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Washington State is the PAC-12’s Only National Title Hope (It’s a Slim Hope)

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in College Football

Updated Mar 26, 2020 · 9:37 AM PDT

Apple Cup
The PAC-12's Playoff hopes could come down to the Apple Cup, so help us God. Photo by Cumulus Clouds
  • National title odds are turning into a few-horse race.
  • Alabama vs the Field?
  • Washington State is the PAC-12’s only hope, hilariously.

With the College Football Playoff Committee’s new rankings out, we’re edging into the part of the season where the national title race has taken shape. Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame will have to lose a bad game or run over a committee member’s dog to miss out. Also: can Washington State make it?

College Football National Championship Odds

For more line history, go to the National Championships Odds Tracker. Here’s the current odds:

Team Odds
Alabama -200
Clemson +550
Notre Dame +650
Ohio State +1200
Michigan +1200

Washington State is the PAC-12’s only hope

Team Odds
Washington State +5000

That puts the Cougars on par with UCF, who didn’t get into the Playoff last year despite going undefeated. These are not great odds. How did this happen?

In short, the PAC-12 ate itself again. Washington looked to be the early favorite, but after its Week 1 setback to Auburn, couldn’t afford the loss Oregon handed them. Oregon lost a tight game to Stanford in the early season and then collapsed after the Washington State game, losing to Arizona in miserable form. The W over Oregon gave Stanford a quality win, which didn’t mean anything because the Cardinal then lost to Notre Dame, Utah, and Washington State.

YouTube video

Washington State is hanging on by the skin of its teeth, with just one loss (USC) on its record. If they win out against Cal, Colorado, Arizona and Washington, and then win the PAC-12 title game, they’ll have a chance of getting in. That seems like an awfully tall order for an absolute roller coaster of a team, but it’s all the PAC-12 has left.

The Playoff Committee’s top four is dominant

Rank Team Odds
1 Alabama -210
2 Clemson +410
3 LSU +3200
4 Notre Dame +590

Add up all those implied probabilities and you’re sitting at about 93.5%. This should teach you a few things: futures odds are always too short on the favorites, and the eventual national champion is almost certainly a team now ranked in the top four.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Alabama alone hoovers up 67% implied probability, and “Alabama vs the Field” bets have been available at roughly even odds since the preseason. There isn’t a system of parity in college football. The good teams will stay the good teams.

But hey: you get +5000 betting on Washington State, whose quarterback went to a Halloween party in Pullman dressed as himself. How can you turn that down?

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