College Football Playoff Rankings vs. National Championship Odds

On Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff committee released their first rankings of the 2022 season, and I know I’m supposed to work myself up into a lather and take umbrage with the bias and unfairness of the process.

But I can’t. Is the mechanism perfect? Heck, no. But with so much subjectively to sift through (yes, your opinion [insert name of college football expert] is also subjective), that’s an impossible task. We don’t know. No one does. 

I also can’t with faux outrage, which amounts to, “I CAN NOT BELIEVE X TEAM IS RANKED SIXTH!!!!! THE INJUSTICE!!”

Well, sir. Where would you rank them? “Seventh.” (Eye roll.)

The reality is the only ranking that matters is the final one. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun (yes, fun!) breaking down the rankings. Since I view much of my sports fandom through a gambler’s glasses, let’s compare the College Football Playoff with FBS Championship odds at FanDuel.

The Likely Contenders

The top two teams in the FBS Championship odds at FanDuel are the Ohio State Buckeyes and Georgia Bulldogs, each undefeated and +200. OSU is No. 2 in the initial CFP Rankings, followed by No. 3 UGA.

Of the two, the Buckeyes have the easier path. While each hosts a top-five team in defacto division championship games (vs. Michigan, in OSU’s case, Tennessee for UGA), with Alabama looming, the Bulldogs are likely to face a much tougher challenger in their conference championship game.

Of course, it’s also more feasible that the Dawgs, of the two, could lose their conference championship game and still make the playoffs, the exact scenario that played out last season on Georgia’s way to their first title in over 40 years.

The Tennessee Volunteers are No. 1 in the CFP Rankings, but at +1000, they are a distant fourth in the odds. Why the gap? Well, they’re an 8.5-point underdog at Georgia this Saturday. A loss and the Vols are virtually eliminated from winning the SEC. They would still have a slight chance but expect their odds to plummet if they fall between the hedges in Athens.

Who else is ahead of the Vols in terms of odds? That would be the Alabama Crimson Tide (+300), ranked sixth in the CFP Rankings. While the Tide don’t have much margin for error, they control their destiny. Win out, including the SEC Title over the UGA/Tennessee winner, and they’re in.

The No. 4 Clemson Tigers round out the top four, just ahead of the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines, with both owning +1600 odds. No worries, Wolverines fans, win out, and you’re in (and likely ahead of Clemson). Same for the Tigers. Neither is expected to make it with a loss. 

The Potential Upstarts

Undefeated and No. 7 TCU (+8000) also control their destiny if they win out, so please, everyone, take a chill pill. Who else doesn’t need help? Believe it or not, No. 16 Illinois (+20000), No. 11 Ole Miss (+10000), and maybe No. 10 LSU (+25000). If Illinois wins out, it will beat Michigan and potentially OSU. Ole Miss still has Bama and the UGA/Tennessee winner.

Resumes will improve, which is why I include two-loss LSU. Their path is similar to Ole Miss. They’re already No. 10 without potential wins over No. 6 Alabama and presumably No. 1 (SEC East winner). It’s hard to imagine they beat Bama and No. 1, win the SEC, and get left out.

Who else is in the mix? A quartet of one-loss Power 5 teams. No. 8 Oregon (+4000), No. 9 USC (+6000), No. 12 UCLA (+20000), and No. 17 North Carolina (+8000) all have a chance to finish as a 12-1 conference champion. 

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