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Dozens More Long-Shots Added to College Football Playoff Odds, Including Syracuse at +5000

Sean Riley
Sean Riley and the Syracuse Orange have +5000 odds to make it to the four-team College Football Playoff. Photo from @NFLDraft_2020 (Twitter).
  • Picking a long shot to win the national championship is a losing bet these days, but picking a long shot Playoff participant is much more fruitful
  • The conference champion remains a big swinging point for the committee, which needs to be considered
  • None of the teams on this list have made the Playoff, but neither did Notre Dame before last season

Bovada is allowing its long shot-inclined bettors to confront the reality: it’s probably going to be Alabama or Clemson hoisting the trophy once again. That’s the case I made about 10 days ago and I stand by it, but now there’s a new way to test the long shot luck: simply betting on entrance to the College Football Playoff, rather than winning the whole thing.

Odds to Make 2020 College Football Playoff

Team Odds at Bovada
Iowa State +5000
Baylor +5000
Oklahoma State +5000
Syracuse +5000
Iowa +6600
UCF +7500
Virginia Tech +7500
Purdue +8500
Virginia +10000
Utah State +15000
South Carolina +17500
Tennessee +17500

*Odds as of July 27

While almost all of the College Football Playoff’s spots (14 of 20) have been occupied by Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma, there has been value in identifying the right flyer on college football’s playoff odds: Michigan State in 2015 or Washington in 2016, for instance. The odds in this case are big, with every team on this list coming in at over +5000, but the window of opportunity is small.

Process of Elimination

I find it intriguing that three of the four teams with the best odds, at +5000, are Big 12 teams: Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State. It suggests a certain level of doubt that either Oklahoma or Texas will win the Big 12 (and/or inability to separate those teams from one another), but I recently made my case against Iowa State as the Big 12 champion despite the Cyclones clearly being No. 3, so I’ll stay clear of the Big 12.

I think the realm of possibility ends with UCF, Virginia Tech and all the teams underneath them. The uphill climb for the Group of 5 is unlikely to change this season, so that settles that for UCF. Teams such as Virginia Tech, Purdue and others have a chance to make their respective conference title games, and anything can happen in those one-game scenarios, but will they reach that final weekend with a Playoff resume in tact? I doubt it.

Then There Were Two

Syracuse is an intriguing option. The Week 3 game against Clemson makes or breaks the hopes here: it seems unlikely Clemson is going to take an ACC loss outside of the Carrier Dome, thus Syracuse will be shut out of the ACC Championship Game if it can’t topple the Tigers. Syracuse will have a strong defense this year, but will it be enough to stifle what could be the best Clemson offense of the Dabo Swinney era, and do so enough to support a new starting quarterback? That’s the question you have to answer — and answer with a yes — to place your money with the Orange.

The benefit of that bet is that’s about the only hurdle the Orange have to clear. If they can beat Clemson at home, they can surely handle Maryland and a conference schedule that peaks with tests at NC State, at Florida State and hosting Pitt. The Orange will have holes to fill at defensive tackle, linebacker, quarterback and offensive line, but the schedule is kind.

There is also an enticing bet on the other end of the spectrum: Iowa, a strong roster with a tough schedule to navigate. The Hawkeyes should have one of the Big 10’s better defenses, led by many of the same players that took last year’s team to a tied for sixth finish nationally in yards per play allowed.

The Hawkeyes do have big holes to fill at tight end, having lost two to the NFL Draft, but plentiful returners on both the offensive line and at running back should give Iowa every reason to have a classic Iowa ground-and-pound game.

Iowa’s path to the Big 10 Championship Game is wide open: the Hawkeyes can easily be considered on even footing with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue and Northwestern, if not a step up on some of them. The problem is what comes out of the division: Penn State and Michigan in crossover games and Iowa State in the non-conference.

Plus, we’ve already seen Iowa come close to the Playoff: in 2015, if not for Michigan State’s 9 minute, 4 second touchdown drive to win the Big 10 championship, Iowa may have been the one in the Playoff (and in the unfortunate matchup with Alabama).

Both Syracuse and Iowa have paths to the Playoff this season, and both are at odds of +5000 or higher. For those willing to put down a small bet and test the luck for a high payout, the Hawkeyes and the Orange are the most logical picks.

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