We are only a few weeks into the 2021 college football schedule, but we have already seen our fair share of chaos. Alabama, for example, was nearly dealt a rare defeat after the Florida Gators gave them a serious run for their money in the Swamp on Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma outlasted a surprisingly plucky Nebraska outfit, while Ohio State weathered some early alarm bells to get past Tulsa at home.
Just about every college football season takes plenty of twists and turns. Why would this one be any different? The parity in the sport makes it a ripe market for futures betting. College football betting sites have to try and navigate those unexpected outcomes, which means there is an edge to be had if you know where to look as a bettor.
In reality, the field of contenders vying for the four coveted spots in the College Football Playoff is a small one. That said, anything can happen between now and the end of the season. Here is how DraftKings sees the CFP field heading into Week 4:
Crimson Tide Still Favored
Alabama (-750 to make Playoff)
Ohio State (+175)
Penn State (+500)
Ole Miss (+1200)
Notre Dame (+1400)
Texas A&M (+1600)
It wasn’t easy, but Alabama are still the top-ranked team in the country after going into Gainesville and escaping with a win on Saturday. The Tide jumped out to an early 21-3 lead after the first quarter in that one, but Bryce Young and the offense struggled from that point. Alabama put just 10 points on the board after their outburst to begin the game.
A win is a win, but Nick Saban’s squad didn’t look invincible. The Tide held off the Gators for a 31-29 win despite entering the game as better than two-touchdown favorites. Florida failed to convert a two-point conversion that would’ve tied the game in its final seconds.
that florida two point conversion after that comeback was like running through the airport, jumping on the plane — and leaving your luggage in the waiting area
While the offense scuffled for much of the game, it was Alabama’s defense that looked more vulnerable. Florida was able to find success running between the tackles for most of the afternoon, and the Crimson Tide were unable to generate much pressure against Gators QB Emory Jones. Florida, which is a run-first team to begin with, totaled 258 yards on the ground in that game.
Alabama is still a massive -750 favorite to nab one of the CFP spots, and with good reason. The Tide will get back on track with a cupcake matchup this week against Southern Miss, but things get considerably more difficult from there. Alabama will welcome Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss to Tuscaloosa on October 2, which could turn out to be one of the most fascinating games of the entire season.
Alabama will has three ranked opponents left on its schedule in addition to a home game against LSU in early November. If the Crimson Tide are still unbeaten after the Texas A&M game on October 9, it’s hard to see this team finishing with more than one loss, at most.
Really, Ohio State?
Ohio State has been a mainstay since the inception of the College Football Playoff back in 2014. The Buckeyes have represented the Big 10 four times, which is the third-most of any program behind only Alabama and Clemson. Ohio State won the inaugural edition in ‘14 before finishing as runners-up a season ago.
With Justin Fields having moved on to the NFL, though, the 2021 edition of the team looks rather lackluster. Ohio State is off to a 2-1 start, but they haven’t been convincing in any game. They were smoked on their home field by Oregon a couple of weeks ago. The Buckeyes squeaked past Minnesota in controversial fashion in the season opener before a rather unconvincing 41-20 win over Tulsa this past Saturday.
There were a few poor calls last week from the Pac 12 officials helping Oregon against Ohio State…This week an SEC crew forced Penn State to punt on 3rd down against Auburn.
Probably time to just have CFB officials and stop this nonsense of each conference having their own
Of course, the relative weakness of the conference is likely the main reason Ohio State still has such favorable odds (+175) to nab a Playoff spot. The Buckeyes’ next four games will come against Akron, Rutgers, Maryland, and Indiana before a fascinating clash at Penn State just before Halloween. In the end, that game at Happy Valley may go a long way toward determining which team will represent the B1G in the CFP.
The Buckeyes will also have to get past Michigan in the seaosn finale, which hasn’t been much of a challenge in recent years. The Wolverines are off to an impressive 3-0 start in which they have outscored their opponents 141-34, but the feat loses some luster when you see that those opponents were Western Michigan, Washington, and Northern Illinois.
One More Loss Should Be Enough to Knock Ohio State Out of Contention
Penn State, which has two wins over ranked opponents through three weeks, looks like the much more compelling contender. The Nittany Lions outlasted Wisconsin in Week 1 before a quality win at home over Auburn last week.
If Penn State gets a Playoff spot, they will certainly have earned it. James Franklin’s crew faces a couple of daunting road dates at Iowa and Ohio State before the end of October, in addition to games against Michigan and at Michigan State before the end of the campaign.
That’s a tough schedule, but PSU has shown early on that they’re capable of hanging with the big dogs. As of now, I’d much rather bet on Penn State’s +500 odds to make the Playoff than plunge for Ohio State at +175. OSU’s odds seem entirely reputation-based at this point.
Ole Miss: Contender or Pretender?
Lane Kiffin went from Florida Atlantic to Ole Miss last year with the task of helping the program cement itself as an SEC contender. That’s no small feat, especially in the SEC West, but Kiffin’s program is off to a nice start.
After a 5-5 showing in his first season, Kiffin has the Rebels at 3-0 to begin the new campaign. Ole Miss wiped the floor with Louisville on opening night before back-to-back blowout wins over Austin Peay and Tulane. One hallmark of a good team is to obliterate your lesser opponents, and the Rebels have done just that.
The team will now enter an off week before that aforementioned showdown against the Tide in Tuscaloosa early next month. If anyone knows how to gameplan for Saban’s team, it should be one of his former offensive assistants. QB Matt Corral, who has passed for nearly 1,000 yards with nine TDs through three games, has established himself as a very early Heisman Trophy contender.
Given the potential vulnerabilities in Alabama’s defense, don’t be surprised if Ole Miss is able to go into Bryant-Denney and put points on the board. The Rebels have scored 158 points in three games.
If Florida can do damage against Bama, why can’t a more explosive Ole Miss offense?
Obviously, Ole Miss will see its CFP odds improve monumentally if they’re able to go into Alabama and emerge with a win. The schedule after the Alabama game isn’t that imposing, either. They’ll head back to Alabama to face No. 23 Auburn on October 30 before hosting the seventh-ranked Texas A&M Aggies on November 13. If they beat Alabama, Ole Miss should be favored in both of those games.
It’s early, but the fact that the Rebels’ CFP odds have already improved to +1200 is a sign that oddsmakers are buying what Kiffin is selling thus far. Even if they lose to Alabama, Ole Miss will still have a shot at the Playoff if they’re able to keep the game competitive and run the table afterward.
Don’t Overlook Oregon
It’s easy to forget that it was Oregon that stormed into the Horseshoe and beat Ohio State a couple of weeks ago. We have heard plenty about the potential demise of the Buckeyes, but maybe we should give the Ducks a little credit, too?
The Pac-12 doesn’t have a great history in terms of qualifying for the Playoff, but an unbeaten season will surely be enough to get Oregon into the top-four. The Ducks’ strength of schedule is an issue given the dearth of quality in the conference, but that road win at Ohio State is certainly a resume-builder.
The only ranked opponent left on Oregon’s schedule is No. 24 UCLA. The two teams will clash at the Rose Bowl on October 23. Otherwise, it looks like smooth sailing for Mario Cristobal’s side. Their showdown at Stanford on October 2 may wind up being the most difficult game left, but let’s not forget that Stanford got blasted by Kansas State back in Week 1.
If the Ducks can take care of business and navigate the remainder of their schedule unharmed, Oregon should be home-free with regard to the College Football Playoff. Their odds of qualifying (+190) are still longer than those of the Buckeyes (+175) despite the fact that Oregon has already beaten Ohio State head-to-head. Seems silly to me.
Who Will Make the Playoffs?
While Florida may have exposed some potential chinks in the Alabama armor, don’t be surprised if Saban fixes those mistakes moving forward. Betting against Alabama to make the Playoff just feels goofy at this point. You’d be better served flushing that money down the toilet instead.
Georgia will likely get the SEC’s second nod thanks in large part to an easy schedule. The best team Georgia will face before the end of the regular season is Florida, and the Gators likely aren’t anything special. At -320, the Bulldogs should be able to seal the deal and get in, even if they lose the conference title game.
There’s plenty of good value to be had, though. Oregon (+190) and Penn State (+500) have been very impressive to begin the year, while Ole Miss (+1200) looks like a legitimate contender despite their still-long odds. As of now, the Nittany Lions look like the best combination of value and upside to get one of the four Playoff spots:
Penn State (+500)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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