Betting on Which Teams Make the 2020 College Football Playoffs – Odds, Predictions, and Picks

By Noah Davis
| March 16, 2019

There isn’t another sport like college football.

Nowhere else can you have a fun year even if you’re mediocre. And nowhere else is your shot at a national title potentially over the second you lose your first game.

Every sport still only allows for one champion once the dust settles, but can you think of another athletic platform that is less forgiving?

I can’t, but at least college football has reinvented itself in recent years to the extent where some of the better teams that trip up can make up for it later.

They may not go on to win the national championship, but simply cracking the College Football Playoff has to be seen as a major win.

You still can’t lose more than 1-2 games, and it takes everything you have to get there, but just being one of those four teams qualifies as an incredibly successful year.

Betting on the 2020 College Football Playoff

The question, of course, is who sports bettors and college football fans can brace for in the 2020 College Football Playoff.

It’s early, I know, but there are several CFP contenders already, and with pushing out some College Football Playoff prop bets, it’s a conversation worth starting in, um, March.

Alabama and Clemson feel like instant locks, but not everybody is of the belief that we’re headed for yet another Tide vs. Tigers title game showdown. Those people are very quiet and in hiding, but I promise you, they do exist.

Heck, some college football experts may not even think both of those teams will make the 2020 CFP.

Whether you’re of that line of thinking or not, it’s never too early to start assessing a new season of college football. Let’s go over the top contenders and break down their College Football Playoff odds to see who looks like the best bet to live up to lofty expectations.

Will Alabama Make the 2020 College Football Playoff?

The Crimson Tide had their usual suffocating defense (10th in the nation) last year, but they didn’t get the job done in the most important game of the year.

Alabama wasn’t really helped out by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (two interceptions) and an offense that mustered just 16 points, but it’s not easy to win when you get blasted for 44 points.

Clemson was too much, but Alabama entered the final game of the year at a perfect 12-0. On paper, they were a good bet to win another championship under head coach Nick Saban’s direction, and the oddsmakers love them to at least compete for that opportunity again in 2019.


I’m not even going to begin to get cute here. Tua is back in the saddle for another go at a ring, and after the heroics he delivered two years ago, I’ll bet he’s chomping at the bit to redeem himself.

The same goes for Saban, who probably feels he could have coached a better game and won’t mind getting his defense in better positioning against such a daunting offensive foe. That is, to say the Tide run into the Tigers again.

That isn’t the bet, though. It’s if the Crimson Tide will at least be back in the College Football Playoff, and I’m not seeing much stopping that from happening.


Will Clemson Get to the CFP?

The Tigers went a perfect 15-0 and appeared in their third CFP title game in four years last season, registering their second win over Nick Saban’s Tide.

Dabo Swinney has coached up a bit of a dynasty here, while Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawrence leads one of the most potent offenses (4th last year) in the nation.

With Clemson also sporting the best defense in college football and coming off such a big title win, it’s easy to see why the top college football betting sites think they’ll be back.


We do need to pay mind to two things.

For one, repeating as champion is not an easy accomplishment. As often as Alabama gets to the final game of the year, even they haven’t won back-to-back titles since the CFP started up in 2014.

That’s worth noting, while Clemson is also losing some high-quality talent. Two stud defensive lineman are entering the 2019 NFL Draft, pass rusher Clelin Ferrell will be gone, and even reliable wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is headed to the pros.

I don’t doubt Swinney will have his guys focused and reloaded for another fun ride, but Clemson as a repeat champ isn’t a lock. I do think there is a very good chance the Tigers shoot for another battle with Alabama, though, while a return trip to the CFP feels like a safe bet.


Will Georgia Make the CFP?

The Bulldogs finished 11-3 last year and narrowly missed out on cracking the College Football Playoff. Georgia fans were none too pleased, seeing as the Bulldogs gave Alabama a run for their money late in the year.

Georgia did lose three games, though, ultimately wasting the country’s 13th-best offense.

The good news is Georgia could be back and better than ever. Star quarterback Jake Fromm aims to continue his prolific ways, while he found plenty of success when he faced the Tide last year.

Fromm’s presence and Georgia’s overall offense are the main reasons the Bulldogs are in this discussion. They’re not favored to get back, but let’s keep in mind they were in the national title game just two seasons ago.

Here are their odds for 2020.


I don’t hate Georgia in the least. Fromm has eyes for the NFL but has shown very well at the college level and has looked good in some tough spots. His experience in a tight 26-23 championship loss to Alabama gives the Bulldogs a chance, and their offense is always loaded.

The problem, of course, is that might not be good enough. Playing in the same conference as the Tide — one that is not easy at all — Georgia may be looking at another 2-3 loss season.

That may not be good enough to push them back into college football’s “final four,” while a less-than-elite defense (20th in the nation), could leave them hanging again.

Georgia offers value and is far from a bad bet. I just don’t think they’re a winning one.


Can Michigan Crack the NCAA Football Final Four?

I might be alone here, but I love the Wolverines going into 2019. Jim Harbaugh’s vaunted defense was largely solid but completely fell apart in two tough losses late in the year.

That unit had Michigan in play for the CFP basically all year, however. If it’s a little better and the offense can pick up the pace, this team could finish where last year’s left off.

Vegas doesn’t love their chances, though. Of the teams listed at, they’re tied for the second to worst 2020 College Football Playoff odds.


I get it. Michigan collapsed on defense, losing to what was supposed to be a reeling Ohio State team, and then got embarrassed in their bowl game. To this point, Jim Harbaugh’s accomplishments have rung hollow, and people are starting to doubt him.

That’s fair, but I do think this team is close, and I also believe in their quarterback, Shea Patterson. The pressure got to Patterson in his first season in Ann Arbor after transferring out of Ole Miss, but he should be much more comfortable in year two.

With an eye on the pros, Patterson should try to boost his resume with a title run. I doubt Michigan actually edges out Clemson or Alabama, but Harbaugh can get this team to the big dance, and bettors can soak up a ton of betting value.


Will Notre Dame Make the College Football Playoff?

After reaching the College Football Playoff last year, the Fighting Irish feel like sexy bets to get back in 2019 and do even more damage. That may be asking a lot, however, seeing as they got destroyed by Clemson, 30-3.

Not even putting up a fight made everyone who doubted Notre Dame look awfully smart. A weak regular-season schedule ultimately made a 12-0 Notre Dame squad look good, but they ran into a buzzsaw and got exposed.

The question bettors have to answer is if the brutal Clemson loss had more to do with the Tigers being the best team in football or if it showed us who the Fighting Irish really were.


Honestly, I think the answer comes somewhere in the middle. You don’t go 12-0 during the regular season by accident, while Notre Dame still beat Michigan back in week one.

The problem is they barely won that game, and their cakewalk schedule the rest of the way had them coming off fairly fraudulent. Notre Dame could still get back to the CFP if they go 12-0 again, but something tells me a dream run like that will be tough to duplicate.

Notre Dame was impressive last year, but 2019 is a new season. They’ll be in the running, but after a weak CFP effort, I won’t be backing them.


Will Ohio State Be in the 2020 CFP?

The Buckeyes are another team I find difficult to trust going into 2019. The ghost of Urban Meyer won’t even be removed for one full year, and there is a lot of trust that needs to be put in new head coach Ryan Day.

Day is 3-0 as the shot-caller at Ohio State, but he’s truly proven nothing. Can he handle running the show for a full year and do more than just keep Ohio State in the mix? Only time will tell.

For now, the top college football betting sites tend to think he won’t get the job done in 2019.


There is solid value here, especially when you note that Meyers leaves behind a talented roster and Ohio State is among the “rich get richer” variety. However, this program is in disarray, and they weren’t very good last year.

Betting on the Buckeyes magically turning back around and contending for a national championship just seems silly. They still hail from the uber-competitive Big 10, and getting out of that conference alive isn’t even a given.

Let’s not forget that they’re losing starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, not to mention pass rusher Nick Bosa. The Buckeyes are talented and offer value, but I don’t love their College Football Playoff odds.


Can Oklahoma Return to the CFP?

Here’s my fourth pick for my 2020 College Football Playoff predictions. Kyler Murray is jetting to the NFL and leaves behind a massive (tiny?) hole in Oklahoma’s disgusting offense.

Time to sell your Sooners shares, am I right?

Perhaps, but I am a believer in offensive guru Lincoln Riley, who shocked us all by not missing a beat after losing stud passer Baker Mayfield to the pros last year.

Oklahoma didn’t blink en route to the #1 scoring offense in the college ranks, while they also gave the Crimson Tide a mild scare in the CFP.

Can Riley lead his guys back to the big stage even with some more turnover? Vegas doesn’t hate the idea, yet you can get some quality value if you want to take on some mild risk.


I don’t pretend to think replacing guys like Mayfield and Murray is easy. However, Riley just did that, and his offense appears to be more than just about one guy.

Even if it is, he’s got a potential stud sliding over from Alabama, as transfer Jalen Hurts appears poised to be the next great Oklahoma passer.

I won’t be putting Hurts in the class of Mayfield/Murray just yet, but he’s definitely talented and could potentially work serious magic in this potent system. The real question for Oklahoma lies on the other side of the ball, where their defense continues to be awful.

Still, Oklahoma is so dominant offensively that it almost doesn’t matter. Their lone regular-season loss came in a 48-45 loss to a good Texas team, and they didn’t lose again until falling to the Tide in the College Football Playoff.

Thanks to the coaching, quarterback talent, and system, I’m down for banking on the Sooners getting back to the promised land again.


Will Texas Get to the College Football Playoff?

For those keeping track at home, I’ve already filled my four CFP slots.

That does mean I won’t be betting on the Longhorns to force their way into the 2020 College Football Playoff, but I don’t want to just brush them off like they’re nothing.

Texas was very good last year, but they were still a four-loss team that could have easily dropped more games. They could have stolen a few more wins, too, but seriously, six of their wins came by a touchdown or less.

You need to be a bit more dominant than that to get through a difficult college football season, and it’s not like the Longhorns (36th in scoring) were blowing the hinges off the door offensively.

Texas is good, but color me unsurprised that Vegas isn’t enamored with their College Football Playoff betting odds.


The price is nice, but I’m just not there with Texas yet. The Longhorns still need to be more consistent on offense, have quite a ways to go on defense, and also need to earn my trust.

This still feels more like a flier bet than a wager on a team that is really close. If you’re considering betting money on Texas, you might as well throw Oregon and a few other options into the conversation.

I don’t hate Texas, much like several of these options, but they don’t quite move the needle for me in 2019.


Who Will Win the 2020 College Football Title?

Getting to the College Football Playoff is one thing, and that alone is going to be hard enough to do. It’s also going to be a bit of a nightmare to peg as a bettor, but it might be worth heading to and getting some money down early if you’re confident in any of the wagers I’ve discussed above.

My final CFP looks like this.

  • Alabama
  • Clemson
  • Oklahoma
  • Michigan

You’re eating major cash to back the Tide and Tigers, but they feel like safe bets. You’re taking on a little more risk with Oklahoma and Michigan, but the payout is pretty great.

Of that foursome, the Wolverines are without a doubt the riskiest play. If you’re not with me there, slide in Texas or whatever other value bet you prefer.

As for the national champion, I haven’t seen any college football title odds out there. That’s surprising, especially considering CFP odds are already up.

The actual prices will come in due time, but my pick isn’t going to change. It’s awfully difficult to repeat as a champion, and I don’t get in the business of betting against an angry or focused Nick Saban.

Alabama feels like they’ll be a team on a mission, and in what will likely be yet another Alabama vs. Clemson national championship, I expect the Tide to get their revenge. The reality is the offense is as good as anyone’s, and that defense will only get better.

PICKAlabama Crimson TideN/A