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How new playoff format affects college football futures bettors

Updated May 31, 2024 - 4:31 pm

The college football landscape will look different this season, which kicks off Aug. 24.

The dissolution of the Pac-12 has caused a seismic shift in conference realignment and transformed the Power Five into the Power Four.

The Big Ten will now feature Oregon, Washington, Southern California and UCLA. The Big 12 has added Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. The Atlantic Coast Conference now includes California and Stanford, as well as Southern Methodist.

Other major moves included Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference, Nick Saban retiring as Alabama coach and Jim Harbaugh leaving Michigan after winning a national title to coach the Los Angeles Chargers.

But the most notable change is the College Football Playoff expanding from four teams to 12. The field will include the five highest-ranked conference champions — almost certainly the Power Four conference champs and the top Group of Five conference champ — and the seven highest-ranked remaining teams.

The top four teams will receive a first-round bye to the quarterfinals.

National title odds

Georgia is the clear favorite (3-1 at Circa Sports) to win its third national title in four years. Ohio State is the clear second choice (+425).

“Georgia and Ohio State have separated themselves, as far as talent level and expectations going into this year,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “Michigan’s nowhere near what they were last year at this time. That doesn’t mean they won’t make the playoffs.

“Ohio State will probably get their hardest competition from Oregon, which is just so weird to say that they’re in the same conference now.”

Georgia and Ohio State account for 43 percent of the money wagered at Caesars Sportsbook on the national champion market.

“For good reason,” Caesars head of football Joey Feazel said. “Ohio State has a lot of key pieces on offense, and they get Chip Kelly, an offensive genius, as their offensive coordinator. They’re going to be stacked.

“Georgia has been the class (of college football) the last couple of years, so it’s no surprise to see them as the favorite going into the season.”

Texas is the clear third pick to win it all (+750 at Caesars). Oregon is the clear fourth choice (11-1).

“Texas is loaded again,” Salmons said. “They’re definitely on an upward trajectory. They seem like they’re going to be a player for years to come now. That program has really gone up.”

Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers and Georgia quarterback Carson Beck are 8-1 co-favorites at the SuperBook to win the Heisman Trophy.

Former Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who will replace Bo Nix at Oregon, is also a leading candidate at 14-1.

“It’s the system, it’s not the quarterback,” Salmons said of Oregon. “Outside of the Big Ten’s big three teams — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — they’ll have no problems dominating teams, especially at home.

“They’ll have a huge home-field advantage in Oregon.”

The next tier of teams includes Alabama (16-1 at Caesars), Louisiana State and Mississippi. Each are 20-1 at the SuperBook.

Salmons expects the Crimson Tide to keep rolling under former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer, who replaced Saban.

“(DeBoer) is a great coach,” Salmons said. “I would be shocked if Alabama is not another top-10 team in the country again. They seem loaded.”

Playoff odds

Caesars has posted odds to make the 12-team playoff, and Georgia and Ohio State are -600 co-favorites. Sharp bettors backed the Buckeyes at their opening price of -450.

“Some people see this as an act of God for them not to make it,” Feazel said.

Caesars also took sharp action on Notre Dame, moving its price from -150 to -190. As an independent, the Fighting Irish can’t get a first-round bye. But they’re tied for the highest season win total at 10½ with Georgia, Liberty, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas.

“The expectation is as long as they get nine or 10 wins, the committee is not going to overlook them,” Feazel said.

Liberty has the shortest playoff odds of any Group of Five team at 2-1. Boise State is next at 7-1.

“That’s going to be the most interesting part, seeing how the non-Power Four spot is bet into … and what the committee is going to base that on,” Feazel said. “Liberty is certainly going to be in (contention). But if they go undefeated, how is the committee going to take them over, say, a one-loss Boise State team that is going to be competing in a more competitive conference in the Mountain West?”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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