As bettors, we always have to be planning for the future. These days, the future has become the present. There is no offseason. Odds are up for the next Super Bowl champion before the previous one has been crowned. It is the same in MLB, college basketball, NBA, NHL, and college football. Sportsbook operators are always looking to post new opportunities for bettors and we have to take them into consideratio and see if there is any value.
In this case, odds are up for the 2020-21 College Football National Champion. Even though it will be for the 2020 season, the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, which is the site of Super Bowl LIV.
Think about the criteria for making the College Football Playoff before locking in your choices. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff. You basically have to pick a conference champion or Notre Dame, who doesn’t have a conference. You also want a team that can peak late and overcome an early loss. An early non-conference loss isn’t a dagger, particularly if that team ends up being elite. That really narrows the pool of candidates to say the least.
Early odds have Clemson and Ohio State listed as the most expected teams to win the National Championship. It makes sense. Trevor Lawrence will return for his junior season and then move to the NFL as the #1 overall pick. Ohio State will return QB Justin Fields and continues to recruit at far and away the highest level of any Big Ten team. Conference play is like Spring Training for the Buckeyes these days and they will be heavy favorites to win the conference and get a spot in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Not surprisingly, Alabama is listed as the third favorite. Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama are basically in their own category when it comes to recruiting. The Crimson Tide won’t have Tua Tagovailoa, but they got to break in Mac Jones late in the season and will have Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother, so the QB position is in fine shape in Tuscaloosa.
This is where it gets tough. In a lot of ways, the College Football Playoff semifinals only look to have one spot left. Clemson was favored by at least 15.5 in every regular season game this past season and will be favored in every game in 2020 as well, though the Tigers do go to South Bend to face Notre Dame on November 7. Ohio State does get the Big Game with Michigan at home to end the regular season, but has to play at Oregon and at Penn State. Still, the Buckeyes should be favored in every game.
Alabama is the only question mark of the group. The Crimson Tide play USC on a neutral and also host Georgia and Auburn, but they’ll play at a much improved Tennessee team and at LSU. They do avoid Florida from the East. After this season’s disappointing finish, the Crimson Tide will be fully focused to make the Final Four.
Oklahoma makes sense, given that the Sooners have made four appearances in the College Football Playoff, but the Sooners also haven’t won any of those four games and got beaten badly by LSU in the 2019 Peach Bowl. The committee may be hesitant to put them back in the mix and the odds reflect that at almost 20/1.
LSU, Georgia, and Florida follow Alabama. The 2017 playoff marked the only time that two teams from the same conference made the College Football Playoff. If Alabama is set to go, it would be tough for another SEC team to make it. Of course, Alabama could come up short. The SEC has never missed the Playoff, so one of those three teams could be the benefactor if Alabama falls short. Florida has the best price. LSU has the toughest schedule. Georgia likely has the easiest schedule, despite the September 19 game at Alabama.
At first glance, it looks like getting creative is the best idea. Teams like Texas, Notre Dame, and Oregon are all available at interesting prices. A win over Clemson would make it extremely hard to keep Notre Dame out and the Fighting Irish don’t play that bad of a schedule otherwise. Oregon may have to overcome an early loss to Ohio State, but the Pac-12 is wide open.
Speaking of the Pac-12 being wide open, keep in mind that Utah could very well have been the fourth team in the Playoff in 2019 with a win over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Utes would have been a huge underdog to LSU, but it could have left enough hedging margin. Perhaps a team like USC at a balloon price makes some sense.
If nothing else, use these odds as a way to see how these teams are likely to stack up for next season. It serves as a good frame of reference for when win totals and Games of the Year lines come out for college football.