There are six teams remaining that have a legitimate shot at the college football national championship: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State.
Not having a conference championship game means that Notre Dame is almost assuredly in the four-team playoff. While FiveThirtyEight only lists them as a 77% shot at making the playoffs, there’s no feasible scenario that leaves Notre Dame out. They earned it.
Every other contender plays in a conference championship this weekend. If the results go as expected, there will likely only be one spot that’s really up for debate.
SEC Championship (The Actual National Championship)
Alabama (#1, -225 at BetStars Sportsbook) vs. Georgia (#4, +1400)
This one is a rematch of last year’s national title game, and could serve as this year’s as well. Alabama comes in as a -13.5 favorite, and deservedly so. Georgia is ranked third in ELO and FPI, but Alabama is ranked HISTORICALLY GREAT.
If Georgia pulls the upset, they’re obviously a lock to make the playoffs, but don’t expect their price to go towards Clemson +300 territory. They’d still have to beat Alabama again to win the title, and that’s a tall task to ask.
With a loss, Alabama would likely enter the playoffs again at #4, and likely win again, and even more likely be listed as the favorite.
The ACC Sacrificial Lamb for Clemson Game
Clemson (#2, +333) vs. Pittsburgh
Clemson is undefeated, ranked #2 in ELO and FPI, and has been #2 in each of the CFB committee rankings.
Pittsburgh is 7-5.
While Pittsburgh has been a spoiler in the past, not this year. Maybe Clemson was to become the odds-on favorite with a win and an Alabama loss, but most likely they’d just keep inching up like they have the past few weeks (think +250).
The Big 12 Championship That Will Look More Like a College Basketball Score
Oklahoma (#5, +1700) vs. Texas (#9)
Vegas has the over/under on this one around 78. There will be blood. Points will be scored.
The Sooners are a 7.5-point favorite. They’re 68% to win. They’ve barely escaped some close calls, but this feels like a game they’re going to control. It’s a year too early for Texas. Expect Oklahoma to run up the score if they can. That’s partly why the line is so high. They need a good showing to separate themselves from Ohio State.
The Big 10-Championship-Means-Everything-Game
Ohio State (#6, +1400) vs. Northwestern (#21)
Before blowing Michigan off the field, Ohio State hadn’t really posted many impressive showings.
Now, pundits are questioning the merits of them vs. Oklahoma.
This is a tough game to peg, but will likely really determine the fourth playoff team.
Often, a team that eviscerates a rival in an emotional win comes out a bit lethargic the next week. Northwestern is legit. Ohio State is given a 78% chance to win and they’re a 14-point favorite, but this could end up being a lot closer than people think.
Ultimately, if everything goes as expected, that means Ohio State and Oklahoma will be fighting for the fourth spot. How closely Northwestern keeps this game will go a long way into determining which school gets to play for the national title.