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Clemson tops Alabama, Ohio State in College Football Playoff betting odds

The College Football Playoff betting odds favor the Clemson Tigers over the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes as the most likely to make it into the NCAA gridiron’s version of the Final Four at the conclusion of the 2021 regular season.

SportsBetting.ag posted updated College Football Playoff futures on Wednesday, and even though there’s some notable turnover on Clemson’s roster, oddsmakers view the Tigers as the safest bet to claim a CFP berth.

Here’s a full breakdown of the top national championship contenders, with the implied probability in parentheses, which essentially means the team in question has that percent chance to qualify for the College Football Playoff.

TeamCollege Football Playoff odds (implied probability)
Clemson-700 (87.5%)
Alabama-400 (80%)
Ohio State-250 (71.4%)
Oklahoma-225 (69.2%)
Georgia+150 (40%)
Iowa State+450 (18.2%)
Texas A&M+500 (16.7%)
Oregon+650 (14.3%)
Notre Dame+700 (12.5%
Wisconsin+800 (11.1%)
Texas+900 (10%)
USC+900 (10%)
Washington+900 (10%)
LSU+1000 (9.1%)
North Carolina+1000 (9.1%)

Now, to be clear, this isn’t a breakdown of who’s going to win the national title, but rather simply who will make the College Football Playoff in the first place.

Here’s a look at the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s refreshed lines, which may feature some surprises.

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Soft ACC gives Clemson level up on elite competition

It’s no small thing to lose one of the biggest legends in NCAA football history. That’s what’s going on for the Tigers, as they said goodbye to No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence after last season.

But mostly everyone is coming back for Clemson in 2021, including Lawrence’s plenty-capable successor, D.J. Uiagalelei, which has the bookmakers bullish on the Tigers dominating their inferior ACC competition once again.

It does seem like if any team has the means to avoid an upset, it’s Clemson. However, a huge test looms right out of the gates in Week 1, as the Tigers clash with the Georgia Bulldogs.

The loser of that contest isn’t exactly disqualified from the College Football Playoff race, yet it’s a pivotal early matchup that could swing the momentum of either program’s entire year. It would at least appear, on paper, Clemson’s superior defensive continuity and Uiagalelei’s higher ceiling over counterpart JT Daniels give the Tigers the edge.

Wisconsin viewed as Ohio State’s top Big Ten challenger

Dec 12, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a pass against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Graham Mertz exploded onto the scene as a true freshman in 2020 for the Badgers, completing 20 of 21 passes with five touchdowns in his debut, as Wisconsin routed Illinois.

Although he crashed back down to earth and struggled down the stretch when facing the stout defenses of Northwestern, Illinois and Iowa, it’s understandable why those around the college football world are high on Mertz entering this year.

The Badgers typically build their offense around the rushing attack and a gigantic offensive line anyway, so with Mertz much more comfortable entering his sophomore campaign, maybe Wisconsin is, indeed, in position to be a viable CFP contender.

On the other hand, Mertz does have to go up against Penn State and Notre Dame in two of his first three starts. That won’t be easy.

Plus, Indiana is still a huge factor in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers’ being in Ohio State’s East division is probably the only reason they don’t have shorter odds than Wisconsin.

See why Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. makes the cut in our list of top 10 college football quarterbacks

Loaded SEC makes LSU an excellent College Football Playoff value bet

Loaded SEC makes LSU an excellent College Football Playoff value bet
Oct 31, 2020; Auburn, Alabama, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Max Johnson (14) is pressured by Auburn Tigers defensive back Smoke Monday (21) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

In Sportsnaut’s own top 25 college football rankings, the LSU Tigers are rated as the fourth-best team in the country. The folks who vote for the coaches poll and AP poll weren’t nearly as kind, slotting LSU at 13th and 16th respectively.

If you’re going to ride any team in the SEC and don’t want to go with Alabama, then the Tigers are a great bet. They’re returning a QB in Max Johnson who’s taken command of the offense and has a loaded cast of wide receivers around him, led by classmate Kayshon Boutte.

Plus, the defense stole away dynamic linebacker Mike Jones Jr., who’s a transfer from Clemson. LSU also boasts arguably the best cornerback tandem in the nation in Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks. Just who thinks they’re going to be able to throw consistently on that Tigers duo?

Alabama will be fine because, well, Nick Saban. But with Georgia potentially losing its opener to Clemson and Texas A&M replacing a four-year starting field general in Kellen Mond, it seems like LSU is the clear dark horse to ride in College Football Playoff betting odds.