since it has survived and thrived against a difficult schedule. The Fighting Irish only have their next opponent, Miami, standing between them and a one-loss regular season. And, of course, Notre Dame is never going to be left out because of the size of its fanbase, because it’s Notre Dame.
There is double jeopardy involved with backing Oklahoma or TCU, who play head-to-head on Saturday. Each team already has one loss. Due to the division-less Big 12 having a conference championship game, the winner of Saturday’s game might have to win a rematch in early December to stay in CFP consideration.
However, that prospect will protect the value of this weekend’s winner. Oklahoma, with Baker Mayfield leading the nation’s No. 1 offense, and TCU with its defense and special teams are also good enough to play with anyone just on its strength on one side of the ball. The Big 12 has been left out of the CFP in two of the past three seasons, which might give a one-loss champion the political edge to get in the door.
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