National Title Odds Analysis, Week 4: Contenders Lose, But Does it Matter?

National Title Odds Analysis, Week 4: Contenders Lose, But Does it Matter? article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alex Hornibrook and Jarrett Stidham

  • Auburn and Wisconsin both lost in Week 3, but their national title odds remained mostly unchanged.
  • That's because everything those teams needed to do to reach the College Football Playoff — run the table and win the conference — are still on the table.
  • Ken Barkley dives in to explain all the odds that have moved in the last week.

The Tide continue to roll, and their price to win the national title keeps dropping.

Alabama not only became more valuable because it completely demolished Ole Miss, but also because a few other contenders lost — Auburn and Wisconsin, specifically.

After dropping slightly to +170 last week, the Tide reopened Monday at +140 to win the College Football Playoff. Alabama’s next five games: vs. Texas A&M, vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, at Arkansas, vs. Missouri, at Tennessee.

The likelihood of Alabama being undefeated entering its Nov. 3 game at LSU is extremely high, and the likelihood of it inflicting more resounding punishment on opponents remains high as well. Much like with Tua Tagovailoa’s Heisman odds, Alabama’s title odds will go in only one direction as we head closer to the LSU game.

Here are some other notable price changes this week in the market.

The Contenders

Directly behind Alabama, there wasn’t much movement, which shouldn’t be all that surprising. Clemson, off a win over Georgia Southern, dropped slightly from +420 to +385. Georgia’s price actually went up a tiny amount to +725, and Ohio State, with one of its bigger challenges now behind it in TCU, dropped from +620 to +575. These were the three teams behind Alabama last week, and it’s remained that way.

Washington got a big road win at Utah, which it needed with one loss already. Still, Washington remains in the neighborhood of 23-1 because none of the truly contending teams had a setback.

Auburn and Wisconsin, considered by many to be playoff contenders before each lost on Saturday, actually stayed in the same neighborhood as they’ve been for a large part of the season. Auburn is +2250, and Wisconsin is +2750.

If Auburn were to run the table and beat Georgia, Alabama and likely Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game, you would certainly like the Tigers’ chances of getting back to the playoff despite this latest setback. Same with Wisconsin having to go through Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. The margin for error has now vanished, but it remains a real possibility.

Oklahoma and Notre Dame saw very minimal changes in their odds despite the Irish looking quite vulnerable against Vanderbilt. Notre Dame is 20-1 currently.

Values Remained Valuable

LSU and Stanford have had great results so far this season compared to their preseason projections. LSU has wins over Miami and at Auburn already, which no one else in the country can match.

Still, neither team is getting much credit for its on-field performances in the futures market. LSU is somehow still 45-1, only a tiny drop from its prices each of the last few weeks.

LSU’s schedule remains very difficult (which might be the reason for the lack of a price change), as the Tigers are nearing a three-game stretch where they play Georgia, Mississippi State then Alabama after a week off.

Still, you have to think LSU has a margin for error now where one loss (especially if it’s NOT against Alabama) still gives it a clear path to the playoff. The Tigers are one of the more interesting teams in general right now.

For Stanford, a lackluster win over UC Davis shouldn’t improve its odds necessarily, but its biggest test comes Saturday night in Eugene, and a win in prime time would finally draw attention to the Cardinal’s chances.

Stanford remains around 62-1 to win the CFP, a slight increase from the 57-1 it was last week.

I feel like I’ve written too much about Boston College, but the Eagles are now 250-1 after being 750-1 last week. They continue to benefit from the poor play of future opponents, as both Louisville and Florida State look like they’ll each struggle to become bowl eligible this year.

The likelihood of Boston College being undefeated heading into the Miami game on Oct. 26 remains high, and I think this remains a dark horse to watch.

Another team to start paying attention to? How about Cal?

The Bears were 2,000-1 before the season (which I mentioned in a couple places as being moderately intriguing) and still 500-1 this week.

How much better does their Week 2 win at BYU look considering what the Cougars did to Arizona and Wisconsin? Cal faces its three toughest division opponents (Oregon, Washington, Stanford) at home. Cal gets a bye this week to prepare for Oregon, while the Ducks have to wrangle with Stanford Saturday night, so a letdown next week may be possible.

Road trips to Arizona and USC are now not nearly as intimidating as they once were. Maybe things are lining up for the Bears to be relevant deep into the season, as well.

Beware of the Dead Money Bets

I talked about this with the Heisman last week, but there are bets on the board that have a 0% chance of winning and are essentially land mines that need to be avoided at all costs.

Just because a sportsbook isn’t devaluing a team with two losses, you need to be devaluing them, basically all the way to a 0% chance of making the CFP.

We haven’t see a two-loss team make the playoff yet, and although there are scenarios where it could happen, the losses would most likely have to be both close and explainable to a committee — such as Auburn last year (lost at Clemson and at LSU before losing to Georgia in the SEC title game).

Still, a team such as Florida State is just 200-1 (with better odds than about 50 teams that can still reasonably make the playoff). And even if the Noles turned their season around miraculously, you are lighting money on fire by placing a wager like that.

The money would be better off being ingested for sustenance.

Same with a team such as Boise State at 125-1, which probably had no chance anyway, but now REALLY has no chance. Central Florida at 100-1 is another. The sport is not designed for the Knights to make it.

Arizona, Nebraska, Iowa State and others are still listed. Don’t even think about it, no matter how contrarian you are in spirit.

This may seem obvious to many of us, but sometimes the allure and reputation of the “professional oddsmaker” can trick us into thinking they know things that we don’t, and if they’re giving credibility to these now-ineligible teams, maybe that “means” something.

It’s all nonsense. Put your money on something that actually has a legitimate chance of winning.