Wilson: My Projected Odds for Potential College Football Playoff, Early Bowl Games

Wilson: My Projected Odds for Potential College Football Playoff, Early Bowl Games article feature image
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Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith makes a reception during the SEC Championship game against the Florida Gators.

UPDATE: The Saturday media slate had a mouthful in the conversation as to who would fill the fourth slot in the College Football Playoff.

And now we’ve got our answer — Alabama vs. Notre Dame, Ohio State vs. Clemson.

At PointsBet, the Tide opened -19.5 against the Irish, with Clemson -6.5 vs. Ohio State. Both those spreads are bigger than our projections.

Get my projected spreads for each below, or check out our PRO Projections (80% off today only!) to find an edge by comparing our projected bowl lines to what’s listed at sportsbooks.

Projected College Football Odds, Early Bowls & Possible Playoff

A negative number indicates the home team is favored by that many points; a positive number means the home team is an underdog.


This portion was published Sunday morning before the College Football Playoff matchups were announced.

Alabama took care of business against a Florida squad that had zero quit. Despite the Gators’ best effort, the Crimson Tide never trailed in the SEC Championship and racked up 605 total yards.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ohio State cemented its playoff spot with a narrow victory over Northwestern. Unlike the Crimson Tide, the Buckeyes did not have a lead in the Big Ten Championship until late in the third quarter. Quarterback Justin Fields made an exit from any long shot Heisman Trophy talk with two interceptions during his 12-for-27 passing performance.

An early Notre Dame field goal would give the Fighting Irish their only memory of a lead, with Clemson scoring 34 consecutive points to route them. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had a frustrating championship weekend, as Notre Dame posted a zero percent success rate in passing downs after the first quarter.

So, who will fill the final spot in the College Football Playoff rankings?

While Cincinnati remained undefeated, Texas A&M attempted to stake claim after a covering effort against Tennessee. Coastal Carolina has been deemed a co-champion of the Sun Belt after COVID-19 canceled the championship game against Louisiana.

The committee will take all variables into account including strength of schedule, strength of record and the eyeball style points.

The fact remains Notre Dame’s previous victory over a Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson will be the deciding factor in putting a one-loss Irish team in the playoff. Drawing eyeballs also helps a teams chances.

Expect the new College Football Playoff rankings to put Alabama and Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, with Clemson and Ohio State staging a semifinal rematch in Arlington, Texas.

Every Sunday, The Action Network publishes updated Power Ratings — now including all 127 teams playing FBS football this fall. Our final rankings would include Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State in the top three spots, with Notre Dame falling to seventh in the nation.

Check out the most likely College Football Playoff Semifinal matchups, with full write-ups on every individual matchup.

Terms to Know

Postgame Win Expectancy is a calculation of all variables in a box score that dictate who would win the game if it was played a high number of times. Turnover luck, success rate and yards per play are notable components of this calculation and can influence a single game. But over a large sample, the team that moved the ball better would win more often than not.

There have been plenty of box scores in which a team wins as an underdog, but a negative value is applied to that team’s power rating because the result was fluky rather than systematic.

Coach scheme changes can adjust a power rating quickly. For example, Oregon will undergo a change from Marcus Arroyo’s conservative play-calling to new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system. Moorhead’s offense features a heavy dose of 11 personnel, west coast spread concepts and modern RPOs.

That offensive philosophy has led to more explosiveness and higher rates of success on standard downs at each of Moorhead’s previous stops at Penn State and Mississippi State. In a situation like this, a power rating can be useful to quickly adjust a team’s forecast for future games. In the case of Mike Leach, an adjustment of totals is coming with an increase in plays per game.

Success Rate, Finishing Drives and Explosiveness were first defined in Bill Connelly’s Five Factors and are strong indicators for future box scores. While EPA (Expected Points Added) and IsoPPP (Isolated Points Per Play) can be highly variable from season to season, Success Rate is a stable data point for handicappers to use for projections.

Simply put, if a team consistently achieves the desired amount of yards — determined by down and distance — then this is a “play-on” team with your bankroll. Texas A&M ranked 17th in offensive success rate last season and returns 80% of its offensive production for 2020; that combination makes the Aggies a play-on team.