College Football

9 Teams with the Best Odds to Qualify for the 1st College Football Playoff

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

9 Teams with the Best Odds to Qualify for the 1st College Football Playoff

1 of 10

    USA TODAY Sports

    We are inching—inching—closer to the 2014 college football season, and our good friends at the sportsbooks have noticed.

    Early last week, offshore betting outpost 5Dimes.com posted its first over/under win totals of the season, and now Bovada has followed suit with a few props on which teams will make the College Football Playoff (h/t Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com).

    The nine teams posted are predictable—the biggest long shot is UCLA at 12-5 odds to make it and 5-19 to not. But it is interesting nonetheless to see where the juice lies on certain favorites.

    All of these teams have the roster to win their conference and compete for a spot in the CFP. If they didn't, they wouldn't be listed here. But taking into account factors such as schedule and the lines that were posted, let's look at which bets seem smartest, which bets seem foolish and which bets should be avoided altogether.

    Chime in below with where you disagree.

9. UCLA

2 of 10

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 12-5

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-19

     

    Analysis

    I have gone on the record with my love for UCLA, which does not have a single patent hole on its roster.

    The Bruins have one of the five best quarterbacks in college football (Brett Hundley), a decent band of skill players, a good-when-healthy offensive line, a loaded defensive front seven and a deep secondary that returns every player of importance from last season.

    "We definitely should be considered as a big-time program," said star outside linebacker Myles Jack, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "I'm hearing we should be ranked top 10. I think we are starting to get the respect that we deserve."

    What's more, UCLA has a favorable schedule that includes home games against Oregon, Stanford and USC—arguably the three toughest opponents it faces—along with Arizona and Utah.

    Even if it slips up elsewhere, playing the Pac-12's best teams at home gives UCLA the best chance of reaching the conference title game. And from there, it would be just one win away from the CFP.

    The number isn't fantastic, but at this point, I'm all in.

     

    B/R Prediction

    Make 12-5

T-8. LSU

3 of 10

    USA TODAY Sports

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 9-4

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 2-7

     

    Analysis

    That LSU is listed among the top nine teams is a hat tip to Les Miles and John Chavis. There have been few safer bets the past decade.

    But let's get serious.

    LSU could realistically start a pair of true freshmen—quarterback Brandon Harris and running back Leonard Fournette—in the backfield, another true freshman (Malachi Dupre) at wide receiver and have to replace essentially every part of its defensive front seven.

    Everyone who takes the field for the Tigers will have blue-chip pedigree, but that is not all it takes to win. It takes seasoning, the knowledge of how it feels to get punched in the mouth by an FBS opponent and stand up and keep fighting.

    Excuse the banality, but this team is (at least) a year away.

     

    B/R Prediction

    Miss 2-7

T-8. Michigan State

4 of 10

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 12-5

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-19

     

    Analysis

    Michigan State should be slightly worse on defense but slightly better on offense next season, resulting in a team that is—in theory—about as good as last year's Big Ten and Rose Bowl Champion.

    But the schedule before it is tough.

    A Week 2 road trip to Oregon could very well result in a loss, and assuming a two-loss Big Ten team will not make the first College Football Playoff—which feels like a safe assumption—Sparty would then have zero margin for error the rest of the way.

    Can this team run the table after Oregon? Sure. It can beat Oregon, too. There's enough talent on this roster—and, more importantly, this coaching staff—to beat any team, anywhere, on any given day.

    I just won't be betting on it.

     

    B/R Prediction

    No Play (Pool Play: Miss 5-19)

T-6. Auburn

5 of 10

    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 7-4

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-13

     

    Analysis

    Auburn was more good than lucky en route to the SEC title and a trip to the BCS National Championship last season. But that doesn't mean it did not benefit from good luck. It did. It really, really did.

    This year's team should be better, however, which will require less luck. Nick Marshall has another season under him, the offensive line returns four starters, and the nation's top JUCO prospect, D'haquille Williams, looked like a beast at wide receiver during spring practice.

    What gives me trepidation isn't the roster but the schedule. That magic the Tigers used to beat Georgia and Alabama last season? It all came at home. Which means this year, it gets the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in Athens and Tuscaloosa, respectively.

    It also gets Mississippi State (a sneaky contender) in Starkville, Ole Miss in Oxford, Kansas State in Manhattan and hosts the only team that beat it in the regular season last year, LSU.

    That is a little much to overcome.

     

    B/R Prediction

    No Play (Pool Play: Miss 5-13)

T-6. Oklahoma

6 of 10

    USA TODAY Sports

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 7-4

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-13

     

    Analysis

    I get—but don't agree with—the hoopla surrounding Trevor Knight.

    Yes, he carved up Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and sure, he has, on paper, the skill set of a poor man's Johnny Manziel. He can make all of the plays with his arm and with his legs, and he did not shy away from the moment when Oklahoma needed it most.

    But let's not forget the bad times, either. In the game before the Sugar Bowl—a rivalry game, at Oklahoma State—it was backup Blake Bell who had to play the role of hero. And it was Knight who was benched after stinking up the joint early in the season.

    I'm not saying Knight is bad, and I do think Oklahoma will have one of the five best defenses in the country next season. But a dominant defense and good-but-inconsistent quarterback play doesn't sound, to me, like a threat to make the College Football Playoff.

    It sounds like last year's USC Trojans.

     

    B/R Prediction

    Miss 5-13

4. Alabama

7 of 10

    USA TODAY Sports

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 5-4

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-8

     

    Analysis

    Whoever wins the starting quarterback job—and let's assume, for the time being, that it will be Florida State transfer Jacob Coker—will have an apt amount of time to work out the kinks with the offense.

    Opening-season games against West Virginia, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss should help get this team in a rhythm before a sneaky home game against Florida. But even then, whoever wins the starting job will have an embarrassment of weapons at his disposal.

    Those weapons include the best pair of running backs (T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry) in the country and a deep group of pass-catchers such as Amari Cooper, Chris Black, DeAndrew White and O.J. Howard.

    The defense has some holes, but in lineman A'Shawn Robinson, linebacker Trey DePriest and safety Landon Collins, it has a potential All-American at each level. And how many teams can say that?

    Plus, you know, it still has Nick Saban on the sideline. And it gets Auburn at home. And it's won three of the last five national titles.

    Scoop up the positive odds while you can.

     

    B/R Prediction

    Make 5-4

T-3. Oregon

8 of 10

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: EVEN

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-7

     

    Analysis

    No team needed the BCS era to end more than Oregon—the consummate bridesmaid-not-bride of the past six seasons.

    But will the CFP era really fix everything?

    Maybe. But probably not. The Ducks get a slight reprieve by missing USC in the regular season, but they still have home games against Stanford and Arizona—the two teams they lost to in 2013—and tricky road games at UCLA, Utah (which beat Stanford at home last season) and Oregon State (which always plays them well in the Civil War).

    That all comes in addition to a nonconference home game against Michigan State and another tricky conference game versus Washington. Who knows how good Chris Petersen's team might be?

    With all of the attrition at wide receiver, there are too many questions to lay such a number on the Ducks. I'll pass (instead of betting on "Miss") because I like the defense and Marcus Mariota scares me.

    But this is more than a slight lean in pool play. 

     

    B/R Prediction

    No Play (Pool Play: Miss 5-7)

T-3. Ohio State

9 of 10

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: EVEN

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 5-7

     

    Analysis

    Ohio State is stacked along the defensive front seven, has a new secondary coach in Chris Ash (which addressed its biggest problem from 2014) and still has quarterback Braxton Miller and head coach Urban Meyer running the show on offense.

    With a manageable schedule that only features one manifest obstacle (at Michigan State November 8), it is no wonder the Buckeyes are viewed so keenly by the oddsmakers.

    A bet on "Make" is essentially a bet for Ohio State to win in East Lansing; no one else on the Buckeyes' schedule seems good enough to beat them. But OSU is likely to be an underdog—however slight—on the road against the team that beat it last season, correct?

    So if you think it will upset Sparty, why not just ignore this bet and grab the better odds in that game when it rolls around?

    That's what I would do.

     

    B/R Prediction

    No Play (Pool Play: Make EVEN)

1. Florida State

10 of 10

    USA TODAY Sports

    Odds

    To MAKE the College Football Playoff: 2-7

    To MISS the College Football Playoff: 9-4

     

    Analysis

    On paper, Florida State is the best team in the country. It has proven it can win the "big one," and it has a very favorable schedule.

    You should still bet on "Miss."

    Why? This is just one of those times where you have to trust the numbers. According to Dave Bartoo of CFB Matrix, only three of the last 13 teams that went 12-0 in the regular season have gone 11-1 the following season. In next year's ACC, 10-2 will not cut it—and 11-1 with Florida State's schedule might be pushing it.

    Ipso facto, the numbers are not on your side. Whether it be Clemson, Notre Dame or Louisville, the numbers say someone will beat Florida State. Not because they are better than Florida State but because it is hard to win 25 games in a row. This team, after all, is just two years removed from losing a game it should have won at N.C. State.

    Maybe it'll lose at N.C. State.

    Personally, I think Florida State will make the College Football Playoff next season. I predicted it right here. But I'm not laying that type of lumber when the foundations of statistics are against me.

     

    B/R Prediction

    Miss 9-4

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices