Ohio State Championship Odds Are the Biggest Story of the Offseason

min read
Ohio State players take the field before the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game against Missouri Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy May 15, 2024, 5:24 PM
  • Ohio State championship odds have moved from +800 in January to +375 in May.
  • New OC Chip Kelly and new quarterback Will Howard can improve on the 2023 offense.

College football is heating up at BetMGM, with college football futures markets starting to fill out ahead of the long summer months. The 2024 college football win totals are live now over on the sportsbook. 

On the other hand, the 2024 college football national championship odds market has been live since just a few minutes after Michigan pummeled Washington in last season’s title game. 

The championship market has been far from static. Through the first few months of the 2024 offseason, one team in particular has been a hugely popular target among thousands of bettors: Ohio State. 

Ohio State National Championship Odds

At BetMGM, Ohio State is +375 to win the 2024 national championship. That’s second in the college football futures table, behind only Georgia (+325).

At that price, Ohio State is essentially an early co-favorite to win the title this season.

Bettors Love the Buckeyes 

Ohio State football didn’t start the year with this lofty status. Instead, it grew into it after the opening turmoil of the 2024 offseason. 

On Jan. 9 – the day after last season’s national championship game – Georgia was installed as a steady +350 favorite. Alabama was second in the table at +550. Ohio State and Michigan were priced similarly at +800 and +900, respectively. Texas (+900), Oregon (+1000), and Ole Miss (+1100) were also in the mix. 

Within weeks, major coaching changes rippled through the market. Nick Saban retired, and Kalen DeBoer made a cross-country move from Washington to Alabama to replace the living legend. Jim Harbaugh announced that he intended to leave the national championship in Michigan and return to the NFL.

The coaching turnover threw a real wet blanket on the top of the market, eventually dropping Alabama to +1400 and Michigan to +2000, where they remain today.

But the major drop-off of two top contenders left a huge mathematical vacuum at the top of the market. 

Ohio State filled that void, drawing major action and dropping all the way to its current +375 price. Its first market peak was in March when the Buckeyes actually matched Georgia at +350 and temporarily became a literal co-favorite. 

Since then, the market has separated them, but only by 50 cents.

TeamOdds (January 10, 2024)TeamOdds (May '24)
Alabama+550Ohio State+375
Ohio State+800Texas+700
Oregon+1000Ole Miss+1600
Ole Miss+1100LSU+1600

The big odds movement hasn’t just been driven by passive mathematical adjustment on the sportsbook’s end. There is a huge groundswell of support for Ohio State that spans square and sharp bettors alike. 

At BetMGM, for every $3 bet on the national championship, more than $1 is allocated to Ohio State. In total, 24.6% of all national championship tickets and 36.8% of all national championship handle are behind the Buckeyes. 

For a comparison point, consider the splits for Georgia (11.7% tickets/17.2% handle) or Texas (7.8% tickets/7.1% handle). 

So, yes, Ohio State football is dominating the 2024 futures market with more than one-third of the overall handle. But Seamus Magee, trading manager at the BetMGM online sportsbook, was quick to offer historical points of comparison when I spoke with him about the Buckeyes. 

“It doesn’t look all that different in range from what we’ve had in years past,” Magee said, name-checking previous preseason betting appetites for recent teams at Alabama and Georgia. 

Perhaps Ohio State bettors are happy to share comparisons to those programs. 

Ohio State Football 2024 Preview

If you’re considering a futures bet on Ohio State, it helps to know a little bit about how good the team might be in 2024. 

As was the case in 2023, the team should key off its defense first. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is now in his third season with the Buckeyes, and he’s retained a lot of the future NFL talent from last year’s team that ranked fourth in FBS with only 4.51 yards allowed per play. 

Up front, Mykel Williams, Jack Sawyer, and J.T. Tuimoloau are all being mocked in various way-too-early 2025 draft projections. On the back end, Denzel Burke (also a likely first-round pick) leads an experienced group of defensive backs. That group gets better in 2024, as Ohio State grabbed former five-star prospect Caleb Downs from Alabama in the transfer portal.

It’s the offense that needs to take big steps in 2024 if Ohio State wants to compete for a national championship. To that end, head coach Ryan Day made some splashy additions this offseason in the hopes of taking his team to the next level.

For the first time in a while, quarterback was a struggle for Ohio State in 2023. Neither Kyle McCord nor Devin Brown grabbed the job in camp last summer, and in hindsight, we may understand why – neither of them were consistently able to run Ohio State’s offense at a high level.

McCord transferred to Syracuse, and Day secured a portal commitment from former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard. Howard was effective as K-State’s signal caller in 2023, throwing for 2,643 yards and 24 touchdowns in a contrarian Big 12 offense. He should be able to improve those numbers in Ohio State’s 2024 system.

And speaking of that system – welcome to Columbus, Mr. Chip Kelly. Day has added the ace playcaller to the Ohio State staff as offensive coordinator in a move that may greatly benefit both coaches. Kelly can focus less on running a team and more on play-calling; Day can score points with Buckeye fans for seizing on a distressed asset and getting out of the way. 

Alex Gleitman, an Ohio State insider with On3, is one of many analysts who loves the move.

“Adding Chip Kelly to be the offensive coordinator is an A+ hire,” Gleitman told me recently. “It allows Ryan Day to be the CEO of the program, while also integrating Kelly’s creativity to improve the run game.”

Magee agrees: “I actually think hiring Chip Kelly as the OC helps a lot.”

Gleitman also pointed to the addition of former Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins as yet another impressive piece of the offense. Paired with returning senior TreVeyon Henderson, Gleitman calls it “the nation’s top backfield.”

External Factors: Michigan, Big Ten Expansion, and a 12-Team Playoff

This is a monumental year for changes in the NCAA model. The College Football Playoff is moving to a 12-team model. 

More specific to Ohio State, the Big Ten is blowing up its divisional model, and the conference will add USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon. 

The 2024 schedule is quite manageable, with nonconference games against Akron, Western Michigan, and Marshall. The main challenges in the Big Ten will be road games at Penn State and Oregon. 

Up north, archrival Michigan has been kneecapped by the departure of Harbaugh, quarterback J.J. McCarthy, and many, many draft picks. There is no longer a winner-take-all Eastern division in the Big Ten, but if there was, Ohio State would almost certainly recapture the upper hand over the maize and blue this year.

Ohio State is in as good a position as any major program this year to win a premier conference and put itself in line for the expanded postseason. 

That said, it’s impossible to foresee how any team — including Ohio State — will weather these changes. The margin for error in making the playoffs is now much bigger, but the postseason path for winning the championship is now longer with more upset potential. 

Magee thinks the new playoff wrinkles may ultimately be a wash.

“At the end of the day, you still have to beat the best teams to win the whole thing,” Magee said. “If it gets easier for Ohio State to get in the playoffs, then it gets easier for a lot of elite teams as well. And of course, at the end of the day, we let the market tell us how much of it actually impacts the price.”

So, yes, Ohio State bettors should be excited about a navigable schedule and a more manageable playoff bid. After Michigan and Alabama dropped out of the table, someone had to fill the market void, and the Buckeyes were the correct team to target. 

Still, the first 12-team playoff era will likely have unforeseeable results. Just think back to the inaugural four-team playoff in 2014, when the first-ever No. 4 seed got hot, eliminated Alabama in its semifinal game, then went on to win the national championship.

That was, of course … Ohio State.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.