- Michigan (+190) is the current favorite to win the national championship.
- Georgia is +210 to win its third straight championship after Week 13.
- Oregon (+500) is favored over Washington (+1800) despite its head-to-head loss.
- Alabama (+800) will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
The race for college football’s national championship is building toward a conclusion, with the all-important College Football Playoff rankings coming into focus.
Traditional powers like Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan have positioned themselves well in the college football odds market.
Who Is the Favorite To Win This Year’s National Championship?
Following the events of Week 13, Michigan (+190) is once again the favorite to win this season’s national championship.
College Football National Championship Odds, 2023
NCAAF Championship Odds: Georgia, Michigan Trade Favorite Positions
This season, one of the most fascinating elements of the college football national championship odds market has been the interplay at the top of the table.
Unsurprisingly, Georgia entered the season as a worthy favorite, having won two straight national championships. The Bulldogs were +225 to win a third straight title during the final week of September.
But throughout October, Michigan and Georgia began to equalize near the top of the odds table. That culminated with the Wolverines actually jumping Georgia to become the favorite on Oct. 22, following the Week 8 results.
But Michigan backslid in November. It earned a grindy, unsexy win on the road at Penn State, which was Michigan’s first major test of the year. With its previous 10 weeks filled with easy blowouts over unimpressive teams, the betting public began to second-guess its love for the Wolverines. (The ongoing Michigan sign-stealing scandal probably didn’t help.)
Thus, Georgia recaptured its favorite status. The oddsmakers’ rediscovered love for the Bulldogs coincided with some of Georgia’s best results of the season: big wins over top-25 opponents like Missouri, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.
But the future schedule was certainly a factor, and Michigan still had one major test to come: archrival Ohio State. And this past weekend, the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes for the third straight season, knocking them from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Big Ten Championship Game, and (likely) the College Football Playoff.
Now, with Michigan drawing a much easier conference championship opponent than Georgia, the arrow has swung back toward Michigan. While Georgia must contend with Nick Saban’s 11-win Alabama team, Michigan must only beat Big Ten West champ Iowa to clinch a 13-0 record and an assumed CFP berth.
That ease of schedule has nosed Michigan (+185) back in front of Georgia (+200) at the top of the college football national championship odds table.
If Georgia dispatches Alabama and both teams earn the top two seeds in this season’s College Football Playoff, we may see Georgia retake the top spot in the table yet again.
If Michigan remains the favorite at BetMGM, it may be a question of raw financial liability. As of Nov. 20, Michigan accounts for 13.2% of all national championship tickets.
Georgia, meanwhile, represents only 7.4% of all tickets and 6.6% of all handle.
Alabama Football Could Still Make the Playoff
After a Week 2 loss to Texas, the Crimson Tide have ripped off seven straight wins and are once again in the hunt for a CFP berth. Since Week 4, Alabama has secured wins against four teams currently ranked inside Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings: No. 16 Tennessee, No. 13 LSU, No. 19 Ole Miss, and No. 15 Texas A&M.
For the record, SP+ says Georgia’s best win came in Week 10 against No. 17 Missouri.
Alabama might have been mocked and shelved for the playoff after its home loss to Quinn Ewers and the Longhorns, but the coaching staff in Tuscaloosa has turned in one of the best coaching jobs of the entire Nick Saban era.
This is not a typical Alabama team deep with top NFL talent, as is often the case. PFF’s big board lists only three Alabama players in the current top 40, and none of them are at key positions like quarterback or wide receiver, as has been the case with the Crimson Tide in the last several years.
Instead, Saban has constructed a more classic identity around the more limited talents of quarterback Jalen Milroe, who is finding increased success with more QB-read and QB-power wrinkles. In Alabama’s Week 10 win over LSU, Milroe carried the ball 20 times for 155 yards.
Meanwhile, he’s attempted more than 24 passes in a game just once since Week 2.
The SEC West was loaded with potential usurpers, including Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss team and Brian Kelly’s LSU Tigers, who won the division last year. But with the LSU game now decided in Alabama’s favor, Saban has clinched a berth in his 12th career SEC Championship Game, where his team will have the chance to end Georgia’s long winning streak and secure a CFP berth.
With Alabama now all the way down to +800 in the national championship table, the market is clearly taking the Crimson Tide seriously. That tells bettors everything they need to know.
Personally, I’m loath to circle the wagons with this particular Alabama team, but I can’t stop thinking about something Phil Steele said to me back in the preseason.
Steele, a popular college football analyst and preseason magazine legend, really liked Alabama’s chances to return to the CFP in the preseason. He came on my handicapping podcast, The Lion’s Edge, just a few days before the season started.
“You know, you look at Alabama on paper, and you’ve got all kinds of question marks,” Steele said, preparing to highlight Alabama’s weaknesses. “They only have five starters back on offense, five on defense. They don’t know who their quarterback is. They’re at the bottom of my experience chart.”
But Steele continued: “But they’ve got this guy Nick Saban on the sidelines – he’s only won one national championship as a preseason No. 1. Last time they weren’t preseason No. 1 – national championship. The last time they came in as preseason No. 4? National championship. I’m not going to be the guy that doesn’t pick Alabama to make the Playoff. I’ve got Georgia and Alabama in the Playoff.”
That scenario is still very much alive. If Alabama goes 12-1, with potential wins over Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, and Auburn, they’re a lock for the CFP. No one will care about a Week 2 loss to Texas.
Can the Pac-12 Make the College Football Playoff?
Tragically, Pac-12 football is having an incredible renaissance on the eve of the conference’s imminent doom. Starting in 2024, most current Pac-12 programs will be playing their football elsewhere.
But that won’t change what’s happening in the here and now. Five programs are currently ranked, with early favorites USC and Colorado both falling out of the AP Top 25 weeks ago.
In the past, the Pac-12 has struggled to field legitimate playoff contenders not only because of its lack of top-shelf contenders, but also its depth. Conferences have the greatest chance to be successful when they have a couple of great teams at the top, followed by a middle class that can’t actually blemish the teams on top. Over much of the last decade, the Pac-12 has checked neither of those boxes.
This season, the Pac-12 does have worthy CFP candidates in Washington and Oregon.
Texas National Championship Odds: The Longhorns Are Finally Back
In September 2016, Joe Tessitore uttered the infamous “Texas is back” call as the Longhorns sealed a double-overtime win over Notre Dame. Since then, the phrase has evoked two main ideas: sarcastic scorn and missed expectations.
But after a big, no-doubt win over Alabama that snapped FBS football’s longest home winning streak, Texas is truly in a national position of strength for the first time since the Mack Brown era.
With a win against Alabama in hand, the Longhorns can afford their loss to Oklahoma without totally yielding its position for the College Football Playoff.
Such a luxury is a rare commodity for the Big 12, which is typically perceived as a second-tier power conference whose champion must compete for playoff berths only after the top of the SEC and Big Ten have been afforded access. At least for this season, the Texas win will challenge that status quo.
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