In just over a month, the 2016 college football landscape has changed dramatically. There have been surprise teams flying up the national rankings. Some preseason national title contenders were essentially eliminated from College Football Playoff (CFP) consideration by losing more than one game. The LSU Tigers’ two losses actually resulted in head coach Les Miles losing his job.
As we head into October, we also head into the time of year where the CFP and national championship pictures start to become more clear. With that being the case, here are the six teams with the best odds at winning this year’s CFP National Championship Game according to the oddsmakers for the sportsbooks in Las Vegas.
After going 13-1 in 2015, Houston has a good chance at becoming the first non-Power Five conference team to crash the College Football Playoff party in 2016. The Cougars have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Greg Ward Jr., who is a true dual-threat; a handful of explosive offensive playmakers; a solid (and underrated) defense; and one of the best up-and-coming coaches in the game.
With a win under their belts against the Oklahoma Sooners, Houston made it clear that they are more than capable of playing with the big boys. At the end of the day, Houston’s chances of landing a spot in the CFP will likely come down to their performance against the Louisville Cardinals on November 17. If the Cougars win that game, there is little chance they don’t land a spot in the 2016 College Football Playoff.
In less than two years on the job, Jim Harbaugh has transformed Michigan from being a mediocre Big Ten team into a legitimate national title contender. The Wolverines have one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country in Jabrill Peppers, and a good amount of experience on both sides of the ball. They will have their work cut out for them against Wisconsin this weekend — and two tough rivalry games against Michigan State and Ohio State — but other than that, Michigan’s schedule shapes up nicely for a national title run.
3. (tie) Clemson
Clemson is in great shape to make repeat trip to the College Football Playoff after falling just short against Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game last year. The Tigers did lose a couple of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball. However, they still have All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson running the show on offense. When it comes down to it, the Tigers have two tough games remaining on their schedule; at home against Louisville this weekend, and on the road against Florida State in late October. If they win in those two matchups, Clemson will almost surely land a spot in the 2016 CFP.
3. (tie) Louisville
If you haven’t had the chance to watch Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson play live, you are truly missing out. The 19-year-old sophomore is currently pulling away from his competition in the race for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, and he has the Cardinals right in the thick of the CFP conversation.
Louisville will face a tough test this weekend on the road against ACC foe Clemson (currently the No. 5 team in the country). If they can win that game, the Cardinals will only have one more difficult game (on the road against No. 6 Houston) on their 2016 schedule. If Jackson stays healthy, expect to see Louisville land a spot in this year’s College Football Playoff.
2. Ohio State
Ohio State has been flat-out dominant in their first three games of the season, which included a convincing 45-24 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is now the team’s unquestioned starter, and he has responded by playing at an All-American caliber level. With Urban Meyer running the show, you can count on the Buckeyes being one of the best-coached teams in the country. They must survive tough tests against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Michigan, but this team has the look of a legitimate championship contender.
It should come as no surprise that Alabama (4-0) is still the odds-on favorite to win the 2016 CFP National Championship. The Tide finally settled on Jalen Hurts as their full-time starting quarterback, which resulted in Blake Barnett’s decision to transfer. They may have already survived the toughest game on their schedule (on the road against Ole Miss). If they can make it through their brutal upcoming four-game stretch (at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Texas A&M at home, and at LSU), it’s a virtual guarantee that Alabama will land the top seed in the 2016 College Football Playoff.