College Football Playoff Futures Odds & Predictions for Week 10: How to Bet Before Tuesday’s CFP Rankings Reveal
Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: The Michigan Wolverines.
Happy College Football Playoff rankings day!
If bowl season is Christmas for a college football consumer, then the kickoff of #MACtion, combined with our first set of national champion debates, is the Fourth of July.
Every year, the committee meets face-to-face to hash out all of the available statistics in determining which four teams will make the semifinals.
These rankings are fluid with a host of programs reaching the top four but never making a playoff. Mississippi State and Penn State are some of the teams to have an initial ranking in the top four but never compete for the national title.
Every Power Five conference will be represented in the top 10 when the rankings are unveiled. Oregon, USC and UCLA serve as the threats from the Pac 12, while Clemson enters a tough stretch of its schedule to represent the ACC.
The rankings will be heavily dominated by the SEC, as four teams have only a single loss or better. The Group of Five reached a milestone in getting Cincinnati to the playoff last season, but no current team is expected to challenge this season.
As we get into our “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff,” we wave goodbye to Oklahoma State, Penn State, Wake Forest and Syracuse. Those teams suffered their second loss of the season in Week 9, falling into territory the selection committee will not acknowledge.
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. Last season’s projection cashed a plus-money future on Georgia with a complementary 60-1 ticket on semifinal participant Michigan.
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. Clemson and TCU serve as the last of the 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 criteria. None of these teams have suffered an embarrassing loss. Oregon’s blowout loss to Georgia will be forgiven if the Dawgs win the SEC.
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.
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.
Bracket 1: SEC Championship
Contenders: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU
Week 10 serves as a clean shave for the SEC with four of its five contenders meeting head-to-head. The winner of Georgia vs. Tennessee and Alabama vs. LSU will have the strongest cases in making the national quarterfinal — the SEC Championship Game.
Figuring out the labyrinth of Week 10 and projecting a winner for the conference title could lead to value in the market.
Starting with Ole Miss at 100-1, plenty needs to happen for Lane Kiffin to get the Rebels into the playoff.
Currently on a bye week, the Rebels have three remaining games. Ole Miss is projected as 9-point underdogs when Alabama comes to town on Nov. 12. A coin-flip with Arkansas in Week 12 precedes the Egg Bowl, where Mississippi State is projected to be a 7-point underdog.
A hypothetical matchup with Georgia projects the Rebels at +15, leaving a 13% chance of winning that single game.
The odds of reaching the College Football Playoff for Ole Miss sit at 55-1. In hypothetical touchdown underdog spots in the national semifinal, that number grows to 600-1. There’s no current value on Ole Miss, but any “To Make the Playoff” prop better than 55-1 has value.
The hot topic in the SEC is Tennessee, currently at a consensus 8-1 to win the conference.
Tennessee’s path to winning the SEC includes Georgia and three double-digit favorite spots against remaining SEC East. The odds of sweeping the remaining schedule are 4-1, with a conference championship against Alabama moving the number to +850.
An undefeated Tennessee would be power-rated over every team in the playoff with the exception of Ohio State, moving the true odds for the Volunteers to 30-1.
Tennessee’s national title number of 8-1 has no market value, but any playoff attendance props at 8-1 or better have value.
Neither Georgia or Alabama have value considering each are on track to meet each other in the conference title game.
The team with value in the market is LSU, but the Tigers need something along the lines of divine intervention to reach the playoff. The Tigers have lost to Florida State and Tennessee and own 20-1 odds to sweep the remainder of the schedule against Alabama, Arkansas, UAB and Texas A&M.
That would send Brian Kelly to his first SEC Championship game, which would increase LSU’s odds of winning the SEC at 63-1.
Current national championship odds place LSU at 250-1. While the path is there, everything would have to break right for the Tigers.
Bracket 2: Big Ten East
Contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois
There has never been a world where Illinois has been involved in discussions for the College Football Playoff.
Bret Bielema has a single loss to Indiana on the road, but a win over Michigan in Week 12 would boost a poor strength of record. Furthermore, the Illini would root for Ohio State to make the Big Ten Championship to further boost a scheduling aspect that would be debated by the committee.
The current odds to beat Michigan and Ohio State on a neutral field fall at 42-1, giving value to any odds posted at a better number to win the Big Ten.
Projections that make Illinois a 2-1 underdog in the semifinal and national title game would give the Illini true odds of 380-1 to win the whole thing. While a 200-1 would need mass chaos to cash, there’s reason to revisit the odds before Illinois meets Michigan in two weeks.
Ohio State poses little to no value at 2-1 to win the national title, but Michigan is a different story at 16-1 odds.
Jim Harbaugh will be a heavy favorite in games leading up to the Ohio State matchup, where the Wolverines are expected to field a moneyline of +275 or better. Michigan’s chances of winning the Big Ten are +410, and it would be a projected two-touchdown favorite over a representative from the West in the Big Ten title game.
Michigan’s true odds of making the playoff are +440, with a number of underdog scenarios to follow in the semifinal. A game against Georgia would move Michigan’s number to 16-1, but there’s an expectation that the Wolverines’ power rating would inch closer with victories over Illinois and Ohio State.
Michigan at 16-1 is the play for the week, with a hedge spot against Ohio State and in a potential playoff game against the Bulldogs. If the Wolverines meet any team that’s not Georgia in the Fiesta or Peach Bowl, there’s plenty of value in the current number.
Bracket 3: ACC Champion
Contenders: Clemson, North Carolina
The header says “ACC Champion,” but in actuality, this is Clemson’s conference to lose.
North Carolina will be short favorites in every remaining game with the exception of Georgia Tech, where the Heels will draw a minimum two touchdowns on the spread.
UNC projects as a double-digit underdog to Clemson, providing no value to the Tar Heels’ 150-1 odds when projecting opponents in the Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl.
Clemson is a short favorite against Notre Dame, but the remaining schedule provides few hurdles as the Tigers will be heavy favorites over Louisville, Miami, South Carolina and potentially North Carolina.
Dabo Swinney’s team has true odds of 2-1 to win the ACC. Clemson would be small underdogs against Tennessee and Michigan in the playoff, with projections against Georgia and Ohio State in the 7.5- to 10-point range.
Clemson has value at 16-1, as projections against the Buckeyes and Bulldogs move the true odds to 18-1 in the worst-case scenario.
Bracket 4: Big 12, Pac-12 and At-Large
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:
TCU Wins Big 12
The Horned Frogs can afford a loss in the remaining conference play before reaching Arlington to compete for the Big 12 title.
Even with a loss, TCU boasts a better strength of schedule than Oregon without an embarrassing loss to this point.
There are coin-flip games against Texas and Baylor on the horizon, both serving as a chance to lose and increase the current market number of 60-1.
Oregon Wins Pac-12
The committee will discard the loss to Georgia assuming the Bulldogs beat Tennessee and win the SEC. In that scenario, Oregon’s strength of record gets a boost and puts it in prime contention to steal the last spot in the playoff.
The only hurdles remaining before a Pac-12 Championship appearance are Utah and Oregon State. Oregon will be short favorites when the Utes visit in Week 12, while the matchup 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 or 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
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 put Chip Kelly’s odds to win a national title at 180-1.
Yes, there’s value at 200-1 for UCLA to win the national title, but props to win the conference at 4-1 or better have a more realistic chance to cash.
USC to Win Pac-12
Plenty has to happen for the 50-1 national title ticket to get close to the window, starting with an Oregon victory over Utah. USC also must beat UCLA in Pasadena as field-goal underdogs.
Surviving a season finale against Notre Dame also plays a role in a potential national title ticket. These games send USC’s probability to win it all into orbit before even reaching the semifinals.
The Trojans are a hard pass.