Spring scrimmages are wrapping up across campuses, and that has our handicapper taking an early look at his top four college football picks to make this year's playoffs.
A pretty big crowd turned out in Austin this past weekend for the annual Orange-&-White spring game pitting the Texas Longhorns against themselves. That's not bad considering the storms that were in the forecast, not to mention the 55,000 or so burned orange clad fans on hand were there to watch a team picked fifth on the College football odds to win the Big 12.
Fifth won't get you much these days, unless you're talking fifth in the College Football Playoff Poll next December when bowl matchups are announced. And even then, all it will get you is runner-up status to the 4-team playoff bracket and an invite to one of the New Year's Six bowls.
That status basically went to Baylor and TCU in the Big 12 a year ago when the Bears were No. 5 followed by the Horned Frogs in the rankings released in early December. They tied for the conference crown, and are back again as the favorites to win the league title once more.
Texas Christian gets my nod to represent the Big 12 in the playoffs this time around. Chalky at 2/1 to win the conference and 13/2 to win their first national title since 1938, the Frogs have been knocking on the door for a while. Gary Patterson's team made it to a couple of BCS Bowls in 2009-10 with a combined 25-1 record, and are coming off a 12-1 campaign with a rout of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
Buckeyes Make For Easiest Pick In Country
As much as I hate to follow up one chunk of chalk with another, I've got no choice. The Ohio State Buckeyes, who drew over 99K to their spring gala, will not be among my plays on the NCAA futures odds but it's tough to bet against them. Ninety-fricking-nine thousand to a spring scrimmage! A bit of a long shot to win it all last August, Urban Meyer's team is the team to beat at better than 4/1 to win it all and 1/2 to take home another Big Ten title.
The Buckeyes have a tricky opener at Virginia Tech, the final game on the Week 1 college football betting card, but a very decent schedule after that with both Penn State and Michigan State in Columbus without Nebraska and Wisconsin in the mix. At worst, OSU should be 11-1 after the finale at Michigan, and probably 12-0.
Auburn, USC Round Out Playoff Quartet
It's only a little less chalky to go with the Auburn Tigers and USC Trojans for the last two picks, but that's the way I'm leaning nonetheless.
Maybe Alabama at 8/1 to win another National Championship and 5/2 in the Southeastern Conference is an easier college football pick than Ohio State, but I can't do it. Auburn is just behind the Crimson Tide in the SEC futures odds, and the Tigers will be tested early with matchups against Louisville, LSU and Mississippi State among their first four games. The big one is at home, though, November 18 vs. Alabama.
Oregon is the team to beat in the Pac-12 and gets Southern Cal in Eugene just before Thanksgiving, but I still like the Trojans. They're in the 9/4 range in the conference, and the schedule shapes up to be in their favor if they can beat Stanford at home plus Notre Dame on the road during the first half of the season.
ACC Left On Outside Looking In
If Auburn, Ohio State, TCU and USC are the CFP entrants, that leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference out. Clemson and Florida State fans won't like hearing that, but I believe it's going to take both Ohio State and Texas Christian falling out of the picture, and do not see that happening.
Just for fun, I might play Georgia Tech to win it all. The Yellow Jackets are right behind the Tigers and Seminoles in the ACC futures odds, and at 60/1 for the whole enchilada, might be worth a roll of the dice.