CFB: Odds, analysis and early picks for next season's playoff field

Sportsbook BetOnline.ag already is offering two-way prop bets on teams to reach next season's College Football Playoff. SportsLine analyst Josh Nagel previews the odds and offers his initial leans on the contenders.
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College football spring practices already are under way, and it's never too early to get an initial look at how teams are shaping up ahead of the fall kickoff.

Accordingly, some oddsmakers already are prospecting for playoff contenders and offering odds on the viability of several candidates to make the postseason.

Sportsbook BetOnline.ag has released a menu of two-way props -- meaning you can bet on or against each team – for the chances of top programs to reach the College Football Playoff.

Here are the odds and some initial leans for each team:

Alabama (Yes -220, No +175): This seems like a steep price to pay, so far ahead of the season, for a proposition that requires so much on-field success, perhaps with a dash of good fortune, in order to come to fruition. But thus far in the College Football Playoff era, there's been so far bet than supporting the Crimson Tide to make the promised land. They have reached all four playoff series, winning the title in half of them. With early Heisman candidate Tua Tagovaiola returning at quarterback, along with Alabama's usual set of future first-rounders in the fold, the only logical position until further notice is to expect Nick Saban's club to finish the season atop its familiar perch.

Pick: Yes (bet $220 to win $100).

Clemson (Yes +120, No -150): Clemson also has become a familiar guest at the CFP, as the Tigers have made three straight appearances. Last year's was perhaps its most unlikely, as the Tigers overhauled their roster amid the departures of the iconic Deshaun Watson and several other stars. Kelly Bryant stepped in admirably at quarterback, but some of his shortcomings came to light in a 24-6 playoff loss to Alabama in which the Tigers netted just 188 total yards. But Bryant reportedly is highly motivated by doubters, and coach Dabo Swinney has long been fueled by his own skeptics. An underestimated Clemson club has proven to be a dangerous one.

Pick: Yes +120 (bet $100 to win $120).

Georgia (Yes +175, No -220): The Bulldogs will lose the standout backfield of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, though quarterback Jake Fromm and a solid core returns. The Bulldogs have a favorable schedule, but a key part of their emergence last year fell on avoiding Alabama in the SEC title game. They might not be as fortunate this season, and the price reflects the unlikely scenario in which both Alabama and Georgia both reach the playoffs.

Pick: No -220 (bet $220 to win $100)

Michigan (Yes +220, No -280): In the eyes of most observers, the Wolverines failed to meet the somewhat modest expectations that accompanied their youth-laden roster. They went 8-5 with a fourth-place finish in the Big 10 and lost the Outback Bowl to South Carolina. Michigan struggled to find consistent quarterback play, and prospects for a drastic turnaround were dimmed when the program failed to land any of the five-star recruits it pursued. The Wolverines should improve, but an appearance in the playoffs is a major stretch.

Pick: No -280 (Bet $280 to win $200)

Ohio State (Yes +150, No -180): Urban Meyer's Buckeyes won the inaugural CFP and have been a contender in each year of its existence. They have two appearances, and came up just short when they were left out, including last season. If their trend holds up, they'll be back next year. Dwayne Haskins looked like a promising heir-apparent to J.T. Barrett, though he is reportedly locked in a three-way battle for the job. Ohio State has a ton of experience returning in the trenches, and tailback J.K. Dobbins is expected to be a Heisman contender. Backing the Buckeyes is the best early value on the board.

Pick: Yes (bet $100 to win $150)

Oklahoma (Yes +350, No -500): Similar to Clemson, the Sooners exceeded modest expectations last year after losing their starting backfield and standout receivers to the NFL. But it turns out quarterback Baker Mayfield, the eventual Heisman winner, and an experienced line on both sides were enough for them to thrive in Lincoln Riley's first year at the helm. A bit of hangover in the post-Mayfield era is anticipated, even if Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray excels at quarterback. But his pursuit of a potential baseball career, while also participating on Oklahoma's baseball team, could disrupt his progress on the gridiron. At this point, it's difficult to envision a return to the playoffs.

Pick: No (bet $500 to win $100)

Penn State (Yes +300, No -400): Amid the highlight-reel greatness of running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley's value to the Lions' success the past two seasons likely has been underappreciated. His return likely ensures another strong season for the Lions, while freshman wideout K.J. Hamler is gaining rave reviews and their next potential star playmaker. But a similar Alabama-Georgia conflict exists here, as it's a logical contradiction to support both Penn State and Ohio State to make the playoffs, seeing as they've gotten in each other's way the past two years.

Pick: No -400 (Bet $400 to win $100) 

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Josh Nagel
Josh NagelSenior Analyst
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