College Football Playoff Futures Odds & Predictions for Week 11: Bet Tennessee Before CFP Rankings Reveal?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: The College Football Playoff trophy.
The clock struck midnight for Cinderella, as this weekend saw both Tennessee and Alabama take a step back from the national title picture in their SEC semifinal games.
Georgia’s domination of the Volunteers will all but guarantee the Bulldogs take the top spot in the rankings. Two-loss LSU is in the driver's seat to be the first-ever multi-loss team to make the playoff — a realistic scenario if the Tigers win the SEC.
This week's rankings will go a long way in determining if a two-loss SEC will hop a one-loss champion from the Pac-12 or Big 12.
Ohio State picked up a lackluster victory in bad weather at Northwestern but remains one of the few undefeated teams in college football. Another undefeated team to move on is Michigan, even with the Wolverines struggling to break away from Rutgers on the road.
The committee is sure to have both in the top four, as the Big Ten and SEC could take over the Peach and Fiesta Bowl semifinals — a fitting scenario as both conferences expand through Oklahoma, Texas and California.
As we get into our “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff,” we wave goodbye to Alabama and Illinois.
The Fighting Illini had a minimal chance to disrupt the playoff but now have no path after a loss to Michigan State.
While Illinois is ousted from the National Championship picture, Alabama is on complete life support. The Crimson Tide must win out and hope LSU loses to both Arkansas and Texas A&M on the road. Those chances are minimal and certainly do not reflect the current national title odds of 35-1 from DraftKings.
The “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff” serve as a roadmap to the national semifinal, detecting value in futures before the committee releases its rankings.
The goal of this column is to find the best betting value before each Tuesday checkpoint when the committee updates its rankings. With a Michigan 16-1 in hand from last week, we dive into the commandments looking for value before this week's rankings are released.
The “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff” now must be reviewed.
CFP Commandment No. 1
“An undefeated Power Five conference champion is automatically in.”
Note: We have never had five undefeated Power Five champions, and that will continue with Oregon’s loss to Georgia and Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame. TCU, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State serve as the last undefeateds in their respective conferences.
CFP Commandment No. 2
“A one-loss Power Five conference champion is automatically in… barring a Purdue-esque event.”
Note: Ohio State was left out of the 2018 College Football Playoff as a one-loss Big Ten champion. Alabama was selected as an at-large after taking its first loss in the SEC Championship game, while the Buckeyes couldn’t recover from a 49-20 defeat at the hands of a 6-6 Purdue team.
Alabama, USC, UCLA, Ole Miss and Illinois currently meet this criterion. None of these teams have suffered an embarrassing loss. Oregon’s blowout loss to Georgia will be forgiven if the Dawgs win the SEC.
Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame may be a Purdue-esque event, while North Carolina’s loss to Notre Dame certainly will be in the minds of the committee.
CFP Commandment No. 3
“A two-loss Power Five conference champion cannot jump a one-loss team into the playoff.”
Note: This precedent was set when Ohio State missed the CFP in 2017 as the Big Ten champion with losses to Oklahoma and Iowa. There are no current two-loss teams with favorable odds to win a Power Five conference, as LSU projects as a 15-point underdog to Georgia.
CFP Commandment No. 4
“A two-loss Power Five team trumps an undefeated Group of Five team with the right strength of record and head-to-head victories.”
Note: UCF finished 2018 undefeated but was passed by two-loss Michigan and Georgia. Cincinnati continued to fall in the 2020 rankings, as three-loss Florida and two-loss Oklahoma passed the Bearcats.
In 2021, Cincinnati made the College Football Playoff because of a head-to-head victory over No. 5 Notre Dame, while No. 6 Ohio State was not selected as a two-loss team after a head-to-head loss against No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Oregon.
Tulane’s loss to Southern Miss would keep the Green Wave from the playoff.
Bracket 1: SEC Championship
Contenders: Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU
Georgia mauled Tennessee at home, forcing the Volunteers to need an at-large bid to make the playoff.
The Bulldogs are projected as a minimum two-touchdown favorite in every game on their remaining schedule. This gives Georgia odds of -145 to sweep the rest of SEC slate and enter the playoff as an undefeated team.
With Ohio State and Michigan projected to make the playoff, Georgia’s true odds are +225 to win the national title, leaving no value on the +100 odds currently on the board at DraftKings.
There's no value in an SEC West contender either, as both Ole Miss and LSU project as 15.5-point underdogs to Georgia.
Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin will have the toughest path with Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State remaining in division play. The Rebels and Tigers must win out to make the playoff, giving true odds much greater than 80-1 and 40-1, respectively.
The SEC Championship will send a team to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl, but as of Week 11, no value exists on any of the contenders.
Bracket 2: Big Ten East
Contenders: Ohio State, Michigan
The Buckeyes project as a touchdown favorite when they host Michigan on Nov. 26.
Considering the winner of the West Division will be more than a three-score underdog in the Big Ten Championship game, the matchup at the Horseshoe essentially serves as a host site for a CFP quarterfinal game.
The true odds for Ohio State to win out as a slight underdog to Georgia in the playoff come to +445, leaving no value to the current 2-1 for the Buckeyes.
We played Michigan 16-1 last week in this column with every expectation of a small hedge against the Buckeyes. Michigan’s odds reside at 9-1 after dominating Rutgers in the second half.
The projections for Michigan have not changed in the past week, with true odds of +440 to make the playoff. Projected as an 8-point underdog to Georgia, the Wolverines still own a projection of 16-1 to win the national title.
A rolling parlay card would have better value than snagging a Michigan number this week.
Bracket 3: Big 12 Champion
Think of the Horned Frogs as a gate to all hell breaking loose in the playoff picture. An undefeated TCU easily makes the playoff, with an expected push into the top six this week.
While Tennessee ranking higher than TCU would be a hot topic for debate in Week 11, the Horned Frogs would be a top-four team if head coach Sonny Dykes and Co. escape Austin undefeated.
If TCU is to lose this weekend or in a coin-flip game against Baylor in Week 12, more than a half-dozen teams will be contenders to take a playoff spot.
The path will not be easy for the Frogs, as the undefeated team is already a touchdown underdog in the early market against Texas. A moneyline projection for the remaining schedule along with the conference championship is 14-1.
TCU is nowhere near Ohio State and Georgia in terms of power rating, increasing its true national title odds to 130-1 in the scenario that the Buckeyes and Bulldogs are indeed the playoff hurdles.
There's no value in a TCU number at the 35-1 number currently on the market. But if they win out, the Frogs will snag a playoff spot.
Bracket 4: Pac-12, ACC and At-Large
Contenders: Oregon, UCLA, USC, Utah, Clemson, North Carolina, Tennesse
There are a number of possible scenarios for conference champions not mentioned and the at-large status of one-loss teams expecting to hover around the top four of the rankings.
Our “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff” must be followed in determining betting value on the following teams:
Oregon Wins Pac-12
The committee will forgive the Ducks' single loss if Georgia continues to win. Oregon’s strength of record would get a boost, and it may zoom up to take the last playoff spot.
Oregon will be short favorites when Utah visits in Week 12, while the matchup against Oregon State in Corvallis will set the stage for the Ducks as 7-point favorites in the in-state rivalry.
The Ducks are +240 to sweep the remaining schedule and are set to enter as a field-goal favorite over USC, Utah and UCLA.
The number increases to 75-1 to win the national title, as they’d enter as potential two-touchdown underdogs to Ohio State and Georgia in the semifinal.
The Ducks’ number will be revisited before the showdown with Utah on Nov. 19.
UCLA Wins Pac-12
For UCLA's sake, hopefully the Bruins aren't in look-ahead mode before a titanic battle against USC in Week 12. A victory over USC would lock up a trip to the conference championship with a tiebreaker already in the bag over Utah.
The Bruins’ odds of winning out and beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game sit at +440.
Potential 17-point underdog spots against Ohio State and Georgia put Chip Kelly’s odds to win a national title at 180-1. There's no value in the current 100-1.
USC Wins Pac-12
Plenty must happen for the Trojans to make the playoff, as Utah holds the tiebreaker over the Trojans.
USC must defeat UCLA and Oregon must beat Utah in Week 12 just for the Trojans to make the conference title game. The playoff, meanwhile, is much more complicated.
Lincoln Riley's team must survive a season finale against a Notre Dame team that just beat Clemson and then secure a victory over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.
Then, the Trojans would be a projected 17-point underdog against Georgia or Ohio State. The moneyline on two consecutive victories in the playoff far outweigh the current national title odds of 50-1.
Following the current commandments, Clemson or North Carolina deserve consideration as one-loss conference champions. Both the Tar Heels and Tigers lost to Notre Dame, each needing the Irish to sweep a remaining schedule that includes USC.
The path is not easy for North Carolina as a small favorite over NC State and an underdog spot at Wake Forest. The Tar Heels are projected 8-point underdogs to Clemson in the championship game.
Furthermore, head coach Mack Brown would be a three-touchdown underdog to Georgia or Ohio State. The path exists for North Carolina, but the odds at 80-1 are a hard pass.
The Tigers are a heavy favorite to sweep a remaining schedule of Louisville, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. Clemson is +160 to win its remaining games when it includes North Carolina for the conference title.
Using the Action Network moneyline converter, Dabo Swinney's team projects the Tigers at +380 against either Ohio State and Georgia. That moves Clemson's true odds projection for the national title to 60-1.
If the Tigers were to face any teams other than Ohio State and Georgia in the playoff, there's betting value in the current 40-1.
Tennessee Secures At-Large Bid
An at-large has made the College Football Playoff numerous times. Last season, the SEC Championship game produced two playoff teams despite Georgia's loss in the conference championship.
While Tennessee is not going to make the SEC Championship game, the remaining schedule is a cakewalk of Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Both strength of schedule and strength of record put the Volunteers at second in the nation.
A bevy of scenarios must happen for Tennessee to be considered in the eyes of the committee.
First, TCU must lose to Texas or Baylor. Considering the Frogs will not be favored in either of those games, the Volunteers will move up from this week's placement.
Second, the Pac-12 must cannibalize itself as it has in previous seasons. More importantly, Oregon needs to lose a second game. A case can be made that the Volunteers' resume trumps a one-loss conference champion from the Pac-12 or Big 12, but the committee has been hesitant to leave out one-loss champions without an embarrassing loss.
If Tennessee were to make the playoff, a worst-case scenario look would make the Vols touchdown underdogs to Georgia and Ohio State. A parlay of those moneylines gives Tennessee true odds of +980 to win the National Championship, making the Volunteers the biggest value on the board to win the National Championship at 16-1.
A few helpful losses in the Big 12 and Pac-12 are all that's keeping Josh Heupel and Tennessee from their first-ever playoff appearance.