Until proven otherwise Clemson is the frontrunner to win its second straight College Football Playoff title (+175). Thursday’s 52-14 thrashing of Georgia Tech inside Memorial Stadium only added fuel to the argument, despite a less-than-stellar performance from Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawrence (+225).
The -750 favorite to reach a fifth straight College Football Playoff, Clemson crossed the goal line twice in every quarter aside from the fourth, when they were held to one touchdown and a field goal by the Yellow Jackets.
Running back Travis Etienne (a Heisman longshot at +2200) emerged as the star for Clemson, as he rushed for 205 yards and three of Clemson’s seven touchdowns. Lawrence ran for a six-yard touchdown and connected with Tee Higgins for a 62-yard score, but he completed just 13 of 23 passes for 168 yards with two interceptions.
9️⃣0️⃣ YARDS TO THE HOUSE
Travis Etienne ties Clemson’s record for longest run in school history 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 30, 2019
Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State make a case
Last year’s runner-up, Alabama (+260 to win the national title), cruised to a 42-3 victory over Duke after a rough first quarter Saturday afternoon. Fellow SEC school and No. 3 Georgia (+900) had a fairly easy 30-6 rout of Vanderbilt, as well, while Ohio State (+1400) had no problem handling Florida Atlantic.
The Crimson Tide are -200 favorites to make the playoff—which would be Alabama’s sixth straight appearance—but Georgia and Ohio State are at +130 and +170, respectively, to earn a bid. Ohio State won the first national title under the playoff system, but since then Alabama and Clemson have flipped with one another as the national champion every year from 2016-2019. That dominance makes any other school in the nation a longshot to win.
The team with the best chance to shake up the national title picture, though, is a Big 12 powerhouse that lost in the national semifinal in both 2017 and 2018. The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (+200 to make the playoff) are a +1500 value pick to win it all and may finally get over the hump with their newest quarterback, Jalen Hurts.
Why Oklahoma can finally reach the national final
The former Alabama quarterback went to Oklahoma to replace last year’s Heisman winner Kyler Murray, and Hurts’ performance on Saturday skyrocketed the graduate transfer up the odds board as a legitimate Heisman contender. Hurts had a standout game against Houston, as he completed 20 of 23 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for 176 yards and three rushing TDs.
Hurts joined Johnny Manziel as the only players in the last 15 years to throw for 300 yards and three scores and run for 150 and three scores in a game. If Hurts can keep up the momentum, he may just carry Oklahoma into the uncharted territory that Murray and Baker Mayfield came so close to accomplishing.
— Jalen Hurts (@JalenHurts) July 8, 2019
Oklahoma nearly made it to the championship game two seasons ago but lost 54-48 in double overtime to Georgia. Last year the Sooners fell short again, 45-34, to Alabama.
The most difficult games on Oklahoma’s schedule are a neutral-site battle against Texas (+700 to make the playoff) in Dallas and road matchups against Baylor and Oklahoma State. No. 25 Iowa State will visit the Sooners on November 9, but the Cyclones’ season opener against Northern Iowa made the Big 12 dark horse look less than intimidating.
With former Ohio State coordinator Alex Grinch on the sideline to lead the defense, Oklahoma might fix its most glaring issue from last season. If the third time’s the charm, then Oklahoma has the best case to make it back to the College Football Playoff and knock off the reigning champ—and maybe even Hurts’ former team along the way.