First introduced in 2014, the college football playoff has added a whole new element to NCAA football betting. Gone are the days where a single bowl game served as the National Championship. Crowning the yearly king is instead more like a professional postseason bracket, with schools having to make it through more than just the regular season to earn a title bid.
But college football playoff odds can also be tough to navigate and successfully profit off, as only four teams make the cut each year and the selection criteria is ambiguous at best. We'll get into all that—and more—so you don't have to be intimidated and can instead view college football playoff lines as an opportunity.
College Football Playoff Betting Sites
Finding the right home for your college football playoff betting can be a little bit of a chore. There are so many options yet not all online sportsbooks are created equally. Fortunately, we compiled a list of our favorite places to bet on the college football playoff. They're all reliable and generally do a great job of releasing lines as early as possible:
Remember that sportsbooks also offer NCAAF odds on the regular-season, on several Bowls, and on the National Championship.
2021 College Football Playoff Odds
The odds to make the college football playoff are all out of whack in advance of the 2021 bracket. Sportsbooks have removed them from listings in the aftermath of a few NCAA conferences postponing their seasons until at least the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. There is some doubt as to whether there will be a 2021 college football season at all. As a result, without knowing which teams will be officially in play, the lines are no longer commonplace.
That said, we do have the opening odds for the projected top 25 teams, courtesy of BetOnline. These lines may change over the next few months, assuming there is a college football season at all, so you'll want to check them once the NCAA finalizes a playoff plan. Still, they set the stage for which schools will compete to be one of the last four remaining squads.
NCAAF Playoff Winners Odds
The odds were last updated on September 16, 2020:
Something else to monitor will be which teams end up being excluded from the pool. The Pac-12 and Big 10 have already postponed their season. All schools in those conferences will be out of the running if the college football season proceeds as planned. Remember: Very few sportsbooks at the moment, if any, are accepting wagers for the 2021 college football playoff. These odds are from the beginning of odds season—around springtime—and you'll need to give them an updated look once the NCAA confirms the typical start of the schedule or relays information on a new date.
How Does The College Football Playoff Work?
The idea behind the college football playoff is simple enough. Each year, a top-25 AP poll is released heading into the season. From there, a committee of people meets roughly 10 times throughout the season to update that pecking order.
At the end of every year, the top four teams end up making it to the college football playoff. These two matchups are played in two of the six major bowl games, which are referred to as the New Year's Six, on a rotating basis. Those bowl games are:
Don't bother hunting around for preseason Las Vegas Bowl odds. The NCAA cannot be sure which schools will be eligible to participate in them, so there's no way to narrow it down. Gambling on which squads will make the college football playoff—or the National Championship game—is roughly the same equivalent. You can place wagers on individual bowl competitions once they have participants.
Under this current college football playoff format, the first-ranked team plays the fourth-ranked team. The second- and third-place squads will then square off with one another. Then, after that, the winner from each will meet in the National Championship tilt.
Risks of Betting on College Football Playoff Selections
Betting on the college football playoff selections can be quite profitable. Just look at the odds above. Only three teams are laying worse than a one-to-one payout.
Still, the selection process is a source of criticism—questions that are especially pertinent to bettors.
Chief among the concerns: The absence of concrete criteria for making the college football playoff. The selection committee doesn't go by any formula. They heavily consider the strength of schedule and are provided with sets of advanced analytics, but there's no concrete blueprint for deciding which teams will crack the top four.
This has led to some controversy over the years, as there are usually eight teams each season that seem to have a genuine shot of finishing fourth or better after the final week. Many have argued that the playoff should be expanded to include six teams with a bye or eight teams with a staggered bowl game schedule to help with a margin for error. The NCAA, in response, has pointed out that even then there would be schools that finish outside the top six or eight who take issue with the model.
Since strength of schedule is known to be such a sticking point—and, to date, the only known sticking point—teams have increasingly gotten in the habit of packing their regular-season schedules with stiffer competition. The thinking here is that they'll have a better chance of standing out, a train of thought that both makes sense but has also hurt teams, such as Oregon in 2020, when it comes to the final tally.
The cause of that damage? Win-loss records. Every team that has ever been a college football playoff pick has finished the regular season with an undefeated record. If you're not an indomitable powerhouse like Alabama and Clemson tend to be, then loading your schedule with tougher opponents makes it that much harder to close the year without a single loss. This has brought up yet another debate, with experts wondering whether teams should favor schedules that increase their chances of perfection or cobble together slates that stand out in difficulty.
It is important to know all of this because the college football playoff strategy could change on a whim. Every year they seem to be inching closer to an expanded model, or at least a more defined selection blueprint. It is your job as the bettor to remain up on the latest news and college football betting trends so that you're making your decisions with the most accurate playoff-format information.
Betting on the College Football Playoff Online
Current odds to make the college football playoff are not the only wagers you have the option of making. Those are future gambles. There's also the singular games to think about themselves.
Lines for these games are typically released with at least a week to spare—and sometimes more. The moneylines, spreads and the over/under will be released first, followed by a list of props.
We strongly recommend jumping on the earliest lines possible when betting on the moneyline or spread. Those odds are the most likely to change drastically before kickoff. Linemakers react to the initial public action, and one side almost always generates an extreme level of interest out the gate, which leads to an odds adjustment that ultimately results is less lucrative potential payouts.
College football playoff props are also a great way to diversify your wagering portfolio. Sportsbooks dramatically increase the depth of their selection for major events such as these games. We're talking dozens, if not hundreds, of options per game.
These lines usually have to do with an event that can take place within a game. Some examples include: Which team will score the first touchdown? How many touchdowns with the Arkansas quarterback throw? Will there be a safety?
What's the over/under on the number of interceptions the Auburn defenses will nab? What's the over/under on the number of rushing yards Boise State's backfield will tally? There are even odds on less-scientific events, such as the result of the coin toss (heads or tails), whether a team will kick or defer to open the game, and when a particular head coach will call his first timeout.
Live betting is also taken to a whole other level for the college football playoffs. Sportsbooks will offer everything from updated game-result lines to spreads and moneylines by quarters, to midstream props. Placing live wagers is a fantastic way of not only keeping you engaged but giving you an opportunity to correct a pregame betting mistake you might have made.