- The Clemson Tigers have opened as the top favorite to reach the 2021 College Football Playoff
- Ohio State & Alabama are also odds-on favorites to reach the four-team field
- See the full list of opening odds to make the Playoff for the upcoming college football season
The opening odds to reach the 2021 College Football Playoff have been posted, but defending champion LSU isn’t one of the odds-on favorites.
Instead, Clemson, last season’s runner-up, is the first choice to make the four-team field. The Tigers are followed by Ohio State and Alabama.
Odds to Make 2021 College Football Playoff
Odds taken March 25.
Alabama missed the CFP for the first time since 2014 after opening at -260 last season, and now sport much more attractive 2021 College Football Playoff odds at -125.
Lawrence Leads Clemson
Clemson will have 14 starters back from a team that went 14-1, the most important being rising junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence has compiled plenty of impressive statistics during his two seasons with the Tigers, none other than Clemson going 29-1 with him running the offense.
The likely top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has completed 65.5% of his passes in his career for 6,945 yards and 66 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just 12 times, though the jump in picks to eight last season from four in 2018 is a bit of concern.
Clemson’s offense should again be very balanced. Running back and 2019 ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne surprisingly bypassed entering the NFL Draft to return for his senior season.
In his three seasons, Etienne has averaged a whopping 7.8 yards per carry while rushing for 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns on 518 carries. He was also integrated into the passing game last season, posting career highs with 37 receptions and 432 receiving yards.
Wide receiver Justyn Ross had a team-high 66 receptions last year for 865 yards and eight scores.
Furthermore, Xavier Thomas is generally considered the best defensive end in college football.
Clemson must replace four offensive linemen but coach Dabo Swinney should compensate after landing the best recruiting class in the country.
OSU Threat With Fields
Like Clemson, Ohio State’s star quarterback Justin Fields, also a rising junior, is among 13 returning starters.
After transferring from Georgia, Fields led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record during his first season in Columbus which was also Ryan Day’s rookie season as coach. Fields had a 67.2% completion rating while throwing 41 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
Fields is continuing the recent tradition of stellar Ohio State quarterbacks:
— ??????????TM (@CFBLive247) March 22, 2020
Ohio State should rack up plenty of passing yardage next season, but the concern is it could also give up a lot through the air.
The Buckeyes lost three of their starters in the secondary. Compounding matters is two potential replacements, Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint were dismissed from the team last month after being arrested on rape and kidnapping charges.
However, cornerback Shaun Wade is considered a likely first-round draft pick and linebacker Tuf Borland could join him.
Ohio State will also have a new defensive coordinator as Kerry Coombs replaces Jeff Hafley, who became the head coach at Boston College. Coombs is a former Buckeyes assistant who spent the past two seasons on the Tennessee Titans’ staff.
Saban, Tide Have Motivation
Alabama and coach Nick Saban will have plenty of motivation to get back to the CFP after missing the SEC Championship Game last season – LSU beat Georgia in the title matchup – and settling for a berth in the Citrus Bowl.
The Crimson Tide return 14 starters, including rising junior quarterback Mac Jones.
After Tua Tagovailoa sustained his season-ending hip injury, Jones started the last three games. Jones finished on a good note in the Citrus Bowl victory over Michigan, completing 16 of 25 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
I know it's a longer video but it's a good one. This was Mac Jones first college start vs Arkansas. He threw for 235 yards and 3 TDs.
— Alabama Update (@MASONEHRET1) March 23, 2020
Jones will have two of college football’s top playmakers at his disposal in wide receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris, who both opted to return for their senior seasons rather than turn pro.
Smith had 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Harris scored 20 touchdowns overall as he ran for 1,224 yards and 13 scores on 209 carries and added 27 receptions for 304 yards and seven TDs.
Standout offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood also eschewed the NFL Draft.
If Jones falters, highly touted freshman Bryce Young could be ready to step in.
Alabama’s defense also includes four potential first-round draft picks in tackle LaBryan Ray, linebacker Dylan Moss and cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Patrick Surtain II,
It is hard to bet against any of the Big Three of Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama. All are premier programs in college football, and each has their quarterbacks returning.
It would be quite a surprise to see any of those schools sitting at home when the 2021 CFP begins.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.