College Football Playoff Odds

For a second straight year, we will not have a college football national champion from the SEC. That’s because the Big Ten and the Pac-12 will be represented in the 2015 championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The No. 2 Oregon Ducks take on the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes for all the marbles in the first year of the four-team playoff.

Oregon (13-1) put an end to Florida State’s 29-game winning streak with a 59-20 beat down in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks took advantage of five second-half turnovers by the Seminoles, turning a close 18-13 game at halftime into a blowout. They outscored the Seminoles 41-7 after intermission.

Ohio State (13-1) came into the Sugar Bowl with little expectations. Many expected the Buckeyes to get rolled by the Crimson Tide, but that did not happen. They stormed back from an early 21-6 deficit to win 42-35. They actually outgained Alabama by 130 total yards in a dominant effort.

Kickoff for the championship game is scheduled for 8:30 EST on Monday, January 12th with ESPN providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the odds in Las Vegas, I find Oregon listed as a 6.5-point favorite over Ohio State with a total set of 75 points.

My Early Lean: Ohio State +6.5

While Oregon may be the better team, I just cannot foresee it blowing out Ohio State. The Buckeyes have played their two best games of the year coming into this one as Urban Meyer has his team hitting on all cylinders. They proved that their 59-0 beat down of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship was no fluke. After outgaining the Badgers by 300 total yards, the Buckeyes really dominated the Crimson Tide.

Alabama did score a late touchdown to get within 42-35, but that was as close as it would get. Statistically, this was actually a bigger blowout than the final score would indicate. The Buckeyes outgained the Crimson Tide 537-407 for the game, or by 130 total yards. Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns on only 20 career in the win. He now has 450 rushing yards in his last two games and is one of the most underrated running backs in the country. Cardale Jones threw for 243 yards and a touchdown with one pick against Alabama as well.

Oregon comes into this game way overvalued due to having gone a perfect 9-0 straight up and 9-0 against the spread in its last nine games overall. While that is impressive, it has the betting public quick to back the Ducks again. I believe these teams are much more evenly matched than this 6.5-point spread would indicate. It should be closer to a pick ’em in my eyes, which means there is value in backing the dog.

Yes, Oregon beat Florida State handily 59-20, but that game was far from the blowout that the score shows. The Ducks only outgained the Seminoles by 111 total yards in the win. That’s a good margin, but not one that would warrant a 39-point blowout. The Seminoles simply gave this game away in the second half by committing five turnovers with four lost fumbles and an interception.

Florida State racked up 528 total yards on this suspect Oregon defense. The Ducks can score at will, but they clearly have the worse defense in this one. They are allowing an average of 421.9 yards per game on the season. Ohio State only gives up 22.1 points and 333.4 yards per game against teams that average 28.3 points and 396 yards per game, so it has been pretty elite defensively. I look for the Buckeyes to be the team that comes up with the more stops in this one, which will lead to a cover and possibly an outright win.

Ohio State has been pretty solid against the run, allowing an average of 142 rushing yards per game and 3.9 per carry against teams that average 188 yards per game and 4.8 per carry. Stopping the run will be key because both teams love to run it. Oregon averages 242 rushing yards per game, while Ohio State puts up 262 yards per game on the ground. Oregon gives up 156 rushing yards per game and 4.2 per carry against teams that average 162 yards per game and 4.3 per carry.

I have really been impressed with Ohio State’s ability to stop the run here of late against some very good rushing teams. The Buckeyes have held Michigan, Wisconsin and Alabama to a combined 120.7 rushing yards per game and 3.3 per carry. They limited Melvin Gordon and the Badgers to just 71 rushing yards on 37 carries, Michigan to 121 yards on 38 carries, and Alabama to 170 yards on 34 carries.

Urban Meyer is 21-5 ATS as an underdog in all games he has coached.

Urban Meyer is 21-5 ATS as an underdog in all games he has coached. Meyer is 15-4 ATS versus excellent teams that outscore their opponents by 17-plus points per game in all games he has coached. Ohio State is 31-11 ATS in its last 42 vs. excellent rushing teams that average at least 230 yards per game. The Buckeyes are 9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 vs. Pac-12 opponents. Ohio State is 33-16-2 ATS in its last 51 vs. a team with a winning record.

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