College Football Futures: Are Alabama and Clemson Locks to Make it Back to the Playoff?

Clemson-Alabama Favored to Square Off in the Playoff for the Fourth Time in the Last Five Years.

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Now that spring football is over and there are just about two months until the start of the NCAAFB season, it’s time to start considering the top contenders for a National Title and College Football Playoff.

Clemson: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+200), To Make CFB Playoff (-265)
Alabama: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+200), To Make CFB Playoff (-250)
Ohio State: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+700), To Make CFB Playoff (+140)
Georgia: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+800), To Make CFB Playoff (+120)
Oklahoma: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+1200), To Make CFB Playoff (+162)
Michigan: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+1600), To Make CFB Playoff (+300)
Texas: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+2500), To Make CFB Playoff (+500)
Notre Dame: Odds To Win CFB Playoff (+3300), To Make CFB Playoff (+400)

*Odds provided courtesy of DraftKings Sports Book

Best Bets to Make the 2019-20 CFB Playoff

Alabama (-250 to make CFB Playoff)

After losing 44-6 to the Clemson Tigers in last season’s championship game, the Crimson Tide will have something to prove in 2019. Alabama went undefeated in the 2018 regular season, and there is no reason to think that the team will not repeat that this year, especially given their extremely soft schedule. Last season’s Heisman runner-up, Tua Tagovailoa, will return for his junior year along with the majority of his receiving corps. The Tide lost five defensive players to the draft but six starters will be returning, with the returning Trevon Diggs and Terrell Lewis set to make a major impact on that side of the ball. Defensive end LaBryan Ray will likely be in the starting line as well after posting 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season.

Top-tier recruiting also correlates with title wins, with the 247Sports Composite rankings putting Alabama’s 2019 class at a 94.38 point-per-signee average. With an elite recruiting class full of 4- and 5-star recruits that includes 5-star bluechips such as, running back Trey Sanders, defensive end Antonio Alfano, and defensive lineman Ishmael Sopsher, the Tide should once again be on the path towards the Playoff. Betting on the 2019-20 CFP National Title odds for Alabama would be an extremely safe bet and -250 to make the Playoff, while not a great value, is the safest bet on the board.

Clemson (-265 to make CFB Playoff)

No surprise that Clemson sits atop the board for 2019-20 CFP National Championship odds. The Tigers went 15-0 last season and won its second national title in three years. Clemson has also had four consecutive playoff appearances, and it's almost a sure bet that the team will go undefeated, to once again take one of the top two spots. Coach Dabo Swinney may have lost defensive players like Christian Wilkins, Albert Huggins, and Clelin Ferrell, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have plenty of depth to work with. Defensive end Xavier Thomas posted 8.5 tackles for loss last season to rank fourth overall on the team, while Justin Foster could be another potential starter after finishing with six tackles and two sacks in limited playing time in 2018. Offensively there are less question marks, with sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence returning along with playmakers Tee Higgins, Travis Etienne, and Justyn Ross.  Lawrence is widely regarded as the best college quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and he should be in for a massive season.

We know that Clemson is never a bad bet when it comes to making the College Football Playoff, but their season win total is a slightly more interesting bet. Clemson and Alabama opened with the highest win totals, both at 11 wins. Looking back at the last five seasons, Clemson has had 13, 12, 12, 13, and 9 wins excluding bowl games and the playoff. Factor this into Clemson’s schedule, which is fairly weak with Florida State and Louisville both being down in the ACC, and I’d easily bet the over for Clemson’s 2019-20 win total.

Georgia (+120 to make CFB Playoff)

The Bulldogs finished 11-3 last season and will be returning with five offensive starters and six on defense. Most notably, quarterback Jake Fromm will enter his third season with 54 career passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 65% completion percentage. He will be joined by veterans D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas on offense. Defensively, rising seniors Tyler Clark and Julian Rochester will return to a defensive roster that posted the 32nd best run defense and was 13th in yards allowed per game last season.

Georgia was narrowly edged out of becoming repeat SEC Champions after a 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship, and then fell to a 28-21 loss to Texas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. My biggest concern with Georgia making the top-four is not their talent, but their overall path to the CFP Championship game. The Bulldogs will face a brutal conference scheduling that includes games against five SEC programs that are in the AP preseason top-25. Georgia also has nine consecutive games versus Power 5 teams, and non-conference tests against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. There is still a good chance that the Bulldogs will make the Playoff, but division title odds are more tempting. SEC East odds have not been released just yet, but there’s no doubt that the Bulldogs will be favored to win the division with Florida being their only true competition in the SEC East.

Michigan (+300 to make CFB Playoff)

Michigan should have a much better season in 2019 than it did exiting the 2018 season. The Wolverines lost 62-39 against Ohio State to end the regular season, then topped that off by losing 41-15 in the Peach Bowl versus Florida. Still, Michigan is predicted to have a shot at making the 2019-20 College Football Playoff due to a few returning players, as well as key personnel changes. Josh Gattis—formerly of Alabama—is in charge of structuring a high tempo offense that will include quarterback Shea Patterson and seven other returning offensive starters. Patterson threw for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, with a 64.6 completion percentage. Veterans Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones will help make up a solid corps of receivers for Patterson to target. With the exit of Karan Higdon, we can potentially look to other running backs like Christian Turner and Zach Charbonnet to fill the void. Michigan’s defense is also expected to be stacked with Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson, Ambry Thomas, and Lavert Hill returning after the exit of players like Devin Bush and Rashan Gary. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh certainly has his flaws, but we know that he’s going to have the Michigan defense ready to play in 2019.

Michigan’s schedule could also work in their favor when it comes to their chances to make it to the 2019-20 College Football Playoff. The majority of their big games will be hosted at home, with Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan State all coming to Ann Arbor. Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has been dominant in the Big House, going 24-4. It has been a few years since we have seen the Big Ten in the Playoff, but that could change this season. Aside from betting on Michigan’s odds to win the CFB Playoff, let’s talk projected season win total. The opening line was set at 9.5, which indicates that oddsmakers see the Wolverines performing similarly to last season. Under Harbaugh, Michigan has had 3 seasons with 10 wins and given their favorable schedule, it makes a lot of sense to bet on them to go over their 9.5 win total in 2019.

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