The field for the College Football Playoffs is set, with four proud programs ready to contend for the national championship.
No Michigan team is among them, of course, but in a year of trials and tribulations, an NCAA football playoff is a welcome sight. But which of the four teams will come through and emerge with the title?
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. All good teams, but only one will be crowned champion.
Here’s a look at the odds to capture the title, as well as a look at the College Football Playoff odds for each of the semifinal matchups. But first, let’s answer a simple question: When are the bowl games?
When are the College Football Playoffs?
|Rose Bowl||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame||Jan. 1||4 p.m. ET||AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX||ESPN||Limited|
|Sugar Bowl||No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State||Jan. 1||8 p.m. ET||Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans||ESPN||Limited|
|CFP National Championship||Winner of Rose Bowl vs. Winner of Sugar Bowl||Jan. 11||8 p.m. ET||Hard Rock Stadium, Miami||ESPN||Limited|
2021 College Football Playoffs: Odds soundly behind Alabama
The College Football Playoffs features top-ranked Alabama taking on No. 4 Notre Dame, while No. 2 Clemson will battle with No. 3 Ohio State.
|Odds to win the College Football Playoffs||BetMGM||DraftKings||FanDuel||PointsBet||William Hill|
|No. 1 Alabama||-155||-167||-160||-200||-175|
|No. 2 Clemson||+270||+175||+270||+250||+280|
|No. 3 Ohio State||+525||+800||+500||+800||+500|
|No. 4 Notre Dame||+2000||+3300||+2200||+2500||+2000|
Oddsmakers across the board are expecting Alabama to come away with the title. The Crimson Tide are receiving odds ranging from -155 to -200 depending on the sportsbook.
Clemson is next in the odds line. The Tigers range from +175 to +280. Ohio State is listed anywhere from +500 to +800. Notre Dame is the distant underdog with odds from +2000 to +3300.
Semifinals feature lofty point spreads for Alabama, Clemson
Alabama and Notre Dame will meet in the Rose Bowl, but this year’s game will actually be played from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to allow for some fan attendance. Clemson and Ohio State will collide in the Sugar Bowl.
|College Football Playoff Semifinals||BetMGM||DraftKings||FanDuel||PointsBet||William Hill|
|Alabama vs. Notre Dame||ALA -1200|
O/U 65.5 (-106/-114)
O/U 65.5 (-115/-105)
|Clemson vs. Ohio State||CLE -300|
O/U 65 (-110/-105)
O/U 65.5 (-105/-117)
O/U 65.5 (-106/-114)
Oddsmakers see Alabama as an overwhelming favorite, double digits in fact. Most sportsbooks have Alabama as a 19.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish. The over/under is listed at 65.5 points.
Oddsmakers have Clemson as a 7.5-point favorite against the Buckeyes. The over/under is also listed at 65.5 points.
Numbers tell a clear story on underdogs and clear favorites, but let’s take a closer look at each of the four teams.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide: Bama seeks third playoff title
Since the College Football Playoffs began in 2014, Alabama has secured the title on two occasions. Both times came when the Tide were a No. 2 seed.
Alabama has been the top seed on three occasions but never managed to win the championship as the No. 1 team.
Bama is 11-0 on the season with an 8-3 record against the spread.
The Tide have been led by their dominant offense. Alabama averages 49.7 points and 543.9 yards per game, both of which rank in the top five in the nation.
Quarterback Mac Jones ranks second in the country with 3,739 passing yards. He also has 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Jones has the nation’s top receiver in DeVonta Smith, who has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 scores. Rusher Najee Harris has added 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.
But there is one concern for Bama entering the playoffs: defense. Unlike most Nick Saban units, this defense ranks outside the top 20 nationally. The Tide have allowed at least 24 points in four games and at least 46 in two of them.
2. Clemson Tigers: Looking to reclaim the championship
Clemson is making a sixth straight playoff appearance. The Tigers won in the playoffs in the 2018-19 and 2016-17 seasons, while falling in the championship last year to the LSU Tigers.
The Tigers went 10-1 this season, with the lone loss coming against Notre Dame when Trevor Lawrence was unavailable due to COVID-19. Over its 11 games, Clemson was just 5-6 against the spread.
Clemson has been dominant on both sides of the ball, ranking fourth in offense (44.9. points per game) and 11th in defense (17.5 points per game).
Despite missing some action, Lawrence still threw for 2,753 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.
Travis Etienne led the ground attack with 882 yards and 13 scores, while Amari Rodgers was the top receiver with 69 catches for 966 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, Clemson constantly is applying pressure. The unit racked up 44 sacks while creating 26 turnovers.
Do the Tigers have a soft spot? Yes, their run defense ranks 65th nationally, allowing 163.8 yards per game.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes: An undeserving playoff contender?
Ohio State is making a fourth playoff appearance this year. The Buckeyes won the very first College Football Playoffs as a No. 4 seed.
This year, there’s been a lot of debate about Ohio State making the playoffs, as the Buckeyes played just six games this season due to COVID-19 issues within its program and around the Big Ten Conference. All that aside, the Buckeyes were 6-0 while going 3-3 against the spread.
Ohio State once again has a powerful offense that is averaging 42.5 points and 529.2 yards per game.
Justin Fields has thrown for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 274 yards and five scores. The Ohio State offense is putting up 275.7 rushing yards per game.
Defensively, Ohio State has been suspect against the pass. The Buckeyes are allowing 260.8 passing yards per game through the air, which doesn’t bode well against Lawrence.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Coming off a Clemson beatdown
Notre Dame is making its second College Football Playoff appearance. The first was in the 2018-19 season where it suffered a 30-3 semifinal loss to Clemson.
The Fighting Irish went 10-0 this season before running into a full-strength Clemson in the ACC Championship last weekend. ND was outgained 541-263 in total yards in the loss, soundly beaten in every aspect of the game.
Despite that, Notre Dame managed to hang on for the final playoff spot. The Irish are just 5-6 against the spread on the season.
For the season, the Irish were giving up just 18.6 points and 335.1 yards per game. On offense, ND is averaging 35.2 points and 455.1 yards per game.
Brian Kelly has been able to rely on Ian Book to run the offense. Book has thrown for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also rushing for 430 yards and eight scores.
Kyren Williams is adding 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.