Where Oddsmakers Disagree With College Football Playoff Rankings

(Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire)

The College Football Playoff Committee released its first rankings of the 2021 college football season Tuesday night, but the betting market is not paying much attention. Bettors are more interested in which teams will be in the top four at the end of the regular season, not necessarily who looks good in early November.

Michigan State and Oregon may have earned the right to be ranked No. 3 and 4 in the country, respectively, but the odds do not favor them winning the National Championship. On the other hand, Oklahoma is No. 8 and has the fourth-best odds at many sportsbooks.

Odds To Win 2021 College Football National Championship For CFP Top 25

NCAAF National Championship Odds-2021/22        
CFP Rankings (1-25) BetMGM Caesars DraftKings BetRivers
1. Georgia +100 +110 +110 +110
2. Alabama +300 +275 +280 +275
3. Michigan State +3000 +4000 +4000 +5000
4. Oregon +3000 +3000 +5000 +2500
5. Ohio State +400 +500 +500 +450
6. Cincinnati +4000 +3000 +3000 +4000
7. Michigan +10000 +8000 +6000 +5000
8. Oklahoma +1400 +1400 +1200 +1400
9. Wake Forest +10000 +15000 +10000 +10000
10. Notre Dame +12500 +10000 +10000 +25000
11. Oklahoma State +10000 +15000 +13000 +10000
12. Baylor +8000 +12500 +8000 +10000
13. Auburn +20000 +30000 +15000 +10000
14. Texas A&M +15000 +15000 +10000 +10000
15. BYU +20000 +100000 +1000000
16. Ole Miss +20000 +30000 +30000 +10000
17. Mississippi State +30000 +50000
18. Kentucky +50000 +50000
19. NC State +25000 +50000 +50000 +25000
20. Minnesota +40000 +30000 +50000
21. Wisconsin +20000 +20000 +25000
22. Iowa +30000 +30000 +20000 +50000
23. Fresno State +75000 +50000
24. San Diego State +150000 +50000
25. Pittsburgh +30000 +18000 +50000

As you can see, the odds do not always match up with where each team is ranked. Oklahoma,for example, has better odds than higher-ranked Michigan State, Oregon, Cincinnati, and Michigan.

The reason for the difference between the rankings and odds is pretty straightforward. While the rankings represent how the teams are perceived right now, the odds represent how oddsmakers and bettors think the season will play out.

There is no question as to whether Michigan State deserves to be ranked as high as they are. But with the games remaining on their schedule, they could easily be knocked down a few pegs. A win over Ohio State would probably lock down a spot in the playoffs for them, but they will be a substantial underdog in that game, and a loss would knock them out of the top four.

Let’s examine how the season could unfold for the top teams:

No. 1 Georgia (8-0 SU, 6-2 ATS)

If the Bulldogs win out, they will make the playoffs and remain the favorite to win it all.  Even a loss to a regular-season opponent (not likely) or Alabama in the SEC title game would probably not knock them out of the top four.

No. 2 Alabama (7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS)

The loss to Texas A&M eliminates any margin for error for the Crimson Tide. Based on ‘Bama’s status as the second betting choice, the betting market’s expectation is for the Tide to run the table and enter the SEC title game 11-1, and there is a slim chance they still make the playoffs if they lose to Georgia. If a two-loss team were to break through to the CFP, it would probably be Alabama.

However, they would still likely need to beat Georgia to win the national championship.

Michigan State (8-0 SU, 6-1-1 ATS)

The win over Michigan vaulted the Spartans into the top three of the CFP rankings. But they will need to win out if they are going to remain in the conversation. With games against Ohio State and Penn State still to come, that’s easier said than done.

Oregon (7-1 SU, 2-6 ATS)

The Ducks looked the part of a national title contender in their win over Ohio State. However, the loss to Stanford a few weeks later took some of the shine off that win. If they win out, they might remain in the top four. But the deciding factor may be how the CFP Committee sees Ohio State’s body of work compared to Oregon’s, despite their early-season loss to the Ducks.

Ohio State (7-1 SU, 4-3-1 ATS)

The Committee has the Buckeyes on the outside looking in right now. But according to the odds, Ohio State should make the playoffs and have a shot at winning the national championship. Wins over Michigan State and Michigan will likely move them into the top four by the end of the regular season, and then a Big Ten title would punch their playoff ticket. However, if they make the playoffs, even their top-notch offense may have a hard time against the Georgia defense.

Cincinnati (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS)

There is a lot of outrage over the Bearcats not making the top four of the initial rankings despite being ranked No. 2 in the polls. While Cincinnati looks like a formidable team, the Bearcats don’t have the kind of resume needed to make the playoffs. Despite being ranked No. 6 in the first CFP rankings, with a relatively weak schedule, they will have a hard time making it into the top four.

Michigan (7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS)

The Wolverines were shaping up to be a potential contender before their loss to the Spartans last weekend. But a win over Ohio State coupled with a Big Ten title might be enough to sneak into the top four.

Oklahoma (9-0 SU, 4-5 ATS)

An undefeated Sooners team will undoubtedly be in the conversation for the playoffs and National Championship, and they’re priced accordingly as the fourth favorite. If they finish the season strong (like they did in 2020), they will be a legitimate contender. However, wins over ranked Baylor and Oklahoma State teams may not be enough to get them into the playoffs.

Other teams worth keeping an eye on: Wake Forest (8-0 SU) is having an impressive year, as are Oklahoma State (7-1 SU), Notre Dame (7-1 SU, and Baylor (7-1 SU). But for any of them to even have a shot at the playoffs, let alone the national championship, chaos will have to break out at the top of the rankings the next few weeks.