College Football Playoff Odds: Georgia Earns Top-Dawg Status

Georgia running back Kendall Milton runs with the football
Image Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, Props.com highlights the handful of schools that oddsmakers currently believe have the best shot of reaching the four-team College Football Playoff — with the Orange and Cotton bowls hosting the semifinals on Dec. 31. While each contender’s ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll is included below, this exercise chronicles where these teams currently stand in the betting market.

Odds are courtesy of DraftKings and updated as of 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 12.

Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White on the left celebrates with Georgia Bulldogs tight end Brock Bowers on the right after scoring a touchdown
Image Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 6-0
Ranking: 1st (last week: 2nd)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes -1000 No +650

Why Georgia has a clear path to College Football Playoff glory:

— Georgia fans are undoubtedly thrilled about the school’s first post-September No. 1 ranking since the early 1980s. On the flip side, it might have benefited UGA more for Alabama to beat Texas A&M on Saturday, thus keeping the Bulldogs at No. 2 slot. That’s because if Alabama and Georgia had advanced to the SEC championship as undefeated powerhouses, the loser of a 1-vs.-2 mega-clash likely would have been a shoo-in for the four-team playoff — regardless of the final score. The strength-of-schedule bump, under that scenario, would have been monumental.

— The Bulldogs has trashed its early SEC competition by an aggregate score of 173-23, a four-game slate that included two top-20 teams (Arkansas, Auburn). For the season, Georgia also leads the country in total defense (allowing 201.2 yards per game), and scoring defense (5.5 points per game).

— Saturday’s high-profile home game against fellow-unbeaten and 11th-ranked Kentucky, followed by a neutral-site rivalry tilt with No. 20 Florida (Oct. 30 in Jacksonville), appear cumbersome on paper. Then again, Arkansas and Auburn were thought to be potential giant killers just a few weeks ago and Georgia crushed them both. Hence the reason the Dawgs are massive 23-point favorites against an undefeated opponent this week. They’ll be laying similar big numbers the rest of the way until the likely clash with Alabama in the SEC title game (Dec. 4 in Atlanta).

Alabama Crimson Tide

Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 5-1
Ranking: 5th (last week: 1st)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes -140/No +120

Why Alabama still controls its destiny in the SEC West:

— Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M not only ended a 19-game winning streak, but it put the once-infallible Crimson Tide in a tough spot moving forward: They’ll need to sweep their remaining regular-season games against Mississippi State, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, and Arkansas, then presumptively upend top-ranked Georgia in the SEC title game. Anything short of this scenario, and Nick Saban and his troops likely will be watching the two playoff semifinals from home.

— The one silver lining in Alabama’s stunning defeat: Texas A&M already has two conference losses, so the Crimson Tide don’t have to worry about losing an SEC West tiebreaker to the Aggies … unless they suffer another upset defeat.

— After Georgia, Alabama consistently possesses the best odds among the elite-level contenders for a College Football Playoff berth. That means the betting market still loves the Tide’s chances to run the regular-season table and capture the SEC West. It also means oddsmakers don’t believe there’s a chance the CFP committee will bypass a one-loss SEC champ Alabama. Makes sense, considering the SEC king has garnered a playoff invite all seven years of the CFP.

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma's Caleb Kelly on the left and Jalen Redmond on the right celebrate after a fumble recovery
Image Credit: Bryan Terry – The Oklahoman/USA Today Network

Record: 6-0
Ranking: 4th (last week: 6th)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes -150/No +130

Why Oklahoma remains a sturdy, yet confounding playoff favorite:

— Oklahoma has to be the shakiest top-five team in recent memory. The school’s first six opponents of the season (Tulane, Western Carolina, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kansas State, and Texas) have a cumulative record of 13-23. Yet the Sooners have beaten just one opponent by more than a touchdown (and that was a 76-0 rout of FCS entrant Western Carolina). Now coach Lincoln Riley has a quarterback controversy on his hands after benching struggling former Heisman candidate Spencer Rattler at halftime last week in favor of Caleb Williams, who led a spirited come-from-behind, last-second win over rival Texas.

— You might not believe Oklahoma has done enough to be considered one of the nation’s top four teams, but that doesn’t matter. Here’s what does: Every undefeated Power 5 conference champion in the last seven years has reached the College Football Playoff. So if the Sooners survive the rest of their schedule — regardless if they win by one point or 50 — an invite to the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl will soon follow. (Note: Of Oklahoma’s final six regular-season games, only No. 12 Oklahoma State is ranked in the Top 25 this week.)

Ohio State Buckeyes

Image Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 5-1
Ranking: 6th (last week: 7th)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes +120/No -140

Why Ohio State still enjoys alpha-dog status in the betting market:

— Ohio State may be second in the pecking order of Big Ten schools currently ranked in the top 10 (trailing No. 2 Iowa and just ahead of No.  7 Penn State, No. 8 Michigan, and No. 10 Michigan State), but the betting community still has the Buckeyes as prohibitive favorites for the four-team playoff. Perhaps that has something to do with Ohio State leading the Big Ten in total offense (562.7 yards per game), passing offense (352.2 yards per game), and scoring offense (48.5 points per game). Or maybe it’s the result of the Buckeyes’ defense surrendering a grand total of 57 points in their last four games.

— With Oregon (which won at Ohio State, then lost at Stanford), Alabama, and BYU no longer sporting unblemished records, the Buckeyes (3-0 in conference) control their destiny for a playoff berth, perhaps no lower than the No. 3 seed. Beginning Oct. 30, Ohio State will lock horns with Penn State (home), Nebraska (road), Michigan State (home), and Michigan (road). Win out, and the Buckeyes will be the outright Big Ten East champs. Then they would head to the Big Ten title game for a possible heavyweight showdown with No. 2 Iowa. Beat the Hawkeyes — or, really, any opponent — on Dec. 4 in Indianapolis, and Ohio State will punch its playoff ticket.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Image Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 5-0
Ranking: 3rd (last week: 5th)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes +160/No -190

Why Cincinnati remains in a holding pattern:

— Don’t read too much into Cincinnati’s No. 3 ranking. Even if they finish the regular season 13-0 — including marquee wins over Indiana, Notre Dame, and in the American Athletic Conference title game — the Bearcats might still require outside help to cement a spot in the playoff.

Here’s what could potentially hold back Cincinnati: The College Football Playoff committee puts a lot of stock in strength of schedule, and the Bearcats currently rank 20th in that metric. With only one ranked foe (No. 23 SMU) remaining on its schedule, Cincy isn’t likely to move up the strength-of-schedule ladder. What’s more, if Indiana (2-3 overall) and Notre Dame (barely survived non-ranked Virginia Tech last week) struggle in October and November, the Bearcats actually could drop a few rungs.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Image Credit: David K Purdy/Getty Images

Record: 6-0
Ranking: 2nd (last week: 3rd)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes +230/No -290

Iowa may be right behind Georgia in the rankings this week, but the Hawkeyes are out of the playoff picture as far as the oddsmakers are concerned. Which makes you wonder: Is Iowa truly worthy of its No. 2 ranking? With three top-20 wins (Indiana, Iowa State, and Penn State), a top-12 schedule, and preordained march to the Big Ten West title, the undefeated Hawkeyes seemingly have the résumé of a playoff-bound team. Then again, it’s tough to ignore how much Iowa struggled last week against Penn State until Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford departed with a game-ending injury. At the time of Clifford’s exit, Penn State was leading 17-3 and seemingly cruising to a signature road win. Instead, Iowa pulled out a 23-20 victory and moved up one cherry spot in the AP poll.

Michigan Wolverines

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on the left hugs Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara after a victory
Image Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 6-0
Ranking: 8th (last week: 9th)
College Football Playoff odds: Yes +260/No -340

What do Oklahoma, Michigan, and Michigan State have in common, aside from being top-10 teams? All three were lucky to eke out victories over Nebraska, despite being thoroughly outplayed by the middling Huskers for long stretches of action. Alas, the CFP committee loves undefeated Power 5 teams (especially when those Power 5 teams are blue bloods). As long as the Sooners, Wolverines, and Spartans take a survive-and-advance approach to every game, they don’t have to worry about style points.