- The list of college football teams still (realistically) in the running for the National Championship is getting shorter by the week
- There is now a massive gap in the odds between the top-three favorites and the rest of the field
- See how the odds have shifted from the start of the season to now
When the 2020-21 college football season began, 11 teams were +2500 or shorter in the CFP National Championship odds. The usual suspects were the clear favorites (Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State) but the secondary contenders could at least see them off in the distance.
Seven weeks in – and before the Big Ten and Pac-12 have even started their seasons – only five teams remain at +2500 or better, and the three front-runners are no longer visible to the rest of the pack.
2021 CFP National Championship Odds
|Team||Current Odds||Preseason Odds|
“Current odds” as of Oct 20, 2020.
Clemson Is Still Good … Really Really Good
Through its first 12 games of the 2019-20 season, Clemson’s defense was suffocating. Then Ohio State and LSU combined for nearly 1,200 yards of offense against the Tigers in the College Football Playoff, reminding the nation why Clemson’s ACC schedule is viewed as pillowy-soft. When the NFL draft took five members from that unit – including first-rounders Isaiah Simmons and AJ Terrell – and the offensive line lost four starters, there was some concern in Death Valley that Clemson could slide back towards its much-maligned ACC brethren in 2020.
When number-one receiver Justyn Ross was lost to for the year to a congenital back ailment, concerns grew.
Clemson WR Justyn Ross will have surgery on Friday for a congenital spinal issue and his career could be in jeopardy. https://t.co/1QrykkmpBq
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 1, 2020
The optimists pointed to the fact that Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence would be back for his junior year, along with star running back Travis Etienne.
Through its first five games, Clemson has given the preseason doubters ample reason to delete their August tweets.
Clemson has outscored its first four ACC opponents by 133 points (33.3 points per game) and outgained them by nearly a two-to-one margin (2,248 yards on offense versus 1,161 yards allowed). In the first halves of those four games, the defense has allowed just two touchdowns.
Alabama Is Cruising … Mostly
The Tide are 4-0 with a 19.75 average margin of victory while playing a significantly tougher SEC schedule. Their offense is second in the country in points per game (48.5 PPG) and they already own wins over then-No. 13 Texas A&M (52-24) and then-No. 3 Georgia (41-24).
On the surface, no issues. Mac Jones has proven to be every bit as prolific as Tua Tagovailoa under center and the toughest part of their ten-game schedule is done and dusted. Meetings with LSU and Auburn lie ahead, but that pair of Tigers is a combined 3-4 on the year.
Digging a little deeper, it’s clear that Nick Saban’s defense is not the monster it is most years. Last season, they surrendered 18.8 PPG, which was already sub-standard for Saban. This season, that number has grown to 28.8.
Like Clemson, Bama lost a ton of defensive talent to the NFL (five players in the first three rounds). Looking at their recruiting rankings from the last several cycles, it’s clear that the talent is still there (it’s always there). The unit certainly hasn’t meshed yet, though.
That said, in Alabama’s most-recent game against Georgia, the defense did pitch a shutout after trailing 24-20 at the half.
Ohio State … Still Hasn’t Played
There isn’t much to say about the Buckeyes at this point, aside from this: their win total over/under for their nine-game Big Ten schedule has been set at 8.5, and the over is favored.
Taking the odds at face value, the implied probability of Clemson (+135), Alabama (+300), or Ohio State (+300) winning the National Championship rounds up to 93%. (It’s actually 92.55%.)
Adjusting for the standard -110 juice, the probability works out to 88.3%.
Fair to say that oddsmakers see this as a three-horse race, at most.