2016 College Football Playoff Betting Guide

The four-team College Football Playoff field is set, and there are few surprises in the selections.

The Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) grabbed the No. 1 overall seed after winning their 25th-straight game over Florida. The Tide completely dominated Florida in the SEC Championship by a score of 54-16, marking their 12th double-digit win of the season.

The only suspense after Alabama was where the rest of the field would finish out. Clemson (12-1) claimed the No. 2 seed, despite Ohio State being ranked second overall before championship week. The Buckeyes (11-1), who are seeded No. 3, were penalized for not making the Big Ten conference title game.

Washington (12-1) rounds out the field with the No. 4 seed. The Huskies had the weakest non-conference schedule of the CFP field, but they crushed Colorado 41-10 in the Pac-12 Championship to seal their spot.

Perhaps the most-deserving team missing out is the Penn State Nittany Lions, who won the Big Ten Championship with a 38-31 victory over Wisconsin. They’re also the only team to have defeated the Buckeyes this year.

We’ll discuss Penn State missing out later, but first, let’s analyze the two CFP matchups along with betting lines on the games.

No. 1 Alabama (13-0) vs. No. 4 Washington (12-1) in Peach Bowl
GTBets.eu Line for Dec. 31 at 3:00pm EST:
Alabama -15.5 (-110)
Washington +15.5 (-110)

alabama-vs-floridaAfter winning the national title last year, Alabama has been No. 1 wire to wire this season. They opened with a 52-6 victory over USC (9-3) and have been rolling ever since.

The only chink in the armor was defensive struggles against Ole Miss (48-43) and Arkansas (49-30), but this can be forgiven considering that they didn’t lose the entire season. Furthermore, Alabama has only allowed 8.3 PPG over the past seven games.

Alabama’s real bread and butter, though, is their offense, which is averaging almost 40 points a game. This team is dominant on both sides of the ball, they’re talented, and they look like repeat champions.

It’s no secret that Washington is the big underdog here. They lost to the same USC team that Bama dominated, and their strength of schedule has been bashed all year long. It was so bad that we seriously wondered if two-loss Michigan might still gain the No. 4 spot.

But the doubts were erased with a 41-10 thumping of No. 8 Colorado (10-3). This has been a trend with the Huskies, as they blew out six of their first seven opponents.

What propels Washington is their defense, which has held opponents to 17.2 PPG. The defense has been enough to overcome inconsistent play by the offense. This was especially apparent in the 26-13 home loss to USC, where QB Jake Browning and the offense really struggled.

For this reason, we don’t see the Huskies giving Alabama much of a test.

Score Prediction: Alabama 38 – Washington 17

No. 2 Clemson (12-1) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (11-1) in Fiesta Bowl
GTBets.eu Line for Dec. 31 at 3:00pm EST:
Ohio State -3 (-110)
Clemson +3 (-110)

jt-barrett-playoffsOhio State set a precedent by becoming the first non-conference champion to play in the CFP since it started in 2014. The Buckeyes quickly generated a buzz by crushing their first five opponents by 42.5 PPG, a span that included Big 12 champ Oklahoma (10-2).

Other quality victories include a 30-23 win over Wisconsin and a 30-27 (OT) win against Michigan. The only blemish is a 24-21 loss to eventual Big Ten champ Penn State, in which the difference was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.

The Buckeyes are anchored by their defense, but their offense, led by J.T. Barrett, has played poorly at times. Clemson isn’t known for having an elite defensive unit, which will help Ohio State’s offense.

As for the Tigers, their beginning was the complete opposite. They got close wins against Auburn (19-13) and Troy (30-24) to start the season. Their offense finally got going after this, leading to a 42-36 win over then-No. 3 Louisville.

clemson-vs-virgnia-techClemson has lived on the edge with close victories against NC State and Florida State, followed by a demoralizing loss to Pitt (43-42). The Tigers rebounded from this to win their final three games, including a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.

We have no doubt that Clemson has the talent to beat Ohio State. But given their struggles against top competition, we have no idea which Tigers team will show up.

Score Prediction: Ohio State 33 – Clemson 24

The Biggest Snub: Penn State

Some might argue that Michigan getting left out is the biggest controversy, especially since they beat Penn State 49-10. But the Nittany Lions beat two teams (Iowa, Ohio State) that defeated Michigan, and they won the Big Ten title.

For this reason, they’re considered this year’s biggest CFP snub.

College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said that it wasn’t an easy decision leaving Penn State out of the field. Here’s his explanation of the matter”

penn-state-ohio-state“We had spirited discussions in the committee selection room as well. Last night we met until approximately 1:30 a.m. this morning with that same [Penn State or Washington] conversation. It was detailed, it was difficult conversation and we looked at a lot of things. Obviously, we looked at two conference championship, Washington of the Pac-12, Penn State of the Big Ten. We looked at one-loss Washington, that loss being against a top-10 opponent compared to a two-loss Penn State team. One loss they were not competitive in that particular game, the other loss was to an 8-4 team

“We talked about strength of schedule. Obviously, strength of schedule favored Penn State. Had Washington had a stronger strength of schedule, I don’t think the conversation and discussion would have been as difficult. We looked at key statistical categories, which translate to performance on the field each and every week and the statistical categories that the selection committee sees value in that we discussed in detail last night and again this morning, Washington has the advantage. We talked to our coaches about what they saw in the performance of these two teams on the field not just in one particular game, but over the course of 13 games and Washington seemed to have the advantage there as well.

“So while it was challenging conversation, it was detailed conversation that went hours upon hours, coming out this morning, Washington deserves that No. 4 spot and the selection committee believes they’re a better football team when compared to Penn State.”

The final CFP field could’ve included a mashup of rankings beyond Alabama, or even included Penn State or Michigan over another team that got in. But the committee stuck by their rankings, which sets us up for some entertaining playoff action in late December and early January.

Washington Seals CFP Spot with 41-10 Win Over Colorado

washington-vs-colorado-1If there were any argument about the Washington Huskies deserving a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP), it ended this week with a 41-10 victory over Colorado.

We recently discussed how Washington (12-1) — No. 4 in the CFP rankings — needed a win and conference title to impress the selection committee. They couldn’t have done it any better after dominating Colorado (10-3) in the Pac-12 title game.

The reason for all of the questions surrounding Washington is that their strength of schedule wasn’t as tough as other top-5 teams. Their best win was a 44-6 victory over 17th-ranked Stanford, while they suffered a late-season loss to 10th-ranked USC that hurt their chances.

Even selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said that the margin between the Huskies and No. 5 Michigan was “very, very small.” But with Washington now having one less loss than Michigan (10-2) and a conference championship, there’s no keeping them out. Meanwhile, the Wolverines didn’t qualify for the Big Ten championship game after a 30-27 overtime loss to Ohio State.

As for the game against Colorado, the Huskies’ offense didn’t look elite, but their defense proved why its one of the best in the country. They hounded the Buffs all night, forcing three interceptions and limiting them to just 163 yards.

Washington QB Jake Browning struggled most of the night, but the duel rushing attack of Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman is what put points on the board for this team.

Gaskin had 159 rushing yards on 29 carries, while Coleman tallied 101 yards on 18 attempts. Coleman also kicked off the scoring for Washington, getting a one-yard TD on the game’s first drive.

Colorado kept things close early without senior QB Sefo Liufau (ankle), and went into the locker room down only 14-7. Liufau made an inspired comeback attempt by playing in the third quarter. However, his first pass was an interception, which Washington’s Taylor Rapp returned for a 35-yard touchdown (see below).

https://twitter.com/Pac12Network/status/804901827044982784?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Liufau remained in the game, but things didn’t get any better for him as he threw another interception on the ensuing Colorado possession. This gave Washington a short field, which they turned into another TD and a 24-7 lead.

The game officially became a blowout when receiver John Ross made a highlight-reel touchdown catch from 20 yards out.

https://twitter.com/Pac12Network/status/804909453350866944?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As you can see in the video, Ross was being pressured and lofted a high pass to Ross, who made an amazing one-handed catch, then turned around for a wide-open path to the end zone. This made the score 31-7, and both teams tacked on a few points in garbage time.

The victory seals Washington’s first conference title since 2000, and their first 12-win season since they won the national title in 1991.

Although some will still argue that the Huskies aren’t a lock when the CFP committee doles out four spots, it’s hard to see them not getting in now. They won seven of their ten Pac-12 games by at least three scores, including the 38-point margin against a good Stanford team.

Who Will Washington Play?

Even with a statement victory over Colorado, it’s unlikely that Washington moves beyond its No. 4 slot in the CFP.

We have Alabama and Ohio State grabbing the No. 1 and 2 seeds, while Clemson currently holds the 3 seed. Clemson would have to lose to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, or win in a sloppy affair, to help Washington move up.

If Clemson wins, odds are that the Huskies will face No. 1 Alabama (12-0) in the Peach Bowl. The good news is that Washington would at least have a chance to play for the national title. The bad news is that they’ll face a team that has won 11 of its 12 games by double digits.

Assuming the Tigers lose against Virginia Tech, the alternative would be Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a dominant defense, but their offense hasn’t always looked great. This is similar to Washington, which is also led by its defense.

The CFP Selection show is on Sunday, December 4, when the four CFP participants will be revealed.

College Football Playoff Picture – Can Michigan Still Get In?

ohio-state-vs-michiganIt wasn’t hard picking out the highlight of college football’s rivalry weekend, as No. 2 Ohio State eked out a 30-27 overtime victory over the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines.

The victory all but ensures that Ohio State (11-1) will be earn a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP). If so, they would become the first non-conference champion invited since the system began in 2014.

As for Michigan, they’ve fallen to No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings, sitting behind both Clemson and Washington. Wisconsin (No. 6) and Penn State (No. 8) are both knocking on the door as they’ll play in the Big Ten conference championship.

Does Michigan have a chance to still get in? Is there any way that No. 1 Alabama could fall out of the top four? Let’s answer these questions and more by looking at the predicted top four teams as well as a scenario where Michigan still get ins.

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide; would face No. 4 in Peach Bowl

Given that CFP Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told CBS “we always have a focus on who are the best football teams,” Alabama (12-0) is an absolute lock in the top 4.

Even if Alabama were to lose to Florida in the SEC Championship, it’s hard to see any scenario where they A) don’t get in, and B) drop from the No. 1 spot. It might take a 60-0 nothing skunking by Florida to end the Tide’s season.

We all know that’s not going to happen, though, considering that Alabama has won 11 of its 12 games by double digits. They’ve trailed in the second half for a total of nine and a half minutes, which is less than a point per game.

Either this is Nick Saban’s most-dominant squad ever, or the rest of the SEC is off its game. We could argue a little of both, but there’s no question that the Tide look better than anybody else right now.

No. 2 Ohio State; would face No. 3 in Fiesta Bowl

jt-barrett-playoffsOhio State almost benefits from not qualifying for the Big Ten Championship. They are the only other team that seems a lock right now, with the lone blemish on their schedule being a 24-21 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley.

The Michigan game — where Ohio State was mostly outplayed — showed that the Bucks have trouble scoring on a tough defense. But they got just enough magic, and 3 turnovers from Michigan QB Wilson Speight, to win the game.

A 45-24 win at Oklahoma, 30-23 victory at Wisconsin, 62-3 drubbing of Nebraska, and 30-27 win over Michigan give Ohio State the nation’s most impressive schedule. Something crazy would have to happen in the conference championship week for them not to get into the CFP.

No. 3 Clemson; would play No. 2 in Fiesta Bowl

clemson-deshaun-watsonClemson has a couple of nice wins on its schedule, including beating Louisville 42-36 and defeating Florida State 37-34. A late-season stumble against Pittsburgh, which also beat Penn State, remains their lone loss.

They’ve since made a statement, destroying rival South Carolina 56-7. They can guarantee themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff by beating Virginia Tech (9-3) in the ACC Championship.

If Clemson were to lose, though, they’d likely be out of the picture. After all, they haven’t beaten one top-10 CFP team, and their wins over Florida State, Louisville, and Auburn were by a combined 15 points.

No. 4 Washington; would play No. 1 in Peach Bowl

Much like Clemson, the Huskies suffered a late-season loss to USC by a score of 26-13. Washington’s only noteworthy win was their 44-6 domination of Stanford, which ranks 17th in the CFP rankings.

Washington (11-1) presents the ultimate question of if a great record and conference championship trump a relatively weak schedule. The Pac-12 being weak has hurt Washington’s standing, but the USC loss didn’t help the situation.

None of this will matter, though, if the Huskies can win against 10th-ranked Colorado (10-2) in the Pac-12 championship game.

Making the Case for No. 5 Michigan (10-2)

The one team that’s currently still in the debate with Washington for the No. 4 spot is the Wolverines. What’s currently preventing Michigan from being in the CFP is that they’re a two-loss team that won’t win their conference.

This is likely enough to keep them out of the playoff unless Clemson or Washington loses and opens up a spot. Assuming either of these teams lose, then Michigan has an excellent case based on their schedule, and the fact that non-conference-winner Ohio State looks to qualify.

As for Michigan’s schedule, they beat Colorado 45-28, Penn State 49-10, and Wisconsin 14-7. If not for a late 14-13 loss against Iowa, the Wolverines would likely be the second Big Ten team making it without a conference championship.

If we look at the Big Ten’s top four teams and margin of victory against each other, it goes: Michigan 90-47 (2-1 record), Ohio State 81-74 (2-1 record), Penn State 34-70 (1-1), and Wisconsin 30-44 (0-2 record).

If Colorado, another victim of a Michigan beatdown, beats Washington, the Wolverines have their strongest case yet.

Other Teams on the Fringe

Wisconsin (10-2) – Nothing about Wisconsin’s schedule jumps out, but they have a chance for a quality win against Penn State. Their pair of one-touchdown losses to Ohio State and Michigan show that this team can compete against anybody.

Oklahoma (9-2) – After a rocky 1-2 start that included losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners have reeled off eight straight victories. If they beat Oklahoma State, a nine-game winning streak combined with the Big-12 championship could catapult Oklahoma into the CFP.

Penn State (10-2) – The Nittany Lions took two early season losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Losing to Michigan by a score of 49-10 really hurts Penn State’s chances. But their victory over Ohio State impresses the selection committee.

Oklahoma State (9-2) – The Cowboys have the two-worst losses of anybody on this list, losing to Central Michigan and Baylor. They’ve since won seven straight, but they’d need a blowout win against the Sooners for serious consideration.

Colorado (10-2) – The Buffaloes have one of the tougher schedules in the nation, beating Stanford 10-5, but losing to Michigan 45-28 and to USC 21-17. If Colorado can win big against the Huskies, they have an outside chance at the CFP. But they would need help in other spots too, such as Clemson losing.

Can Ohio State Make Playoffs without Big Ten Title?

jt-barrett-playoffsOn October 23, the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes looked in control of their game against Penn State. But they had a late field goal blocked, which was returned by Grant Haley for a 60-yard, game-winning touchdown.

The Buckeyes have since climbed back to No. 2 behind top-ranked Alabama. But the Penn State loss still haunts them as they face the realistic possibility of not playing for the Big Ten title. As long as the Nittany Lions win out, they—not Ohio State—could be playing in a Big Ten Championship.

If this happens, should the Buckeyes still make the College Football Playoffs?

It’s little surprise that their quarterback, J.T. Barrett, thinks that his team should definitely be in if they win their final two contests against Michigan State and Michigan.

“I see it like this: If we win out all our games, Big Ten Championship or not, you’re not gonna put us in? Like you’re going to leave Ohio State out?” Barrett told Cleveland.com. “That’s how I see it. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Ohio State wasn’t in this position until last weekend, when Michigan lost 14-13 to the Iowa Hawkeyes. This puts Ohio State (9-1), Michigan (9-1), and Penn State (8-2) into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions hold the division tiebreaker over OSU because of their win in the Oct 23 meeting. They now just need to take care of business against lower-tier opponents in Rutgers and Michigan State, combined with an Ohio State victory against Michigan.

The only path for OSU to Indianapolis is for Penn State to lose one of their final two games, combined with the Buckeyes winning out.

The CFP committee places a lot of emphasis on the four playoff teams winning their conferences. But in Barrett’s mind, it should be about whom the selection committee thinks are the best teams.

“I know Big Ten Championships and conference championships is a major thing,” said Barrett, “but then you’re talking about one of those two-loss teams and things like that. It’s something totally different.”

He added, “I think if we won our games, that’s the only thing we can control, the only thing we can handle. And (the playoff) is left to somebody else, people on the committee and things like that. At the end of the day, it’s one of those things of, ‘We can’t control that.’ We control winning games, and if we do that, I feel like we’ve done our part.”

This raises an important thought about whether the CFP committee would really overlook the Buckeyes in favor of two-loss teams like Penn State or the West division leader Wisconsin.

Ohio State isn’t alone in worrying about what the selection committee will do since other teams are also on the fringe. Undefeated Alabama is currently the only team that doesn’t have to question whether they’re in line for a postseason berth.

Unless things work themselves out over the coming weeks, the CFP selection committee isn’t in an enviable position right now.

“We don’t look forward,” CFP committee member Kirby Hocutt told Land of 10 regarding Ohio State’s chances. “As we saw, anything can happen on any given Saturday. We do not look forward and anticipate what may happen in the future.”

The biggest precedent for this situation thus far was in 2014, when No. 3 TCU fell to No. 6 despite winning 55-3 in their final regular-season game. Without winning a conference championship, TCU didn’t make it into the CFP. But Big Ten champion Ohio State moved up to No. 4 and would go on to win the CFP that year.

This season, it could be Ohio State on the outside looking in if they’re not able to play for a conference championship.

Can Rutgers Football Win a Game in the Big Ten?

rutgers-big-tenSaturday saw the most-embarrassing moment in Rutgers football history, a 78-0 loss to the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines. As if the final score wasn’t humiliating enough, it happened at the Scarlet Knights’ home in Piscataway, New Jersey.

This was the biggest margin of victory ever in a Big Ten game. Things could have been even uglier, with Michigan winning 71-0 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The yardage total was also heavily lopsided, as the Wolverines gained 600 yards compared to Rutgers’ 39 yards.

Things didn’t go well for the team the previous weekend in Columbus either. The Scarlet Knights were demolished 58-0 by the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, making for a 126-0 score margin over the past two weeks.

As bad as Rutgers has looked against two of the nation’s top four teams, it’s worth asking if they have the chance to win a single Big Ten contest this season.

The Scarlet Knights have produced a 2-4 season so far, with victories over Howard and New Mexico. They lost a close 14-7 game against a respectable Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2) team. Rutgers other loss was a 48-13 blowout against Washington, another top 5-ranked school.

Perhaps the Scarlet Knights aren’t such a terrible football squad, but rather a beat-up one that has played three of the nation’s fop football teams in the first half of the season.

The good news for Rutgers is that it doesn’t get any tougher from here.

First up is a 1-4 Illinois team that only has a win over Murray State to their credit. The rest of the teams are better, but not great: @Minnesota (3-2), Indiana (3-2), @Michigan State (2-3), Penn State (4-2), and @Maryland (4-1).

rutgers-footballWe don’t know if Rutgers can truly win any of their last six Big Ten meetings, but the Illinois game remains their best shot. Fighting Illini quarterback Wes Lunt left the Purdue game in the second half with an injury and is questionable to play against the Scarlet Knights.

Following two devastating blowout losses, Rutgers would love to pick up a Big Ten victory and have something go right for the program. This is especially the case with three starters lost for the season to injury.

Some have recently questioned why Rutgers is even in the Big Ten, given how poorly they’ve performed in a major conference.

Last year wasn’t good, as they finished 4-8 with a 1-7 mark in conference play. This season looks like it could be even worse.

But the truth is that the Big Ten could care less about how well Rutgers plays. As DeadSpin writer Nick Martin points out, bringing the Scarlet Knights aboard was all about a lucrative TV deal:

“By signing on Rutgers, the conference’s lucrative television network was able to lock down deals with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision, bringing the Big Ten Network, which is majority owned by Fox, to basic packages in the New York and New Jersey markets. The expansion to the Tri-State area, as well as Washington, D.C., was tagged with a $1 subscription fee for customers—up from the normal 44 cents.

“With Maryland and Rutgers games being broadcast in the two markets, viewership increased from 52 million to 60 million in a year’s time, per the Baltimore Sun. More viewers, more ads—going for $4,000 per 30-second slot—and ultimately, more money. The conference’s payout from its Cablevision deal alone was up nearly $18 million in 2015, totaling $31.7 million, according to AdAge.”

Maybe Rutgers will pick up another win, maybe they’ll continue being dominated by Big Ten competition.

But in the end, it’s not going to really matter because both Rutgers and the conference continue benefiting as long as they’re TV deals are in place.

Les Miles On Heat Seat Already After Wisconsin Loss?

les-miles-lsu-wisconsinAfter losing three of his last five games to end 2015, LSU football coach Les Miles was sitting on the hot seat. Following a 16-14 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers to open the 2016 season, it doesn’t look like Miles’ job is any more secure.

The unranked Badgers used a stout defense to shut down the No. 5 ranked Tigers and grab a close win at Lambeau Field. LSU only mustered 257 yards of total offense, while star running back Leonard Fournette (23 caries, 138 rushing yards) couldn’t carry his team to victory.

The Tigers had a chance to win the game since they were driving in the final minute. But Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon made a game-sealing interception, allowing the Badgers to run out the clock and preserve their 16-14 victory.

Miles’ team didn’t come to play in the first half since they were thoroughly dominated and failed to put points on the board. Wisconsin was up 6-0 going into the locker room, but it could’ve been worse had quarterback Bart Houston not been picked off in the red zone.

The Badgers went up 13-0 early in the third quarter, before it finally looked like LSU might turn the tide and win as expected. First, Tre’Davious White intercepted Houston and scored a 21-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7. Shortly after, Tigers QB Brandon Harris gave his team the lead by finding Travin Durant for a 10-yard TD.

But Houston led a nice drive down the field that set Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone up for what proved to be the game-winning field goal.

For Wisconsin, this is a huge victory in the first college game played at Lambeau Field in 30 years. For LSU, this loss could potentially derail championship expectations for a talented team.

Conference rival Alabama is ranked No. 1 overall in the AP Top 25 poll, but the Tigers aren’t much further behind them (for now) and are expected to make this a two-team race for the SEC title.

LSU still has a chance at the SEC crown and a playoff berth, but one conference loss could diminish these dreams as they’re sure to tumble down the standings.

As for Miles, he made need an SEC title and/or BCS Playoff berth to keep his job. The 62-year-old dealt with weeks of speculation that he could be fired after a third straight loss last season.

Despite all of the rumors following ugly losses to Alabama (30-16), Arkansas (31-14), and Ole Miss (38-17), Miles was still coaching the team by the season finale. The Tigers beat the Texas A&M Aggies 19-7 and won their bowl game over Texas Tech 56-27.

les-miles-hot-seatThis not only earned Miles job security, but also got him a salary raise to $4.3 million per year. But now, just months after the contract extension through 2019, Miles has to fear for his job again.

The team reached its peak under Miles in 2007, when they won both the SEC title and BCS National Championship. They had another excellent season in 2011, winning the SEC before losing 21-0 to Alabama in the National Championship.

Since that time, the Tigers have dealt with mediocrity as far as their expectations go. In fact, the 2014 and ’15 seasons, where LSU went 8-5 and 9-3 respectively, could be considered disasters for a team that consistently has championship expectations.

There’s a lot of time left in the season. But one more loss could mean that Miles’ time in Baton Rouge has run out.