The college football landscape will look a lot different in 2014. Yes, there is still some conference realignment taking place, but that’s no longer the biggest change. The biggest change is at the top, where college football will see its first playoff. There will be a selection committee who will choose the four teams based on their regular season body of work. There will be two national semifinals where the top seeded team will play the #4 seed and the #3 team will take on the #2 seeded team. The two winners will then meet in the National Championship Game more than a week later.
This year the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl serve as the sites for the two semifinal games on New Year’s Day. The National Championship will take place on January 12 at Arlington, Texas. There’s lots of excitement for the new system, but bettors should always be looking for value. Fortunately, the odds are now out for which teams will take part in the 2014 four-team playoff. Where is there value to be found? Let’s take a look at the nine teams with listed odds to reach the playoff from 5Dimes.
–Florida State makes 4 team playoff Yes (-260) No (+180) It should come as no surprise that Florida State is a heavy favorite to be part of the four team playoff in 2014. The Seminoles lost a few important players, but this team’s depth was impressive in 2013, and I expect the same this year. Jameis Winston has been in the news for the wrong reasons during the offseason, but it seems like there is no impending penalty for him. Keep an eye on the Seminoles secondary, which should be totally dominating this season. The Seminoles schedule isn’t exactly a murders row of tough opponents. This team should be in the playoff, but I won’t lay -260.
–Alabama makes 4 team playoff Yes (+125) No (-165) Alabama enters this season with a lot more questions than they have in recent years. Still, the Crimson Tide are loaded with talent. Yeldon, Drake, and Henry give this team an amazing trio of runners. Can anyone replace McCarron at quarterback? That’s the key question here. Alabama has a tricky road schedule in the SEC this year. Going to Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee, and Ole Miss isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard to bet against a Nick Saban coached team, but this might not be their year.
–Oregon makes 4 team playoff Yes (-110) No (-130) Marcus Mariota is back, and that’s very good news for Oregon fans. There really isn’t anyone behind him, so Mariota better stay healthy this year. D’Anthony Thomas is gone, but the running back spot is a major area of strength with Marshall, Tyner, and Freeman. Oregon must replace three of their four starters in the secondary. Oregon’s road schedule is very tough as well with contests at UCLA, at Utah, and at Oregon State.
–Ohio State makes 4 team playoff Yes (-105) No (-135) Ohio State has a much more favorable schedule than Alabama or Oregon, but they might not have as much talent. The Buckeyes have a gaping hole at the offensive line spot where they lost four terrific starters from last year. Braxton Miller is great at quarterback, but there is no depth behind him, so he better stay healthy. The defense as a whole should be better, but the secondary is still a question mark. Ohio State must play at Michigan State and Penn State this year. I lean toward No here.
–Auburn makes 4 team playoff Yes (+175) No (-245) Nick Marshall really developed down the stretch for Auburn, and he’ll be counting on in a big way this year. Marshall needs to be able to throw it a little more, but his running ability and knowledge of Gus Malzahn’s offense make him a dangerous weapon. Tre Mason is gone, but there are still talented runners here. No doubt Auburn caught some fortunate breaks in their run to the title game last year, but remember this team led most of the way against Florida State. This defense should be better than last season’s. The early season schedule is easy, but things get tough in November. I think there is solid value on Auburn making the 4 team playoff.
-Oklahoma makes 4 team playoff Yes (+170) No (-230) Oklahoma made a statement in their BCS win over Alabama last year. The Sooners got a much needed confidence boost with that win, and that may propel them to big things this year. Trevor Knight appears ready to be a star. Oklahoma lost their top three running backs from last year, so that’s a concern. Oklahoma’s schedule is one of the easiest you’ll see from a major conference team, so it’s easy to see Oklahoma getting to the playoff. +170 is a good value here.
-LSU makes 4 team playoff Yes (+230) No (-310) Losing both Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry was a big hit to the passing game. Jeremy Hill is gone from the backfield. Zach Mettenberger was terrific for this team last year as well. I know LSU plugs in more stars, but I don’t see this team being a top five team this year. Still, -310 on the No is far too much to lay.
-Michigan State makes 4 team playoff Yes (+250) No (-350) The Spartans definitely need to get more out of their offense this year instead of totally relying on the defense to win them games. The skill position players look better, but I’m worried about this offensive line. The defense is still loaded with talent, but there has to be at least a little bit of a drop in production after they lost seven key starters. The secondary will experience the biggest drop in production. They must travel to Oregon in the non-conference slate, but they get both Ohio State and Michigan at home this year.
-UCLA makes 4 team playoff Yes (+260) No (-380) Jim Mora Jr. is doing a tremendous job with this program, and the Bruins were smart to fight to keep him around during the offseason. Brett Hundley is a star at quarterback, but he needs a couple more weapons around him. The offensive line isn’t good at pass blocking, so it might be hard for Hundley to stay healthy. The loss of Anthony Barr is going to hurt this defense in a big way. The Bruins have talent, but I think there are a few too many holes here to be in the final four teams this year.
is full-timesports writer and sports handicapper. You simply won’t find someone who loves sports more than Kyle. Kyle considers college football and college basketball his two favorite sports. Kyle has earned many accolades for his highly successful handicapping, and he writes full-time for many top sports websites. Keep an eye out for high quality free sports analysis from Kyle!