College Football Playoff Futures for Week 12: Bets to Make Before CFP Rankings Reveal (November 16)

College Football Playoff Futures for Week 12: Bets to Make Before CFP Rankings Reveal (November 16) article feature image

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured: The College Football Playoff trophy.

Week 12 CFP Rankings Revealed Tuesday, Nov. 16

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta serves as the College Football Playoff committee chairman, and he left plenty of questions on the table before Week 11.

Michigan State defeated Michigan in Week 9 before suffering defeat to Purdue in Week 10. The Spartans and Wolverines have one loss, but because Michigan has the higher strength of record, Michigan State was placed just behind the team it beat.

With the committee distancing from head-to-head competition, does that leave the door open for a few other teams? Cincinnati has beaten top-10 Notre Dame, while Oregon defeated No. 4 Ohio State. If strength of record carries a heavy weight with the committee, Oklahoma State may take a leap in this week's rankings.

Tuesday night will be the third edition of the 2021 rankings with previously undefeated Oklahoma expected to bounce out of the top 10 after a loss to No. 13 Baylor.

Texas A&M is also expected to drop after No. 15 Ole Miss toppled the Aggies in a thriller from Oxford, while Wake Forest’s distant chances of making the playoff stayed alive after it sealed the ACC Atlantic Division as a one-loss team.

Using our “Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff,” the paths to the Orange and Cotton Bowls are stable for now.

Week 12 presents the biggest opportunity for chaos, as Oregon travels to Utah, Ohio State faces Michigan State as near three-touchdown favorites and Cincinnati gets its toughest AAC test in SMU.

Finally, Alabama will face a team ranked in the top 25 after No. 25 Arkansas went into Baton Rouge and beat LSU as a small favorite. With astronomical odds of winning the SEC West, the Razorbacks are only expected to move up in the College Football Playoff with a win in Week 12 and an Auburn win in the Iron Bowl.

Before we find investment value ahead of the new rankings reveal, the Four Commandments of the College Football Playoff must be reviewed:

The College Football Playoff's Four Commandments

For those wondering what the College Football Playoff’s Four Commandments are, here’s a refresher:

CFP Commandment No. 1:

"An undefeated Power Five conference champion is automatically in."

Note: We have never had five undefeated Power Five champions. Georgia is the only remaining undefeated Power Five team in FBS. Even a loss in the SEC Championship would not deter the Bulldogs from the Orange or Cotton Bowl.

CFP Commandment No. 2:

"A one-loss Power Five conference champion is automatically in."

Note: No one-loss conference champion has ever been left out of the playoff. Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State currently meet this criterion.

CFP Commandment No. 3:

"A one-loss Power Five at-large with a better strength of record trumps a two-loss Power Five conference champion."

Note: This precedent was set when Alabama missed the SEC Championship in 2017 and was slotted ahead of two-loss Big Ten Champion Ohio State. A path currently exists for Michigan and Georgia to end the season with one loss and not be conference champions, a scenario that would fulfill this rule.

CFP Commandment No. 4:

"A two-loss Power Five team trumps an undefeated Group of Five team with the right strength of record."

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. Baylor and Ole Miss’ placement against Cincinnati’s in the current rankings should be monitored.

Myriad Paths to the College Football Playoff

Chaos is always a part of college football, as there are dozens of paths in the month of November.

The chaos could be endless, but here is our look at the four playoff berths and a bracket approach to determining the participants in the Orange and Sugar Bowls.

SEC Champion
Big Ten East
Wild Card (SEC)
Big 12 Champion
Wild Card (Other)

Bracket No. 1: SEC Championship

Contenders: Georgia and Alabama 

Texas A&M took its 3rd loss of the season at Ole Miss in Week 11, clearing the way for Alabama to take the SEC West Division.

A win over Arkansas will guarantee Alabama’s trip to the SEC Championship game against Georgia. A loss to the Razorbacks does not hurt the Crimson Tide, as a win over Auburn would still give Alabama the nod with a tiebreaker over Ole Miss.

The SEC East is wrapped up for the Georgia Bulldogs with two scrimmages remaining against Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech.

The Bulldogs will make the SEC Championship game with a projected spread of -5 against the Crimson Tide. Georgia is -120 to win the College Football Playoff and will not have a point spread within a touchdown against any remaining opponent with the exception of Ohio State and Alabama.

There is value in the Georgia national title odds through -150.

As for Alabama, consecutive wins over Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and then the CFP field are not reflected in the +360 odds (DraftKings) and present no value.

Bracket No. 2: Big Ten East

Contenders: Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan

Michigan may have hopped Michigan State in the rankings last week, but the chaos of the Big Ten East begins this Saturday.

As of this writing, No. 4 Ohio State is a 19-point favorite over No. 7 Michigan State for this week's showdown from the Horseshoe in Columbus. A loss would all but end the Spartans’ shot at the College Football Playoff, while Ohio State would continue to build a resume after disposing of No. 19 Purdue in a 59-31 blowout.

The Buckeyes have +400 odds to win the National Championship, but with the assumption that Michigan State is a win, there are still hurdles.

Ohio State will be a touchdown favorite over Michigan in Week 13, and a win would set the stage for the Big Ten Championship, where Ohio State would be a projected 9.5-point favorite over Wisconsin.

An open parlay card of the remaining schedule after Michigan State, along with projections for the playoff, dictate Ohio State has value at +900 or better.

The Michigan +6000 is long gone after a victory over Penn State. The number for Michigan to win the national title now resides at +3500.

True odds on a victory over Ohio State and Wisconsin with Georgia and Alabama as the projections in the playoff give Michigan odds of +4100, leaving no value in the current posted numbers.

Any sportsbook offering better than 41-1 deserves a small investment on the Wolverines.

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Bracket No. 3: Big 12 Champion

Contenders: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State 

There’s no room for error in a Big 12 Conference that is soon to lose Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.

As the Longhorns lost to Kansas and the Sooners lost to Baylor, chants of “SEC-SEC-SEC” could be heard throughout each respective stadium.

Oklahoma has burned a get-out-of-jail-free card with a loss to the Bears, and the Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys must win out to make the playoff.

At +1400 last week, Oklahoma did not offer much value, but new odds of +3500 show the Sooners have their back to the wall. They’ll finish with Iowa State before back-to-back weekends against Oklahoma State.

Per our Action Network Power Ratings, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would be a pick’em on a neutral site.

With Iowa State on deck, the Sooners have true odds of +490 to win the Big 12. The Cowboys have a similar path, but true odds of +410 are reflective of having Texas Tech this Saturday.

The entertaining part comes with the odds, as Oklahoma sits at +3500 and Oklahoma State at +8000 for two teams that have the same path.

Parlaying the Cowboys’ true odds into a moneyline projection against Georgia in a semifinal game is +4000.

Although Oklahoma has dominated Oklahoma State in the Bedlam series, the biggest value on the board is on the Pokes.

Bracket No. 4: Wild Card

Contenders: Wake Forest, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, Alabama and Cincinnati

The endless opportunities to win the fourth and final seed for the College Football Playoff remained stable through Week 11. A Texas A&M loss drops it from national title contention, while the Oklahoma loss simply silos the Big 12 into its own bracket.

Our Four Commandments of the CFP must be followed even with Cincinnati ascending to No. 5 in last week’s rankings.


Georgia Loses the SEC Championship

Georgia is projected as a 5-point favorite in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

The Bulldogs will be double-digit favorites in the Orange or Cotton Bowl against most teams that would fill a semifinal spot. Georgia’s odds of -120 have value through -150.


Oregon Sweeps its Remaining Schedule

The Ducks disposed of Washington State before entering Week 12 as a +140 underdog in Rice-Eccles.

If Oregon is to survive a trip to Utah, Oregon State and a possible rematch with Utah are all that stand in the way of a second trip to the College Football Playoff.

Odds to win the Pac-12 are +610. Adding in two projected underdog games in the postseason moves the Ducks to +7800 to win the National Championship.

There’s no value in the current number of +2500 to win it all.


Michigan Sweeps its Remaining Schedule; Michigan State Beats Ohio State

Alabama’s 2017 scenario didn’t include an SEC Championship appearance before it moved onto the playoff and won the national title as a four-seed. Michigan has a similar path after a loss to Michigan State.

If the Spartans can beat Ohio State this weekend, the Wolverines have the 2017 Crimson Tide at-large path by beating the Buckeyes and not making the Big Ten Championship game.

A move up to No. 6 in last week's ranking shows just how much respect the Wolverines have from the committee. There’s value on any number at +4200 or better for Jim Harbaugh to win his first-ever National Championship.


Alabama Loses the SEC Championship

Staying in two-loss territory, Alabama needs plenty of other Power Five programs to have more than a single defeat for a realistic chance at the playoff.

The current odds of +360 do not reflect the Crimson Tide’s chances of winning the title.


One-Loss Wake Forest Wins the ACC

The Demon Deacons won the ACC Atlantic this weekend but must survive consecutive road trips to Clemson and Boston College.

Even with an ACC Championship, Wake Forest has the potential to be passed over by a one-loss at-large like Michigan because of strength of record number.

The current odds of +10000 would need to surpass +17500 to have value.


Cincinnati Goes Undefeated and Wins the AAC

The good news for Cincinnati is a jump in the rankings to No. 5. The bad news is a strength of schedule outside the top 100 will not reflect well when other teams build a resume.

The Bearcats are 5-5 against the spread, leaving the explosive appeal of the 2020 team behind. Cincinnati needs Notre Dame to win out, as Indiana will not make the postseason.

While the Bearcats have a high probability of winning the AAC, a projected 18-point underdog game in a semifinal with Georgia sends Cincinnati odds sky-high.

The current number of +5000 would not pay any more than a rolling open parlay card, which may be the only route if there’s committee exclusion.

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