“I don’t like college football because the favorite wins the National Championship every year.” Stop us if you’ve heard that one before– it’s one of the most common complaints from those arguing against college football. But do the favorites always win in college football national championship history?
Below, we’ll run over the history of college football’s championship odds and betting. From strings of SEC dominance and the Saban dynasty to the genesis of the College Football Playoff, we’ll lay out roughly the last two decades of the title game.
Keep up-to-date with TheLines for this year’s championship coverage and more college football betting content.
2021 National Championship Odds: Alabama Vs. Georgia
Beating The Stigma: Favorites Don’t Always Win
Full transparency: reliable historical odds are difficult to come by in college football. It’s an emerging betting market even to this day and isn’t as well-documented as leagues like the NFL and MLB. With a bit of digging, we were able to uncover title game and futures odds dating back to 1998 and 2002, respectively.
The bottom line is favorites don’t win the title every year. In fact, more teams with preseason odds of +2500 or longer have won the championship since 2002 than favorites have. Just two preseason favorites have captured the title– 2017 Alabama and 2004 USC.
Some of the longest odds to have gone the distance include 2010 Auburn (+5000), 2014 Ohio State (+4000), and 2019 LSU (+3300).
college football national championship history
Favorites in the championship game itself don’t even have a perfect track record; they are 1-4 against the spread over the last five seasons, with two of them losing outright. Teams favored by 10 or more points are 1-2 ATS and 1-2 outright (2011 Alabama, 2002 Miami, 2000 Florida State) and those favored by a touchdown or more (six points) are 3-10 ATS (eight losses outright).
Over the past three years, the final game hasn’t exactly been a nail-biter; the average point margin of those are +24.3 in favor of the winner. During the College Football Playoff era, the higher-ranked team in the championship game started 0-5 outright but have won the last two. However, the lower-ranked team was favored in those games twice.
Handle numbers for college football championship games isn’t well-documented, but betting the game appears to be growing in popularity as betting becomes more accessible to the US.
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National Championship Game Odds By Year
|2021||Alabama 52, Ohio State 24||BAMA -8.5|
|2020||LSU 42, Clemson 25||LSU -5.5|
|2019||Clemson 44, Alabama 16||BAMA -6|
|2018||Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT)||BAMA -4|
|2017||Clemson 35, Alabama 31||BAMA -6.5|
|2016||Alabama 45, Clemson 40||BAMA -7|
|2015||Ohio State 42, Oregon 20||ORE -6|
|2014||Florida State 34, Auburn 31||FSU -6.5|
|2013||Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14||BAMA -10|
|2012||Alabama 21, LSU 0||LSU -1.5|
|2011||Auburn 22, Oregon 19||AUB -1|
|2010||Alabama 37, Texas 21||BAMA -4|
|2009||Florida 24, Oklahoma 14||UF -4|
|2008||LSU 38, Ohio State 24||LSU -3.5|
|2007||Florida 41, Ohio State 14||OSU -7|
|2006||Texas 41, USC 38||USC -7|
|2005||USC 55, Oklahoma 19||USC -1|
|2004||LSU 21, Oklahoma 14||OU -7|
|2003||Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2 OT)||MIA -11|
|2002||Miami 37, Nebraska 14||MIA -8.5|
|2001||Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2||FSU -10|
|2000||Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29||FSU -5.5|
|1999||Tennessee 23, Florida State 16||FSU -5.5|
Note: College Football introduced the BCS system in 1998 and the College Football Playoff system in 2014. Odds taken are at opening. Numbers may differ with older title games.
College Football Futures Odds By Year
Note: Reliable futures odds data begin with the 2002 season.