With the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff set to kick off on New Year’s Eve, the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) are the consensus favorites to repeat.
Per the most recent lines released by the Bovada sportsbook, head coach Nick Saban’s finely tuned juggernaut is less than even money to win it all at -230. In other words, bettors will need to risk $230 to win $100 on a Tide ticket.
Alabama’s path to an unprecedented fifth national championship in eight seasons begins in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome, with a Peach Bowl date against the fourth-ranked Washington Huskies (12-1). The linemakers at Bovada don’t give Washington much of a chance to notch the upset though, listing Alabama as major 15.5-point favorites at the moment.
Simply put, Alabama managed to go undefeated while competing against top-caliber competition almost every week in the stacked SEC. On the other side of the country, Washington feasted on overmatched Pac-12 foes like Oregon (4-8), California (5-7), and Arizona State (5-7) – doormats that the Huskies defeated by a combined score of 180-66.
Throw in a putrid non-conference schedule featuring lightweights like Rutgers (2-10) and Portland State (3-8), and Washington just hasn’t come close to facing a team with the level of talent Alabama boasts throughout its roster.
Accordingly, the upstart Huskies team – whose very presence in the Playoff caused controversy considering their relatively weak Pac-12 and non-conference schedules – brings up the rear in terms of title odds. Given just +1000 odds to triumph in the two-game tournament, Washington is a 10 to 1 underdog to hoist the trophy heading into postseason play.
The second semifinal game features a Fiesta Bowl contest that is much more evenly matched, with the second-ranked Clemson Tigers (12-1) taking on the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Considering the game line makes Ohio State slight 3-point favorites here, Bovada is similarly on the fence about each team’s respective title chances.
Both the Buckeyes (+500) and the Tigers (+550) are led by veteran head coaches who have Playoff experience under their belts. Last year Dabo Sweeney and Clemson took Alabama to the limit in a thrilling 45-40 national championship game, while Ohio State took the title in 2014 under Urban Meyer. In college football rosters shift every season and sustaining success can be difficult, so the steady stewardship of Sweeney and Meyer make this Fiesta Bowl a fair fight to say the least.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson nearly led the Tigers to title town in his sophomore year, and he’ll no doubt be relishing a second chance to finish his college career in style. And he may just have a chip on his shoulder to boot, having recently been named as the Heisman Trophy runner-up behind Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Despite just missing out on the Heisman for the second time in as many years, Watson’s confidence remains unshaken, as shown when he declared himself to be “the best player in the country” following the disappointing vote.
College Football Playoff actions begins at 3pm ET on New Year’s Eve with the Peach Bowl, followed by the Fiesta Bowl at 7pm ET.