Mark Zerof, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Benny Snell Jr.
- Alabama's national title odds shortened once again this week, thanks to a huge win over Texas A&M.
- The other three contenders -- Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State -- didn't see much movement in the futures market.
- Further down the board, longshots Kentucky and Texas Tech are intriguing plays at huge odds.
Week 4 didn’t mean much for the favorites at the top of the futures market, but it was a rough go for a lot of teams trying to contend with them.
While Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia all won comfortably (smallest margin of victory was Georgia’s 14), contending teams such as Mississippi State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Oregon all got hit with a loss.
While some of those programs were longshots entering the season, their early season performance had raised eyebrows, and there was confidence that maybe this season could be successful. Now expectations must be lowered.
In TCU’s case, a second loss all but disqualifies the Horned Frogs from the playoff discussion (although Texas and Ohio State are two pretty high-profile losses). Their inclusion would be a first based on what we know of the College Football Playoff and the history of this process.
In terms of the CFP and the markets surrounding the winner, here are some observations about prices and changes:
Alabama Now A Favorite vs. The Field
After very tiny drops each of the last couple weeks (+170 to +140) Alabama is now -250 to win the College Football Playoff. The Tide easily dispatched Texas A&M Saturday, and although they didn’t cover, their QB Tua Tagovailoa continued to look very impressive. The Alabama defense continued to find new up-and-coming playmakers, including freshman five-star corner Patrick Surtain Jr.
Clemson and Georgia saw almost no movement in their price after convincing victories, with each now at +500 and +750, respectively. Ohio State easily won at home against Tulane in Urban Meyer’s return, and the Buckeyes dropped a little to +500, the third-lowest price in the market. It’s quite clear that these four teams have separated themselves in terms of market perception.
Of the four, the Buckeyes are by far the most likely to lose this week, as they are just a 3.5-point favorite at Penn State in prime time Saturday night.
Although this may make you consider Ohio State a “buy” right now because its price will drop after clearing a huge hurdle, the Buckeyes still have Michigan State and Michigan remaining, and I’m not sure there’s much more for their price to drop as long as Alabama keeps winning (which the Tide will for about a month, at least). Might as well just hold off on Ohio State for now.
Clemson faces undefeated Syracuse, a team that upset the Tigers last year, but Clemson remains a heavy favorite.
The Fighting Irish, Hanging Around
Notre Dame is undefeated, but because of the Irish’s lackluster performances against Ball State and Vanderbilt, people remained unconvinced. Well, with Ian Book now starting at QB, the Irish went to Wake Forest and manhandled the Demon Deacons Saturday. Despite the thrashing, Notre Dame’s odds remain almost identical in the market.
The Irish have what may be a CFP elimination game against Stanford this week, and considering how poor future ND opponents USC and Florida State have looked this season, this may be by far Notre Dame’s toughest remaining game. Stanford’s odds changed very little after the Oregon game, but I would expect the winner Saturday to get a sizable bump.
It is fascinating that as the Irish keep winning (and stay undefeated), their odds stay the same, whereas Michigan (which Notre Dame defeated in Week 1) is now down around 30-1, very close to Notre Dame’s odds, despite an absolutely brutal remaining schedule.
Michigan took all the money against Notre Dame, took all the money in the win-total market, and bettors have been extremely high on the Wolverines since the summertime. We’ll see if their confidence is rewarded despite one early season loss already.
No One Wants LSU…Still
LSU is now fifth in the AP poll and sixth in the Coaches poll. The Tigers are No. 1 in ESPN’s Strength of Record, basically meaning that they have accomplished more with their wins than any other team because of their difficult schedule. They beat Louisiana Tech on Saturday in a game that was really never very close. They host Ole Miss Saturday night, then head to Florida.
So why is their price in the futures market still almost the same as it was in Week 1, at 50-1? Why is Auburn, the team LSU just defeated, also 50-1?
Well, there’s a storm coming for the Tigers. LSU has three straight home games against Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama — the three toughest teams in the conference — in mid-October. They do host all three games however, which is significant considering their home-field advantage vs. the home-field advantage of all three of their opponents. Maybe we’re all going to be too late to acknowledge what LSU is doing this season?
Boston College Is Out, So Who Can I Talk You Into Now?
The Eagles got manhandled by a desperate Purdue team Saturday, and now their odds of making the playoff are much longer, if not impossible. So let’s go longshot-hunting again.
Two teams really far down the futures board that stand out? How about Kentucky and Texas Tech? The Wildcats are now ranked in the AP poll after beating Mississippi State as a 9.5-point underdog, and remain undefeated this season. They also have a win over Florida already, which may look better as the Gators start to gain traction under Dan Mullen the rest of the year.
Kentucky avoids Alabama, Auburn AND LSU out of the SEC West, which is incredible. Their finale against Louisville is now actually quite lopsided in terms of projections, with the Cardinals struggling mightily right now. The game against Georgia Nov. 3 could be for the division, a sentence I can’t believe I’m typing.
The Red Raiders are at a much bigger disadvantage, because they lost to Ole Miss in the opener. But since turning the offense over to Alan Bowman, Kliff Kingsbury’s team has looked incredible. Bowman played the first half against Lamar in Week 2 (a game Tech won 77-0), then has thrashed both Houston and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks. The Red Raiders host West Virginia this week in what is now an incredibly intriguing game.
What’s most appealing about Texas Tech is the Red Raiders’ price, as they are 1,000-1, the same as teams such as Florida State, Arizona, Texas A&M and USC, who have a 0% chance of making the playoff. Texas Tech has a non-zero chance. So these prices are not correct, even if the price difference is extremely subtle. If you are someone who enjoys longshots, Kentucky and Texas Tech might be for you, because no one thinks they have a chance (and they do…albeit a tiny one).