College football betting preview: CFP value bets


The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are the value bets for the College Football Playoff (with DraftKings odds):


Utah (%plussign% 500) to make the College Football Playoff

Matt Youmans: College football futures are not that enticing to bet, to be honest, because long shots rarely cash. It’s too easy to predict Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia as the four playoff teams. Still, Utah is one surprise team that could crash the party this season. It starts with the coach, Kyle Whittingham, and quarterback, Cameron Rising. Tossing out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Whittingham has a 21-7 record in the last two full seasons. He brings back 14 starters from a team that lost a 48-45 shootout to the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl, and he has added several talented transfers. Rising’s return is most important. He led the Utes to 38 points per game in his 11 starts. Tavion Thomas, who rushed for 1,108 yards, also returns along with five of the top six receivers.


The Utes face two tough road tests — Florida in early September and Oregon in late November — but do get a mid-October home game against USC, so the schedule sets up reasonably well. It’s possible a one-loss Utah team could make the CFP. It’s probably unwise to bet more than pizza money on the 60-1 odds to win the national title because Alabama and Ohio State could be the playoff opponents.

Adam Burke: There are three well-defined top teams in college football — Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia — but the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff is very much up for grabs. Given that the Big 12 could be a conference where we see Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State all beat each other in some way, the Pac-12 and the ACC are the ones to consider. This Utes team has a chance to be really special. There are a lot of returning starters and a lot of returning production, along with new head coaches in Oregon and USC that could make it tough for anybody to unseat the Fighting Kyle Whittinghams. My power ratings have Utah with the fifth-most expected wins behind Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama and Cincinnati. Utah may not even need to be the last team in, depending on what happens with Alabama and Georgia throughout the season and in a likely SEC title game matchup. It is hard to see Clemson making the CFP without a QB change and Dabo Swinney lost maybe the best defensive coordinator in college football. That opens the door for Utah, as the Utes have a chance at a strong road, nonconference win at Florida in Week 1 and will be favored in every Pac-12 game.

Utah (60-1) to win College Football Playoff

Dave Tuley: VSiN colleagues Matt Youmans and Adam Burke make valid cases for just betting Utah to make the CFP (and I’m betting that as well), but I’ll go out on a limb and take the Utes to win the whole thing. There are obstacles, starting with the opener at Florida (Utah is just a 2- to 2.5-point favorite in the Swamp), but if the Utes win that game and run the table, there’s no way the committee can snub the Pac-12 again. Cameron Rising was a first-team Pac-12 quarterback last year. He might not be the best QB in the conference anymore with Caleb Williams transferring to USC along with coach Lincoln Riley, but that doesn’t matter as Utah has the better overall team. The other obstacles are obviously Alabama/Ohio State/Clemson or whomever in the CFP voting, but the Utes are ready to play on that stage, evidenced by going toe-to-toe with Ohio State in a 48-45 loss in an instant classic of a Rose Bowl. I’ll call for Utah to turn the tables in another thriller.  

Oklahoma State (12-1) to make the College Football Playoff

Adam Kramer: The Pokes were about a yard short of cracking the College Football Playoff last year. Yes, they lost their star defensive coordinator to Ohio State. Yes, pieces from one of the best defenses in the country have come and gone. But there is still a solid foundation in place, and it begins with quarterback Spencer Sanders. We saw in the second half of last year’s bowl game what he could do in bursts, and I expect his overall performance to grow substantially. The other element to this is perhaps the most important one: The Big 12 is undergoing massive renovations. Oklahoma has a new coach, Texas is rebuilding and Baylor is trying to reload. Oklahoma State, with a talented roster, could really benefit from all the movement. Still, Oklahoma State plays at Baylor and Oklahoma this year (Texas is at home.) If the Pokes can win one of those games and handle the rest of a reasonable schedule, we could be looking at another special season. Winning a playoff game is another mountain entirely. But making one? I think there are enough quality pieces intact to give that a run.