CFB betting: Value on the College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy
In college football, it's almost unheard of to lose convincingly but have your College Football Playoff chances improve. It's even more improbable that not only has no one seemed to notice, but the odds have lengthened far more than they should have.
College Football Playoff odds
Alabama and Clemson had a clear road to the CFP going into last Saturday's games, but respective losses to LSU and Notre Dame detoured them both. Meanwhile, TCU remained undefeated and landed a top-four position in this week's CFP rankings. However, the Horned Frogs were also 7-point underdogs at Texas on Saturday, suggesting that although they won, they'd be underdogs in a Big 12 championship game rematch. One loss would certainly knock out TCU and the conference as a whole.
Ardent readers will have noted that we have yet to make a bet for college football's national champion. That changes now.
What did we really learn about Tennessee after its two-touchdown loss at Georgia? If your answer is, "That the Volunteers aren't as good as Georgia," that's not something we learned. Given that they were almost 10-point underdogs, we knew that going in. We even knew that when Tennessee was priced equally to the Bulldogs and Ohio State to win the title last week.
What changed was that Clemson and Alabama knocked themselves out in upset losses. Tennessee's loss only confirms that it's, at best, the second-best team in the country. The top four make the CFP, so it makes sense that the Vols can be found at a favored price of -220 to do so. The loss also keeps them out of the SEC championship game, which actually helps them because it keeps them out of a losable game.
Instead, Tennessee will play three more games as a multiple-touchdown favorite. Given the likelihood that it finishes with a lone blemish being a road loss to the best team in the country, it will be hard to imagine that we'll see the Volunteers outside of the top four come Dec. 4. Especially after Michigan and Ohio State have played, TCU will have finished its tough schedule, and the Pac-12 has cannibalized itself. Speaking of the Pac-12, its best candidate is a team that lost to, wait for it ... Georgia! By 46 points! On a neutral field!
OK, so let's say the Volunteers are in the CFP, the case against them is that they'd likely have a path of Ohio State and Georgia to win. Beyond it being an assumption that the Buckeyes get there, how do we know Tennessee isn't better than them? More importantly, if the Vols got a rematch against Georgia on a neutral field in Los Angeles, their offense may work considerably better without the same din of Bulldogs fans at home.
The Volunteers were +9.5 on the road at Georgia, but even the loss shouldn't downgrade them to a point where the same spread should exist on a neutral field. A moneyline of +300 sounds fair. Add a projected moneyline of +225 in a hypothetical semifinal game with Ohio State, and a rolling two-game parlay would equate to odds of +1200.
Why are we getting 18-1, then? Because the Volunteers just lost, and the perception is that they couldn't find revenge in a wildly different spot with ample time to prepare and adjust.
Heisman Trophy odds
A ton also happened in the campaign for the Heisman Trophy. Stroud's stats-centric resume took another hit, as did the case for Hooker. While they're still the favorites, and thankfully we have a ticket on Hooker from before the season, it also opens up the possibility for someone else.
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What exactly did Williams do to fall off the Heisman radar after being near the top of the oddsboard before the season? USC has lost one game on a last-second two-point conversion at a good Utah team. Williams had 438 total yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in that game.
The flip side of Tennessee having three easy games to finish the regular season is that Hooker's case is virtually closed before the vote happens in early December. Stroud has a showcase game with Michigan, and should the Buckeyes win, he'll have another spotlight in the Big Ten championship.
USC has a projected high-scoring game with UCLA that should be for a Pac-12 title game berth and will have the Los Angeles-level hype to go with it. Then the Trojans face Notre Dame, which just shut Clemson down. With a win over UCLA, USC gets a third prime-time showcase against another top team. Williams has the most opportunity to prove he's college football's most outstanding player and the stats to back it up.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.