College Football Futures: CFP National Championship Odds and Picks

College Football Futures: CFP National Championship Odds and Picks

This article is part of our College Football Picks series.

College Football Futures: Early CFP National Championship Best Bets

We're past Memorial Day and we can see the college football season on the horizon. Summer workouts and fall camp are still a little ways away, but that doesn't mean we can't take a peek at the CFP National Championship odds and hunt for a little value before things heat up.

Whereas the Heisman odds and the Heisman race itself tend to be wide-open with dark horses emerging out of nowhere every year, the field of National Championship contenders is pretty stratified. Only a handful of teams have a legitimate shot of winning it all every year, and that will remain the case no matter how much people want to convince themselves that the expanded playoff will generate a Cinderella. 

I've gone ahead and dug into the odds to identify my three favorite CFP National Championship bets I'll be targeting throughout the summer. My criteria are pretty simple. 

  • Does the team have a good quarterback in place?
  • Does the returning production meet a certain threshold?
    • If not, did the team improve itself through the transfer portal?
  • Does the team have enough size and talent in the trenches to take over games?
  • Is there a high enough Blue Chip Ratio on the roster?

CFP National Championship Odds

Here are the latest CFP Championship Odds, which you can find here at RotoWire with prices from the best sports betting sites. As you'll see in the article, I'm not straying too far down the board for my national championship picks. 

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CFP National Championship Picks

Ohio State (+440 at FanDuel) 

We'll start at the top. Georgia technically is the favorite but grabbing them at +325 or worse (+300 at FanDuel) doesn't feel right when Ohio State is just as good, if not better. 

The Buckeyes are all-in on this season. Ryan Day's seat is getting warmer with each passing year that Ohio State isn't playing for a national championship. Last year's debacle against Michigan followed by an uninterested showing against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl has lost Day a lot of his good standing among the Buckeye faithful.

Credit where it's due, though. Rather than leaning into the things that have made Ohio State fall short in recent years (I call this Dabo'ing), Day was proactive this offseason and retooled the roster in key areas. 

Getting TreVeyon Henderson to return for his senior year and then adding Quinshon Judkins via the transfer portal gives Ohio State the best backfield tandem in the country and it's not particularly close. Then, bringing in Chip Kelly to scheme up the run game takes things to another level.

In an era where passing has taken over and defenses have had to get smaller and faster while deploying more 2-high looks, Ohio State's personnel is the type that could flip that paradigm on its head. Zig where they Zag, and so on. 

Suddenly, preparing for Ohio State becomes much more challenging. It's not just the sheer talent, it's the detour in philosophy that will make things really tough on opposing defenses. Over the last few years, the Buckeyes have lit up opponents through the air. It makes sense. It was playing to their strengths. When you have Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Jaxon Smith-Njigba out wide and C.J. Stroud as the trigger man, you'd be crazy not to be a pass-first operation.

Last year shined a light on the potential pitfalls of going all-in in one area, though. Kyle McCord did not have the goods to operate the offense like Stroud did, and now he's at Syracuse. That tells you everything you need to know. 

Now that Ohio State has the foundation to become more run-oriented, their addition of Will Howard at quarterback was an extremely shrewd move. Howard is not a particularly gifted passer. The good thing is, he doesn't have to be. He's serviceable enough in that regard to sting teams when they creep up to stop the run. But the real difference-making trait in Howard's toolbox is his rushing ability. In the two seasons in which Howard played more than seven games, he racked up 364 and 351 rushing yards with 12 rushing scores in those years, including nine last year.

He forces defenses to account for yet another rushing threat. And when Howard is chugging upfield at 6-foot-4, 237 pounds at defenses that have already been tenderized by Henderson and Judkins, bringing him down will be no picnic.

A quick look at the schedule doesn't show too many hurdles. Michigan is retooling and that game is in Columbus. Penn State on the road is always tough on paper but we know how that game always ends up. The biggest test will be going to Eugene in October to face Oregon. If Ohio State gets out of that one unscathed, it'll be surprising for them to be anything other than the No.1 seed in the playoff.

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Mississippi (+1600 at DraftKings)

NIL and the transfer portal aren't the magic bullet for every college football team to suddenly have a chance to win big. Bad bets on players or an unprepared NIL department can leave you in a lurch. Just ask Florida, Colorado, and Miami. 

If you get it right, though, you can elevate your program into a legitimate contender. That's exactly what Lane Kiffin has done in Oxford. 

Over the last decade or so, Ole Miss has been a good program, but never one that had the championship-level roster construction to truly hang with the big dogs. There are only so many five-star linemen in a given class and they would usually end up with the aforementioned big dogs. That has tended to be the thru-line for a title contender. 

Ole Miss has now found a way to get those hog mollies on campus via the portal. Walter Nolen was one of the most-coveted transfer portal players this offseason as an athletic and space-eating defensive tackle who was the No.2 player in the nation coming out of high school. It also added at least three starting-caliber offensive linemen, including two who played on Washington's CFP Finalist team last year. 

Lack of trench depth and defense have always put a ceiling on the Ole Miss program. Times have changed.

The offense will be among the best in the country even with the Judkins departure. Jaxson Dart is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and the offensive system put in place by Kiffin will have the Rebs running teams off the field.

Another kicker: conference expansion and the dissolution of divisions in the SEC have actually set up Ole Miss with a reasonable schedule. Of course, the game in Baton Rouge will be a battle and the home game against Georgia in November sets up as one of the premier matchups of the entire season, but the schedule is hardly a gauntlet. 

Plus, the 12-team playoff gives Ole Miss a little bit of cushion to lose both of those games and still find a way in. And with the roster being in such good shape, Ole Miss would be one of the most dangerous teams in the CFP. I'm in on Ole Miss at +1600.

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Oregon (+1000 at BetMGM)

This is where line shopping is extremely important. Oregon is priced as low as +850 at other major shops, so catching the Ducks at 10/1 at BetMGM is where you'll want to go if you're in on them this year.

Sure, Bo Nix, Troy Franklin, Bucky Irving, and a number of starting defenders are gone, but there's a lot to like about what Dan Lanning is building in Eugene. Even with those losses, Oregon still ranks 25th in the nation in returning production according to ESPN's Bill Connelly.

On top of that, Oregon ranks fourth in Blue Chip Ratio according to On3 Sports with 70 percent of its roster being comprised of four- or five-star players. The pieces are there, even if it will look a bit different than last year sans Nix.

The biggest question is whether transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel can reach another level. He was always too talented to be playing at UCF in its AAC days and he had a successful two-year stint at Oklahoma that proved he can punch up a weight class. Gabriel was surgically accurate last season, completing 69.3 percent of his passes at 9.5 YPA. He also improved as a rushing threat with 12 rushing scores. From the looks of it, he'll be a clean fit in the Oregon offense. And luckily, he'll have plenty of talent around him. 

Tez Johnson is the real deal at one of the receiver spots and the Ducks also pulled former five-star receiver, Evan Stewart, out of Texas A&M this offseason. That's real firepower that Gabriel now has access to.

The defense also returns a healthy chunk (70%) of its production from a Top 15 unit a year ago. It also had some great pulls in the transfer portal in Derrick Harmon and Jamaree Caldwell to eat up space on the defensive line. 

It's all there for the Ducks and if they're able to win the aforementioned all-important home game against Ohio State, it'll be a statement that Oregon is a legitimate national title contender. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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