As we enter conference championship weekend, the national title picture is narrowing from an odds perspective.
No. 1 Georgia remains a significant betting favorite at BetMGM, listed at -225. Georgia completed an undefeated regular season by blowing out Georgia Tech over the weekend and now will face Alabama in the SEC title game. With a win, Georgia would lock up the No. 1 seed in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Even with a loss to Alabama, it’s hard to envision the Bulldogs dropping out of the top four. And with the way they have been playing, especially defensively, they would still likely be the betting favorite even with a loss in the conference championship game.
After Georgia, there are five other teams with realistic paths into the playoff: Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
If you're considering a futures bet on any of them, here’s what you need to know about their potential paths to a national championship. All odds are from BetMGM.
Alabama is the reigning national champion, but it lost to Texas A&M during the regular season. No two-loss team has ever reached the playoff, so that means the Crimson Tide have no margin for error if they want to get back to the CFP. They must beat Georgia.
Alabama sat at No. 2 in the CFP rankings for several weeks, but fell to No. 3 behind Ohio State last week. Why the fall? Well, Alabama has had several close calls, including a six-point win over LSU and a seven-point win over Arkansas. Along the way, Ohio State was destroying every team in its path so the teams switched places in the most-recent rankings.
Alabama had its closest call yet over the weekend, needing four overtimes to beat a 6-6 Auburn team 24-22. That does not bode well for the SEC title game matchup against Georgia. If the Alabama offense struggled that much with Auburn, it’s likely going to have an even more difficult time against Georgia’s top-ranked defense.
There was a thought that Alabama could crack the top four even with two losses. But barring multiple upsets this weekend, the Tide’s underwhelming performances against middling SEC competition should put the end to that theory.
Michigan won the Big Ten East title by snapping an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State over the weekend. As a result of the dominant 42-27 win, there’s a chance the Wolverines could move from No. 5 to No. 2 in Tuesday night’s penultimate CFP rankings.
With the win, Michigan improved to 11-1 and will face Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. Michigan is currently a 10.5-point favorite over the Hawkeyes.
With a win there, the Wolverines would advance to the CFP for the first time. If that happens, seeding will be important. If Georgia beats Alabama, Michigan would almost certainly earn a No. 2 or No. 3 seed and avoid UGA in the semifinals.
Cincinnati finally cracked the top four in the last CFP rankings and now has the chance to be the first team from a Group of Five conference to reach the playoff. At 12-0, all that is left is the AAC title game against Houston, a team that hasn’t lost since its season opener.
In addition to needing its own win, Cincinnati will be rooting for Georgia to take care of business in the SEC title game to give Alabama its second loss.
Cincinnati also holds a major chip with its road win over Notre Dame in the non-conference schedule. Notre Dame was No. 6 in the most-recent CFP rankings and finished the regular season at 11-1 with the Cincinnati game being its only loss. That head-to-head victory could go a long way for the Bearcats.
Oklahoma State (+1400)
Oklahoma State took care of rival Oklahoma over the weekend in a wild game and now will face Baylor in the Big 12 title game. With a win and Big 12 championship, the 11-1 Cowboys would be in an excellent position to earn one of four playoff spots.
OSU will be rooting for Georgia to beat Alabama. A loss for Michigan or Cincinnati would also help the Cowboys tremendously. Of course, none of that matters if Oklahoma State loses to Baylor.
Notre Dame (+2500)
Notre Dame, as an independent program, has no conference championship game to play this weekend and lost to Cincinnati, so it needs the most help.
The clearest way in would be chaos in the conference championship games. That could make a long shot +2500 ticket on the Irish worth a try.