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Ohio State, Clemson See Title Odds Fade Again; Penn State, Michigan, Oregon Improve

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in College Football

Sep 19, 2021 · 10:47 AM PDT

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagelelei looking for a teammate to throw the ball to during a game.
Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei looks for a receiver during the first quarter against Notre Dame in an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. The Atlantic Coast Conference's top offenses should be right back in the flow next season. There will just be some new faces at North Carolina and Clemson that will be piling up the yards. (Matt Cashore/Pool Photo via AP, File)
  • The 2021-22 CFP National Championship odds have moved significantly in the first three weeks of the season
  • Perennial title contenders Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma have all faded
  • A number of big programs who have been shutout in the CFP era are getting shorter

The College Football Playoff era, which dates back to 2014, has been dominated by a handful of programs. Alabama and Clemson have qualified for six of the seven editions and won five titles between them. Ohio State and Oklahoma have qualified for four. Only one other school (Notre Dame) has reached more than one, and only LSU has won a national championship (2019).

In short, there has been very little parity in the sport over the past seven years.

The early National Championship odds movement says that 2021-22 could be different.

National Championship Odds

Team Current Odds Preseason Odds
 Alabama +200 +250
Georgia +250 +575
Oklahoma +1000 +713
Clemson +1000 +408
Ohio State +1400 +613
Oregon +1600 +4500
Penn State +2500 +6625
Michigan +4000 +8925
Iowa +5000 +10625
Texas A&M +6000 +3125
Cincinnati +6000 +9675
Ole Miss +6750 +11250
Notre Dame +8000 +6150
Florida +8000 +3700
Iowa State +9000 +2750
LSU +12500 +3825
Texas +14000 +4950
Wisconsin +14000 +5000
USC +14000 +4750
Michigan State +15000 +23333
Virginia Tech +16500 +21250
UCLA +17500 +10625
North Carolina +22500 +4500
Kansas State +22500 +25000
Auburn +25000 +10400
Washington +25000 +8500

Current odds as of Sep. 19, 2021, at FanDuel.

Struggling Superpowers

Clemson’s troubles started right out of the gate. In an exceptionally tough Week 1 matchup, they faced Georgia in North Carolina, putting up a measly three-points on the Bulldogs’ veteran-laden defense. Oddsmakers didn’t punish them too badly for the 10-3 setback, dropping the Tigers from +408, on average, to +650.

Their Week 2 rout of FCS South Carolina State (49-3) was inconsequential. But an ugly 14-8 Week 3 victory over Georgia Tech saw their odds fade all the way to +1100. They had to stop a fourth-and-goal in the final minute to hang on for the win against a Georgia Tech team which had already lost to Northern Illinois. The Yellow Jackets actually out-gained Clemson for the game (309 to 284).

Clemson has really struggled to make big plays on offense. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was a solid 18-25 passing, but only had 126 yards on the day.

Ohio State followed up its Week 2 home loss to Oregon with an underwhelming 41-20 win over Tulsa as 24.5-point favorites. They are now 0-2-1 against the spread this season.

While Oklahoma is a perfect 3-0 straight-up, they have not come remotely close to covering the spread against either for the FBS teams they have faced. They hung on for a 40-35 win over Tulane in Week 1 as 31-point chalk. Yesterday, they beat Nebraska by a touchdown (23-16) as 22.5-point favorites. Quarterback Spencer Rattler is not having the prolific season everyone was expecting. He only has two touchdown passes combined in the two FBS wins. His Heisman odds have faded drastically.

The Surging Middle Class

It wasn’t long ago that Michigan, Penn State, and Oregon were viewed as legitimate national title threats at the start of (almost) every season. The early returns in 2021 are an indication that those days may be back.  Oregon (3-0) obviously has the high-profile road win over Ohio State, along with a 31-24 home win over an under-rated Fresno State.

Penn State (3-0) started the year with a gritty 16-10 road win over then-#12 Wisconsin, dominated Ball State 44-13 in Week 2, and then beat #22 Auburn (28-20) yesterday, covering as four-point home favorites. Senior QB Sean Clifford was excellent against a solid Auburn defense, completing 28-32 pass for 280 yards, two TDs, and a pick.

The Michigan Wolverines (3-0) has failed to live up to the sky-high expectations that arrived with Jim Harbaugh in 2015. They have been nothing short of dominant in 2021, though. They have already crushed Western Michigan (47-14), Washington (*31-10), and Northern Illinois (63-10). They haven’t faced the stiffest competition, but those are all about-average FBS teams and the outcomes were never in doubt.

In the next few weeks, Penn State and Michigan will have another opportunity to prove themselves. Penn State heads to #5 Iowa on October 10th. The Wolverines visit #18 Wisconsin on October 2nd. The Ducks will have to wait a little longer. Their only remaining game against a current top-25 team comes on October 13th at UCLA. The Bruins are currently #13 in the polls, but will fall tomorrow after losing to Fresno State at home yesterday as 11-point favorites.

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