Wilson: Early Betting Thoughts & Picks on the 2019 College Football Playoff

Wilson: Early Betting Thoughts & Picks on the 2019 College Football Playoff article feature image
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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence

The 2019-2020 College Football Playoff has been set.

While Oklahoma has never won a playoff game, the Kyler Murray-led Sooners were the first underdog in playoff history to cover the spread without winning straight up.

The argument around the top overall seed has been settled with LSU moving ahead of Ohio State. In the history of the College Football Playoff, a No. 1 seed has never won the national championship.

With the Fiesta and Peach Bowl set on Dec. 28, it’s never too early to break down these massive games from a betting perspective and project our own lines and totals.

Here are our power ratings after conference championship weekend, and a breakdown of how I’m looking to bet both College Football Playoff semifinals below.

Ohio State vs. Clemson

  • Line: Clemson -2
  • Our Line: Clemson -2.5
  • Total: 63
  • Our Total: 70.65
  • Date: Dec. 28
  • Location: Tempe, Ariz.

Statistics updated through Week 14

Dabo Swinney feels his team has been disrespected by everyone outside of the Clemson program.

This scenario has played out before, when the Tigers were underdogs to the Buckeyes in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, and Ohio State did not score a single point in that game.

Fast forward three years and we may be in the exact same situation. Our Action Network projections make Clemson the favorite, while SP+ heavily favors the Buckeyes in a game that is sure to draw heavy betting action on both sides. There are plenty of advanced metrics that give both sides an advantage.

Ohio State has issues protecting Justin Fields, especially when the quarterback is looking to extend plays in the pocket. Wisconsin sacked Fields five times in the Big Ten Championship Game. Clemson will bring a defensive front that ranks top 5 in sack rate.

This may be a game to take some rushing props on running back Travis Etienne or quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Ohio State ranks outside the top 75 in defensive rush explosiveness, which Clemson will look to expose. The Buckeyes have allowed 13 runs to eclipse 20-plus yards this season.

Ohio State does have a large advantage in special teams, as field goal percentage and opponent punt return yards heavily favor the Buckeyes.

Ohio State does rank No. 2 in the nation in offensive finishing drives, as this could be a sneaky Over play if the number is in the low 60’s.

Regardless of holding an Ohio State 4-1 future in my pocket, I will be looking for anything on Clemson at a pick’em or better from this point until kickoff.

Oklahoma vs. LSU

  • Line: LSU -11
  • Our Line: LSU -8
  • Total: 75
  • Our Total: 73.74
  • Date: Dec. 28
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Statistics updated through Week 14

Congrats to Oklahoma for cashing all the “Make the Playoff” props, but the real work begins for Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

The Action Network and SP+ have similar projections, giving value to any LSU number less than a touchdown and Oklahoma at +7.5 or better.

Expect Havoc to continue a major factor in the Oklahoma games. While the defense has been stellar in a top 20 rank, LSU does not play careless with the ball on offense.

LSU is top 15 in defensive havoc, which may translate to easy points against a Jalen Hurts-led offense that is middle of FBS in havoc allowed and coughed the ball up several times against Baylor.

The Oklahoma defense has been much improved, but it may not be enough against Joe Burrow and the LSU offense. The Tigers field a top 5 team in offensive success rate that has been complimented by a terrorizing rush game led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire over the past month.

LSU is top 5 in offensive finishing drives, while Oklahoma is outside the top 80 defensively in the same category.

The market should be in heavy favor of LSU after a beatdown of Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Oklahoma’s overtime win in the Big 12 Championship will further drive the market in the Tigers favor, so it’s not surprising to see LSU already at double-digits. I would have only gotten involved at LSU under a touchdown.