College Football Picks: Early Odds & Matchup For Bowl Season

Darin Zank

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 3:33 PM GMT

College football's version of the Final Four is set, and while the national semifinals are still three weeks away, we couldn't resist getting in on some early college football picks.

 

For one team, its participation in this College Football Playoff comes as no surprise. Alabama made the first-ever CFP last season, and was widely expected to make a run at a return trip this season. And that's just what the Tide did. But Michigan State, Oklahoma and Clemson reached this CFP as preseason longshots; the Spartans had to get by defending national champion Ohio State in the Big Ten East, the Tigers had to get by Florida State in the ACC and the Sooners had to get by both TCU and Baylor in the Big 12.

But they're all here, and make for a pair of interesting national semifinals on New Year's Eve.

In that Thursday's first semifinal ACC champion Clemson takes on Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Game 2 then matches Big Ten champion Michigan State against SEC champion Alabama in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington.

 

National Semifinals Odds
Clemson may be the No. 1 team in the CFB selection committee seedings, but the college football odds market isn't quite a believer; the Tigers opened as three-point underdogs against the Sooners, and many books then bumped that spread to 3.5 in the early betting.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide opened at right around -9 over the Spartans, then got bumped to -10.

Bettors looking for a price could get Clemson at +165 at BetOnline to win the Orange Bowl outright, and Michigan State at +330 to win the Cotton Bowl outright at SportsBetting.

 

Lower-Seeded Sooners Favored
Oklahoma (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS) survived a bad loss to Texas back in October and the absence of a conference championship game to make the CFP. The Sooners started this season 4-0, but lost to the Longhorns in the Red River shootout 24-17. OU has, however, won every game since, clinching the Big 12 title by knocking off Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State on consecutive Saturdays to end the regular season.

The Sooners have outgained and outrushed each of their last seven opponents, going 6-1 ATS in the process.

Clemson (13-0 SU, 6-7 ATS) stands as the lone undefeated FBS team, after outlasting North Carolina in the ACC title game 45-37. The Tigers didn't exactly play a Murderers' Row of a schedule this season, but they won every game on it, including a 24-22 decision over Notre Dame and a 23-13 win over the Seminoles.

Clemson has outgained each of its last nine opponents, seven of them by at least 200 yards. But the Tigers are also only 1-4 ATS over their last five games, because the bigger spreads have been catching up to them.

Meanwhile, Clemson gives us the impression of a paper tiger. They put up some crazy offensive numbers this season, but didn't really play anybody. The ACC ranks as the worst conference, top to bottom, among the Power Five. Our guess is the oddsmakers have the chalk correct on this one.

College Football Pick: Oklahoma -3.5 at Heritage

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2960410, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

'Bama Gets Re-Match With Big Ten
After getting kicked out of last year's CFP by Ohio State the Crimson Tide is back for another go. Alabama (12-1 SU, 7-6 ATS) stumbled back in Week 3, losing at home to Ole Miss, but has run the table since then, beating eight other bowl teams along the way, including Florida in the SEC championship game 29-14.

The Tide is also 4-1 ATS over its last five games, as they've just gotten better as the season's rolled along.

Michigan State (12-1 SU, 5-7 ATS), meanwhile, started 8-0 this season, with a win over Oregon and that crazy victory over rival Michigan at the Big House. The Spartans then experienced a bit of football karma, blowing a late lead, losing at Nebraska 39-38 on a controversial Huskers touchdown in the waning moments. Two weeks later, though, in the game that meant everything, Michigan State played without its starting quarterback at Ohio State and still upset the Buckeyes 17-14. A big win over Penn State followed, as did a rough, tough 16-13 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.

The Spartans are also 5-1-1 ATS over their last seven games, as their defense has stepped it up.

Alabama looks like a monster, but bettors should be wary of underestimating Michigan State. The Spartans are already 2-0 both SU and ATS this season as underdogs, 9-4 SU and 11-1-1 ATS its last 13 times out getting points. We'll take Sparty plus the points for one college football pick.

College Football Pick: Michigan State +10 at Bookmaker

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2960411, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]