From a betting perspective, it should come as no surprise that the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) earned the No. 4 seed in this year’s College Football Playoff field despite not winning a conference championship.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
After all, how could the Crimson Tide sit as 1.5-point chalk against the top-seeded Clemson Tigers (12-1) if they did not belong? The Crimson Tide and Tigers will square off for the third straight time in the CFP on January 1.
Alabama is still the favorite to win the national championship despite injuries and falling to the Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl two weeks ago. That setback may have kept the Tide from playing in the SEC Championship Game, but the fact that it was only one loss allowed their dreams of winning the title continue versus the defending national champs in the Sugar Bowl, the later of the two national semifinals scheduled for primetime.
In fact, Clemson may have suffered the worst loss of any team in the country, as the Syracuse Orange pulled off a 27-24 upset as 23.5-point home underdogs back on October 13. But the Tigers still rallied to win their last six games, including a convincing 38-3 victory against the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson and Alabama have split their first two meetings in the CFP, and this is the first without the title on the line. The Tide have gone just 2-6 against the spread after losing its last game as a favorite while the Tigers are 4-0 ATS in their last four played on a Monday.
The other national semifinal in the Rose Bowl will pit the second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) against the third-seeded Georgia Bulldogs (12-1).
The game is currently a pick’em for a reason, with the Sooners boasting the Heisman Trophy favorite in quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Bulldogs coming in as the most underrated team in college football’s Final Four after avenging their lone loss in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia’s defense shut down Auburn the second time in a 28-7 rout.
Other bowl games of interest include the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2) taking on the USC Trojans (11-2) as 7-point favorites in the Cotton Bowl on December 29. The Big Ten champion Buckeyes will face the Pac-12 champ Trojans in a matchup usually reserved for the Rose Bowl, and time will tell if motivation will be an issue for the former after getting snubbed.
USC topped last season’s Big Ten champ – the Penn State Nittany Lions – 52-49 in an epic Rose Bowl matchup a year ago but did not cover the spread. Ohio State is an impressive 11-2 ATS in its last 13 meetings with Pac-12 schools.
On December 30, the Wisconsin Badgers (12-1) will square off against the Miami Hurricanes (10-2) in the Orange Bowl after the Nittany Lions (10-2) face the Washington Huskies (10-2) earlier in the Fiesta Bowl. Like the Cotton Bowl, both Big Ten teams are favored, and rightfully so. Penn State opened -3 and has gone 16-4-1 ATS in its past 21 games. Miami has also failed to cover five of six versus the Big Ten while Wisconsin is 8-1 straight up in its last nine following a loss and riding a 4-1 ATS run.