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Who Do Oddsmakers Like as College Football Playoffs Kick Off?

The College Football Playoffs kick off on Monday. Will Michigan stave off the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl? Can Texas take down Washington for the Sugar Bowl title?

This article originally appeared at FanDuel Research.

The college football postseason action is heating up, and we’re now at the stage of bowl season where we’ve got the big games on the schedule.

Monday offers both legs of the CFP semifinals. Of that bunch, I am most thrilled for a clash between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl Game Pres. by Prudential.

There is quite a bit to unpack here, and I know you value your time. Prior to New Year’s Day, let’s dive into the odds and lines for the upcoming bowl slate, emphasizing the most valuable of the traditional betting markets where applicable.

All college football odds via FanDuel Sportsbook. Lines may change after this article is published.

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Rose Bowl

Alabama vs. Michigan

  • Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
  • Time: 5 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Spread: MICH -1.5 (-115)
  • Moneyline: ALA +108/ MICH -130
  • Total: 44.5 (-112/-108)

As the most anticipated college football game of 2023-24, “The Granddaddy of Them All” is sure to deliver a show this Monday evening. This time around, the Rose Bowl will pit together arguably the two proudest CFB fanbases in Michigan (13-0) and Alabama (12-1). Naturally, with that comes two larger-than-life head coaches in Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban.

It will be tough to pinpoint who has the true edge in this contest. Saban and the Tide last won in Pasadena in 2021. Meanwhile, the Wolverines haven’t scored a Rose Bowl victory since 1998. Still, in the current campaign, U-M appears as powerful as ever. At numberFire, the power rankings have Michigan (30.26 nERD) No. 1 in all of FBS.

For the Tide (22.07 nERD), they show up 11th overall on numberFire’s power rankings scale. Their only loss of 2023 came way back on September 9th to the Texas Longhorns, which means ‘Bama is currently on an 11-game winning streak. Does that mean they can end the Wolverines’ season in Pasadena?

When it comes to defense, Michigan was widely regarded as the best team in college football. Through 13 contests, U-M has suffocated opponents into just 9.5 points per game (PPG). Still, they have not faced a side like Alabama this season. Even Michigan’s annual test with the Ohio State Buckeyes cannot fully prepare them for the physicality that the Tide play with.

Similar to most years, ‘Bama finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 in both offensive (35.1 PPG) and defensive scoring (18.4 PPG). At the moment, the Tide are riding high after a statement victory over the reigning national champion Georgia Bulldogs. They’ll need every bit of that momentum to take down undefeated Michigan.

CFP- Rose BowlAlabama v. MichiganMICH -1.5+108/-13044.5
CFP – Sugar BowlTexas v. WashingtonTEX -4.5-184/+15262.5

Best Bet: Michigan -1.5 (-115)

We have talked about the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” before, and I think it will apply to the upcoming Rose Bowl. The Wolverines have been dominant wire-to-wire this year. We mentioned the incredible defense, but the J.J. McCarthy-led offense has been stellar, as well. The junior quarterback has been extremely sharp in 2023, displaying a QBR of 89.3 (third-best in the nation).

Alabama has a talented signal-caller of their own in sophomore Jalen Milroe (83.6 QBR). The Crimson Tide quarterback has a big arm and quality athleticism but will be making his CFP debut this weekend. In this moment, I’d prefer to lean on the experience of McCarthy, the Wolverines’ run game, and Michigan’s massive offensive line.

A point and a hook will be the smallest spread the Wolverines are asked to cover this year. In two prior contests in 2023 wherein Michigan was against a single-digit spread, they covered in both. With similar circumstances here, I will lay points with undefeated U-M.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Sugar Bowl

Texas vs. Washington

  • Venue: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA
  • Time: 8:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Spread: TEX -4.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: TEX -184/WASH +152
  • Total: 62.5 (-115/-105)

For the second leg of the 2023-24 College Football Playoff, we will see the Texas Longhorns (12-1) and Washington Huskies (13-0) rumble at the Sugar Bowl. Both sides are looking to return to glory, as each has gone without a national title over the past 15 years or more.

Seeking their first natty since 2005, the Longhorns will be making their inaugural trip to the CFP. They are fresh off a fantastic regular season that ended with a Big 12 title, destroying the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the conference championship game. Texas’ only loss this year came against the rival Oklahoma Sooners. Simply, is UT ready for the undefeated Dawgs?

Washington is having a historic season, winning 13 games in a single campaign for the first time in school history. More impressively, the Huskies are accomplishing all this in head coach Kalen DeBoer’s second campaign at the helm. They have leaned on a high-flying offense in 2023, as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. led the entire nation with 4,218 passing yards.

The Longhorns have also made great strides in head coach Steve Sarkisian’s short stint. In three seasons in Austin, Coach Sark has improved Texas’ win total in each campaign. In the present moment, the ‘Horns have very real aspirations of going all the way (FanDuel Sportsbook has Texas currently at +250 odds to win the national championship), but that path goes through New Orleans this Monday night.

At this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowlthe winner will likely be an underdog in the title game to whoever wins the aforementioned Rose Bowl. Nevertheless, all the marbles are on the line. Undoubtedly, fanbases from Austin and Seattle will embark upon “The Big Easy” in droves, but I’d expect the burnt orange to outweigh the purple.

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Best Bet: Over 62.5 (-115)

Unlike Bama-Michigan, I am expecting to see quite a bit of points at the Superdome. I mentioned Penix’s abilities as a signal-caller, and the lefty — along with his favorite targets, Rome Odunze (18.5 yards per reception) and Ja’lynn Polk (10.3) — has gotten UDub to score 37.7 PPG in 2023. On a fast surface indoors, I believe we see those two dashing down the field.

Of course, Texas can score the rock at a prolific level, as well. In 2023, the ‘Horns averaged 36.2 PPG. Sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers dazzled in 11 games played, tossing 21 scores to just six interceptions. From there, Ewers can lean on a stout running game — one that produces 189.1 yards per game on the ground.

Back at numberFire, the CFB game projections yield as estimated score of 35.04-28.15 in favor of Texas. That equates to a sum of 63.19 total points, which gets us over the set total of 62.5. Concurring with my sentiment, I will be rooting for a high-scoring affair in NOLA.

Gabriel Santiago

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