What the CFP rankings mean for championship odds

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November 6th, 2019

The initial College Football Playoff rankings came out Tuesday night with a few surprises. Ohio State has the No. 1 spot, despite being No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the Coaches poll. Penn State jumped over Clemson into the top four, despite being No. 5 in both polls. Undefeated Baylor and Minnesota remain outside the top 10, which shows how important strength of schedule is to the committee.

Georgia remained the highest-ranked team with one loss, as the Bulldogs are sitting at No. 6, waiting for teams ahead to drop. The Pac-12 and Big 12 look to be in deep trouble, as their top teams sit at seventh, eighth and ninth, without much opportunity to jump ahead in the rankings. Let's break down some of these teams and their chances of making the playoff compared to their odds to win it all.

2019-20 NCAAF odds

TeamNCAAF Championship Odds
Clemson Tigers
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ohio State Buckeyes
LSU Tigers
Georgia Bulldogs
Oklahoma Sooners
Penn State Nittany Lions
Oregon Ducks
Baylor Bears
Utah Utes

Clemson Tigers (+180)

The Tigers are still the favorite to win it all, despite their No. 5 position in the initial CFP rankings. The reason for this is their remaining schedule compared to the top four. Ohio State and Penn State play each other November 23. LSU and Alabama play each other Saturday. Clemson has NC State, Wake Forest, South Carolina and likely Virginia or Virginia Tech to finish the season. If the Tigers win out, they will be in the playoff. They will be the team to beat, even though they have not looked like the best team this season.

Alabama Crimson Tide (+220)/LSU Tigers (+725)

Both teams are currently in the playoff. However, this will likely change in the next set of rankings. The loser of Saturday's game will likely fall to around the 5-7 range. The winner may jump to No. 1 and will just about lock in a spot in the SEC Championship Game. I believe Alabama will win this game, but I do not believe it will be easy. I like this game to live up to the hype and come down to the final plays. If LSU wins out after a loss to Alabama, the Tigers will still need some help to make the playoff, but they will have a legit argument to be in over every other one-loss team.

Ohio State Buckeyes (+300)/Penn State Nittany Lions (+3000)

Penn State still has to play Minnesota before its big matchup with the Buckeyes. If the Nittany Lions can win at Minnesota and get to this one undefeated, the winner will likely guarantee itself a spot in the playoff. If the winner were to lose in the Big Ten Championship Game, it might still need some help, but a strong overall résumé would likely keep them in. The loser will need plenty of help. If Ohio State were to lose to Penn State and then defeat Michigan, the Buckeyes may be able to crawl in with a Penn State loss in the championship game, along with the Big 12 or Pac-12 champion having two losses instead of one.

Oregon Ducks (+4000)/Utah Utes (+10000)/Oklahoma Sooners (+2000)

Oregon and Utah should both win out in the regular season. This will allow them to play each other for the Pac-12 championship, with the winner having only one loss on the season. The issue will be the total résumé for the winner. Oregon will only have two games on their schedule against teams ranked in the top 25 at the end of the season, unless Washington crawls back into it. Utah will only have one. Utah has a bad loss and may get shut out, even if it wins out. Oregon may still have a case to get in, if the Ducks can win out.
The Sooners still have a tough schedule, with two games against top 25 opponents left and then the Big 12 title game, which may be a rematch against Baylor. If the Sooners can win out, though, they will have a strong case to make the playoff. Oklahoma will have history and storylines on their side when the argument comes up, and the human element will likely creep into the decision making.


I predict Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson will all win out finish in the top three, respectively. I believe LSU, Penn State, Oregon and Oklahoma will all finish the season with one loss. The decision over the fourth entrant into the College Football Playoff will come down to Oklahoma and LSU. The Tigers will have the better résumé, but the committee will take the Sooners to get Jalen Hurts into the playoff and it will use the fact they are a Big 12 champions as the reasoning.

Looking at my final four choices, you have odds of +180, +220, +300 and +2000 to choose from. I suggest you jump on Oklahoma at +2000 now.

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