College Football Playoffs Odds: And Then There Were 8
The top five of the College Football Playoff Rankings were challenged on Saturday, and in ways, no one expected, including the point spreads. While teams one through four in the CFP rankings survived, No. 5 Tennessee went down at South Carolina (63-38!).
Also eliminated from National Title contention was long-shot No. 11 North Carolina (lost 21-17 to Georgia Tech) and longer-shot No. 10 Utah (lost 20-17 at Oregon). The sportsbooks also seem to have realized that a two-loss non-conference champ isn’t making it. Sorry, Alabama.
There has been a separation between the top two teams and the rest of the contenders in the odds listed by FanDuel Sportsbook.
The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs weren’t especially impressive in their win over Kentucky (16-6), but they haven’t been challenged since October 1 at Missouri, so they were due a clunker. The Dawgs are virtually in the playoffs, and their odds reflect as much as they moved from -125 to -140.
We’re not going to debate that they should be the odds on favorite, but those odds feel a little strong to me. I’ll leave it at that.
At No. 2, the Ohio State Buckeyes saw their odds hold at +250 for the third-straight week. Their path to a CFP berth does seem more likely after Tennessee’s defeat. Would it surprise anyone if the Buckeyes still make it even if they lose to Michigan in The Game this Saturday?
OSU’s chances improved more than UGA’s following Week 12 action, but the books didn’t call for my opinion.
The Likely Contenders
Maybe the biggest surprise is that the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines saw their odds move from +700 to +1200. Did the Wolverines look like a national champ in their 19-17 win over Illinois? Absolutely not. But as we stated at the top, none of the teams in the top five played elite football in Week 12.
Michigan is the only one to get knocked for it. Yes, star runner Blake Corum was injured, but there’s no structural damage to his knee, and he hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday’s game in Columbus. Like OSU, Michigan’s chances of advancing to the CFP with an L were increased.
The team that made the most significant shift among the undefeated was the No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs, who, like Michigan, survived a scare with a last-second field goal to remain unblemished. Their move from +3000 (+8000 two weeks ago) to +1400 makes perfect sense.
Despite playing a four-loss Baylor, TCU was a 2.5-point favorite, so the books were doubtful they would escape Week 12 unscathed. They control their destiny, and with 4-7 Iowa State this Saturday, they’re a win in the Big 12 Championship Game from punching their ticket.
We don’t expect a change in the top four of the CFP Rankings when they’re released Tuesday night, and they should remain consistent with the odds order at FanDuel.
Who has benefited the most from Tennessee’s loss? Ironically, South Carolina’s in-state rival, the Clemson Tigers, whose odds took a significant leap from +6000 to +2000. They probably still need help, but the Vols were the unlikeliest domino to fall in Clemson’s favor.
Not everything went their way, as a potential win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game would have been more valuable if the Tar Heels were ranked in the top ten at 11-1 and a playoff contender rather than the team that lost to Georgia Tech just two weeks prior.
The Tigers are fifth in terms of their odds, but I don’t see them moving up higher than seventh in the CFP Rankings. If not Clemson, then who?
The USC Trojans leaped over LSU in the AP Poll and could do the same in the CFP Rankings. The Men of Troy picked up a massive win over rival UCLA, and their odds have improved from +5000 to +2500, just behind the Tigers. USC will likely break the Pac-12’s slump if they win out.
Their path still comes with road bumps as the Trojans have to beat surging Notre Dame, followed by Oregon (likely), Utah, or Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It’s a double-edged sword because it gives USC two more data points to add to its resume.
The Potential Upstart
With two losses and a date with No. 1 Georgia in two weeks, LSU’s odds are trending in the right direction but are the second longest among the eight programs listed on FanDuel. After going from +4000 to +6000, the Bayou Bengals have bounced back to +4000 heading into Week 13.
Let’s assume for a second the Tigers control their destiny. Can they beat Georgia? The current point spread of 16.5 doesn’t give them much of a chance. They shocked the world by beating Alabama. Can they do it again?
The Longest of Longshots
Oregon took a step closer to the Pac-12 Championship Game with their win over Utah. Does that make them national title contenders? I don’t see how they can pass the top three programs as a two-loss team, but can they hurdle the other four teams ahead of them?
Had Tennessee not suffered their second defeat on Saturday, the Ducks would probably be cooked, but now there’s a sliver of hope, which is why their odds catapulted from +25000 to +8000.
If Oregon wins out, that takes care of USC. A third LSU loss knocks them out, while a UNC win over Clemson is plausible. That leaves TCU. The Horned Frogs can’t afford two losses, but what if they lose once? Without a conference title as a pelt?
Who knows…crazier things have happened.