The Alabama Crimson Tide were on the wrong side of history this time, as they lost a 35-31 classic to the Clemson Tigers in the national championship game. Even though days are somber in Tuscaloosa at the moment, the Tide opened as early favorites to win the next season’s national championship game.
Nick Saban will have plenty of work to do as key contributors on both sides of the ball, including most of the defensive front seven, but he has proven time and time again that it doesn’t really matter. It likely has to do with the entire roster, top to bottom, being stacked with former five-star high school recruits. Though Jalen Hurts struggled in the playoffs, you need to remember he is still just 18 years old. With a full year of experience and time to truly learn under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Hurts could grow by leaps and bounds as a passer.
Alabama will have a tough task to open the season, taking on the Florida State Seminoles in the first game of the year. FSU has the second-best odds to win the national championship behind Bama. Deondre Francois excelled under center for FSU, as he threw for 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Francois won’t have Dalvin Cook to lean on, but Jacques Patrick looked good in his limited reps.
Ohio State is going to be back and, potentially, better than ever, returning nine starters on offense and eight on defense. J.T. Barrett will be back to lead the offense after a stellar season that saw him regain the form from his freshman season. The receiving unit will be the biggest question mark, as the team will lose leading receiver Curtis Samuel with few options to replace him.
One team getting overlooked is Penn State. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten this past season and are returning the bulk of an offense that averaged 37.6 points per game. Replacing leading receiver Chris Godwin won’t be easy, but quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley are returning to form a dynamic nucleus. The defense will be losing several key producers and the road trips to Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State are worrisome, but Penn State’s offense has the ability to win any game.
Odds as of February 6 at Bovada
It’s the game that college football fans have been hoping for all season long, as the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Clemson Tigers for the national championship for the second year in a row. Last season’s game was a thriller that saw Alabama hold off a late charge by Clemson to win its third title in five years.
With the Crimson Tide entering the championship game undefeated, and largely unchallenged, they have been tabbed as favorites according to books. As of this writing, Alabama is a 6-point favorite on the spread and -210 on the moneyline per Bovada. The underdog Clemson squad is currently listed at +175 for the biggest revenge game in the program’s history.
Alabama’s mixture of explosive offense and stifling defense has led to the Tide posting an average scoring margin of plus-27.9 points. They have won all but one game this season by at least 10 points and have won by 20 or more on eight occasions.
Clemson has only closed as an underdog twice this season, at +1 and +1.5 respectively, and ended up winning both games SU.
|Alabama||-6 (-120)||-210||OVER 52 (-110)|
|Clemson||+6 (EVEN)||+175||UNDER 52 (-110)|
Odds as of January 9 at Bovada
And then there were four left.
The College Football Playoff will feature Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. And, just as they were for the entire season, the Crimson Tide are the favorites to be the last team standing.
Alabama opened at -250 once the final four teams were announced, which is the biggest chalk any team has faced all season in the futures market. The Tide have been at EVEN or minus money since November 14 after destroying Mississippi State 51-3. The last time they didn’t hold the top position by themselves came on June 23 when they were tied with Ohio State.
On the other side of the Peach Bowl sit the Huskies, who opened as large +1200 dogs to win the national title. Everybody knows that Washington has a great offense, but the defense has quietly been one of the best in the nation as well. Washington opened the season behind 16 teams on the oddsboards at +5000.
Ohio State and Clemson are basically looking at the same line to win the championship, with the Buckeyes coming in at +450 and the Tigers at +550. If you do have a strong opinion on that contest, now would be the time to get in on it because those lines will obviously take a plunge once they are part of the final two. +450 is actually the biggest line Ohio State has seen in the futures market since November 1.
Odds as of December 27 at Bovada
With just one week of action ahead of Selection Sunday, it seems that three of the four college playoff spots have been settled. Although it is not official, Alabama (-150), Ohio State (+260) and Clemson (+600) have seemingly booked their way to the final four. Though anything can happen, it appears that the remainder of the field is competing for just one open spot, but who has the best chance of sneaking into the playoffs?
Washington (+1000) may have the inside track if the Huskies win the Pac-12 championship against Colorado. They would end the regular season with one loss, against a ranked USC team, and would be conference champions. That Pac-12 title could play a big factor, as we already assume that Ohio State is in despite not playing for the Big Ten title. It will be almost impossible for the selection committee to place two teams in the top four that don’t win their respective conferences.
The one team that may be able to buck that idea is Michigan (+2800). Sure, the Wolverines lost two of their final three regular season games, but a double-overtime loss to the Buckeyes should not dampen the committee’s view on Michigan. Jim Harbaugh and company have wins over Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin, all teams that will close the regular season ranked. However, all those games came in the first half of the season. Michigan has only beaten one team that entered the game with a winning record since October 1, and that was a slumping Maryland team.
You may also want to keep a close eye on Penn State (+5000). The Nittany Lions have not gotten much press this season but enter the Big Ten title game riding an eight-game winning streak, which includes a victory over Ohio State. If Penn State beats Wisconsin in the conference title game, the committee will have its work cut out for it. Penn State will have won the Big Ten and will have a victory over the Buckeyes, which could greatly damage hopes in Columbus.
One final thought to remember: in the two years of the college playoff format, there have never been two teams from one conference in the final four. If that trend holds true and the three teams most assume are in the playoffs are correct, it may be worth getting in on a Big 12 or Pac-12 team.
Odds as of November 28 at Bovada
Let’s face it: Alabama and Clemson are basically already penciled into the College Football Playoff. The Tide have booked their trip to the SEC championship game and Florida is going to be hard pressed to beat them, while Clemson holds the tiebreaker against Louisville and isn’t likely to lose the ACC title game.
Then you are almost assured to see either Ohio State or Michigan in one of the spots, as the winner of their game Saturday is likely winning the Big Ten.
Given the above scenarios, that leaves one spot realistically up for grabs for several other teams to fight over. So here are a few teams that could sneak into the fourth spot in the playoffs and maybe shock some people.
When Oklahoma opened the season going 1-2, most thought the Sooners’ season was over. However, they have gone 8-0 in conference play while averaging 49 points and 577.9 yards of offense per game. If they can win the de facto Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma State, OU is 10-2 with a perfect 9-0 conference record, with the two losses coming early in the season against quality competition.
Oklahoma would need some help, as Washington and Wisconsin losing would go a long way for the Sooners. Then you would have the loser of Michigan-Ohio State, Washington and Oklahoma all at two losses. It’s not crazy to think that Oklahoma could get the nod in that group for the fourth spot.
Wisconsin has a tough regular season finale against Minnesota, but the Badgers should be able to pick up that win. A victory there and Wisconsin is into the Big Ten championship game against either Michigan or Ohio State. Though Wiscy lost to both the Wolverines and Buckeyes earlier in the season, a win in the conference title game would trump those losses.
Wisconsin would then have victories over LSU, Nebraska and Ohio State-Michigan. This would be worst-case scenario for the selection committee, as Wisconsin would garner far fewer ratings and revenue than Michigan or Ohio State.
The Pac-12 routinely gets snubbed on the national stage, but if Colorado wins out, it will be hard to ignore the Buffaloes. If they win the Pac-12, then they will have beaten a ranked team in each of their three final games. That would also mean that Colorado’s two losses on the season would have been on the road against Michigan and USC, which are both easy enough losses to justify.
Colorado would need a hand or two, likely requiring previously mentioned Oklahoma and Wisconsin to lose their remaining games. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt the Buffaloes’ chances if a team like Clemson dropped its regular season finale or ACC championship game.
Odds as of November 21 at Bovada
This past weekend of college football action basically negated most of the conversations we had before it. Three of the top four ranked teams lost, five of the top 10 lost overall and seven ranked teams lost to unranked opponents.
Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt kicked a field goal with six seconds left to hand Clemson its first loss of the season. The Tigers then saw their odds fall from +750 to +1000. It was Clemson’s first loss to an unranked opponent since 2011. The Clemson running game was a dumpster fire, managing just 50 yards on 25 carries – though the Tigers did find the end zone three times on the ground.
Iowa freshman Keith Duncan kicked a last-second field goal to down Michigan, handing the Wolverines their third straight loss in Iowa City. Michigan’s offense struggled, accumulating just 201 yards and averaging less than four yards per play. The Wolverines watched their odds shift from +500 to +1000 after that loss, with a date with Ohio State looming large.
The Washington Huskies dropped their first game of the season, as they could not contain USC quarterback Sam Darnold. The freshman signal-caller continually frustrated the Huskies with his ability to extend plays. On the other side of the ball, Washington’s offense scored its fewest points since the Huskies’ season opener last season. With the Huskies playing in the maligned Pac-12, a single loss could ruin their playoff hopes, as their odds dropped from +900 to +3300.
The one constant in college football was Alabama. The undefeated powerhouse remained perfect by steamrolling Mississippi State 51-3. The Crimson Tide received every first-place vote in the AP rankings this week and are now at EVEN money to win the national championship.
Guess it’s time for us all to start arguing what’s a good loss.
Odds as of November 14 at Bovada
Despite sitting outside the top four in the playoff rankings, the AP poll and the coaches poll, Ohio State has the second-best odds to win the college football national championship this season. No matter which way you slice it, the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes rest on their regular season finale against Michigan.
Ohio State has two games to play before that contest, with matchups against the 5-4 Maryland Terrapins and the 2-7 Michigan State Spartans. Not to say that Ohio State will 100 percent win those games, but we can reasonably assume they pick up wins in those contests.
Michigan is in a similar situation to Ohio State, with the Wolverines facing the 5-4 Iowa Hawkeyes and Indiana Hoosiers before the climactic showdown.
That last game then likely means that it will be a one-loss Ohio State team taking on an undefeated Michigan team with the winner taking the Big Ten East division. With both of those teams better than any team in the West, the Buckeyes vs Wolverines matchup is the de facto Big Ten championship.
And with Ohio State coming in at +475 favorites to win the national championship and Michigan at +500, books are slightly favoring the Buckeyes in this massive matchup.
Odds as of November 9 at Bovada
Apparently, it was Les Miles who was weighing down LSU, as the team has been otherworldly since kicking its former coach to the curb. The Tigers have outscored opponents 125-38 in the past three games with interim coach Ed Orgeron at the helm.
And maybe I’m crazy, but that got me wondering; can LSU make the college football playoffs?
First, we look at LSU’s remaining schedule and – to be quite frank – it’s brutal. The rest of the season features games against Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M. LSU already has two losses, so even one L in those outings means they are not making the playoffs. However, if the Tigers won those games, they would be red-hot with one of the best resumes in the country.
Second, Leonard Fournette needs to continue to be one of the best players in the country. If Fournette can continue to chew up defenses, then they will alleviate the pressure on quarterback Danny Etling, who has himself looked much better under Orgeron. The issue will be the opposing defenses, as Alabama has the best rush defense in the country while Florida is fifth.
Finally, we look at the teams ahead of LSU. Wins over ’Bama and A&M would ensure that LSU would be ahead of them in the rankings. Michigan and Ohio State meet in their regular season finales and could cause the elimination of one team from playoff contention. Baylor and Oklahoma play before the season is out, which will eliminate one of those clubs from postseason consideration. Suddenly, the playoff field starts to look like the only locks could be Clemson and Washington at that point.
Is it possible that LSU makes the college football playoffs? Yes.
What needs to happen? LSU needs to play perfect football and they need some teams ahead of them in the rankings to falter.
I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I was an LSU fan, but don’t think it’s impossible.
Odds as of November 1 at Bovada