Another Tumultuous Week Brings College Football Title Odds Into Focus

Georgia has become a clear betting favorite to win it all, but there's still time for more chaos
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Tuesday night’s reveal of the latest College Football Playoff rankings will go a long way to determining the four teams that will compete for an NCAA football title in 2022. But rest assured, chaos lovers, there’s still plenty that can go awry.

Michigan’s impressive 45-23 win in Columbus over archrival Ohio State on Saturday stirred the drink considerably, and losses by Clemson and LSU roiled it further. The Buckeyes are on the outside looking in, LSU is out of the running, Clemson’s chances are on life support, and the Wolverines have just about locked up a spot. That shakeup followed a week in which Tennessee’s second loss of the season opened the door for a one-loss team like USC — or maybe even Ohio State — to have a pretty good shot at making the field.

Tuesday’s playoff rankings and the conference championship games to come this week will clear up the rest of the drama, but for now, there are essentially six teams competing for four spots. Using DraftKings’ latest title odds, let’s break down each of the six teams’ chances and examine the value of each from a sports wagering perspective:

Georgia (-160)

Everything has come up Dawgs so far in 2022, but amazingly Uga the bulldog still isn’t guaranteed a trip to L.A. for the national title game. Should LSU somehow find a way to rebound from losing to seven-loss Texas A&M and beat Georgia as 17-point underdogs in Saturday’s SEC championship, Georgia conceivably could get bumped since LSU has three losses now. That’s extremely unlikely, however, given Georgia’s five wins against Power 5 opponents over .500.

Most projections have Georgia as a virtual lock to be in the field of four and, with the best defense in the country and an offense that’s averaging around 38 points a game, it’s hard to argue this team isn’t the obvious chalk.

The Bulldogs’ short title odds imply a probability of 61.5% to win it all. That’s pretty high with three more games left before they can be crowned champions. Still, it’s easy to imagine Georgia romping against LSU and getting by, say, USC before getting Michigan in the title game and then doing what SEC teams normally do against Big Ten teams in huge games. There’s a reason the SEC has won five of the last seven national titles.

This is certainly a worthy favorite.

Michigan (+290)

It’s sort of emblematic of this topsy-turvy college football season that Michigan could look so bad one week — needing a last-second field goal to beat unranked Illinois at home — and then so good the next.

But trap games are common in college football, as young players look ahead to what lies next. This Michigan team is extremely tough and well-coached, and the ground game it often relies upon could get a huge boost with the return of star running back Blake Corum, who was limited to just two carries against Ohio State due to a knee injury.

Michigan should have little trouble against Purdue as 16-point favorites Saturday. The +290 title odds imply a probability of 25.6%, however, which is fairly aggressive. It’s fairly easy to envision Michigan winning its first-round playoff game against the likes of TCU, but a lot harder to imagine the Wolverines getting by the Bulldogs.

Ohio State (+1200)

One reason Buckeyes fans still have hope is that TCU is in the deepest of any of the other title contenders with a conference championship game against Kansas State, a game in which they are just 2.5-point favorites. A loss there and a USC loss in the Pac-12 title game (it’s favored by three over Utah) would give Ohio State a fighting chance — but, of course, that’s a lot to ask.

These are somewhat enticing odds, as they imply the Buckeyes have just a 7.7% chance of winning it all, which might not be too far off. It could be worth taking a flyer here, especially if you think Saturday’s game was just a bad day at the office for the Buckeyes.

TCU (+1200)

Nobody’s really given this team its due all season, and why should that change now? At FiveThirtyEight, for example, the Horned Frogs are given a 71% chance to make the playoffs, but just a 9% chance of winning it all.

This team also has the luxury of losing its conference title game and still making the field. TCU is also probably just better than many people think. The combined record of TCU’s FBS opponents this season is 66-66; Michigan’s opponents are a combined 72-73. This isn’t a team to dismiss out of hand.

Is TCU a legit title contender? Yeah. And these odds are way too long for an undefeated team in the Big 12. It feels like it has simply taken the public and the sportsbooks time to adjust since TCU was picked to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason media poll.

While TCU has three tough games it has to get through to maintain its perfect record, these odds are long enough that they can’t be ignored.

USC (+1200)

The Trojans just look scary these days. Quarterback Caleb Williams is now a prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman (-3000 at FanDuel), and the firepower of the USC offense is impressive.

Notre Dame had won eight games in a row before USC pretty much dismantled them in Saturday night’s 38-27 win at the Coliseum.

The problem is USC has to play Utah again, the only team that beat the Trojans (in a thrilling 43-42 game on Oct. 15). That was at Utah, and Saturday’s Pac 12 championship will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but there’s no guarantee the Utes won’t rise to the occasion again. Also, USC can be a mediocre team when its defense isn’t forcing turnovers.

The Trojans figure to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come under Lincoln Riley. But is this the year a potential dynasty is launched? Could be and, at those odds, it might be worth dipping a toe in that cold Pacific water.

Alabama (+2500)

Fans in the heart of Dixie will be thrilled, but most of the country is rolling its collective eyes that the Tide still have an outside shot to make the playoff field with two losses and no berth in the conference championship game.

But it could, in fact, happen if TCU loses. The committee might give the nod to one-loss Ohio State or one-loss TCU, but Alabama could creep back into the conversation. None of those three teams would be conference champs in that scenario. Alabama’s fate could be sealed with Tuesday’s rankings, as Ohio State being ranked above them would knock them out since neither team plays again before bowl season.

The +2500 odds imply a probability of just 3.8%, so if you’re a major fan of maximum chaos, grab your ticket now.

Others

The challenge here may be finding a sportsbook that will give you odds on teams outside those six. But if you can find a line, it’s worth remembering that two-loss Tennessee still isn’t eliminated from contention, which seems fair since the Volunteers knocked off Alabama. The Tide currently sit ahead of Tennessee in the playoff rankings and neither team plays another game, so it’s unlikely — but not impossible.

In a similar way, two-loss Clemson conceivably could get back in the picture with a convincing win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship, where it’s a 7.5-point favorite, but that seems unlikely coming off the embarrassing loss to South Carolina, a team that is 4-4 in conference play.

Photo: Cornelius Johnson/USA TODAY

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