The college football season is set to get underway on Saturday. One of the more intriguing storylines will focus on seeing if somebody can emulate the Cincinnati Bearcats by earning one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
Other than Notre Dame, it seemed unlikely that a team outside of the Power-5 Conferences would secure one of the four CFP spots. Aided by a run over Notre Dame and a perfect run through the American Athletic Conference, Cincinnati got to play in the national semifinals.
At the current time, there are four teams comfortably ahead of the other FBS teams when it comes to being a part of the College Football Playoff field.
According to the college football predictions, Ohio State and Alabama lead the way at -265 and -260 in the odds to reach the College Football Playoff. Defending national champion Georgia isn’t far behind at -110 followed by Clemson (+140). The next closest teams are Oklahoma (+375), Southern California (+400), Utah (+400) and Michigan (+450).
Let’s take a look at teams that could force their way into the national championship picture
Texas Longhorns (+750 To Reach CFP)
Texas was one of the most disappointing teams in the country a season ago, suffering a six-game losing streak.
The Longhorns added former No. 1 national recruit Quinn Ewers at quarterback and he has plenty of dynamic pass catchers to throw the ball to. Bijan Robinson is among the best running backs in the nation. Robinson is fourth (+1600) and Ewers tied for 11th (+2800) in the odds to win the Heisman Trophy. Receiver Xavier Worthy is another elite playmaker on offense.
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) August 22, 2022
Texas will have to improve on the other side of the ball after finishing eighth in the Big 12 in total defense during the 2021 season.
A Week 2 game against top-ranked Alabama will provide a glimpse as to whether the Longhorns are contenders or pretenders in the national championship picture. This is a team that has the potential to defy the college football betting lines by becoming the first team from the Big 12 not named Oklahoma in the CFB field.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+800 To Reach CFP)
Notre Dame’s national reputation puts the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff conversation in most years.
Sure, head coach Brian Kelly left for LSU but with games against Ohio State, Clemson and USC, there will be plenty of chances for Notre Dame to prove that it belongs in the talk about national title contenders. With a new head coach (Marcus Freeman) and a new starting quarterback (Tyler Buchner), there are plenty of questions to be answered.
Those who bet online should know more about Notre Dame after the season opener against Ohio State. The Fighting Irish are currently a 15½-point underdog.
Wisconsin Badgers (+800 To Reach CFP)
It was Wisconsin and not Georgia that led all FBS teams in total defense a season ago. While there were some key losses to deal with, this could be a dominant defense once again.
Braelon Allen is one of the nation’s best running backs and more than a few people making college football picks view Allen as one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates at the running back position. If the passing game shows some growth, this is a team to keep an eye on.
Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule (Illinois State, Washington State, and New Mexico State) is not going to impress the poll voters but if the Badgers can win at Ohio State in Week 4 and win the Big Ten title, it will be hard to keep the Badgers out of the four-team CFP.
Oregon Ducks (+900 To Reach CFP)
Another team with a chance to make an early statement, Oregon faces Georgia in its season opener.
Former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has played in his share of big games during his time at Auburn while the Ducks annually have nationally ranked recruiting classes.
USC and Utah are the teams generating the most attention in the Pac-12 but Oregon is capable of beating anybody. One question is what sort of head coach will former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning be?
North Carolina State Wolfpack (+1000 To Reach CFP)
The ACC was full of surprises last season when Pittsburgh and Wake Forest met in the ACC championship game.
North Carolina State isn’t receiving the same preseason hype as Clemson and Miami. However, quarterback Devin Leary and the NC State defense showed tremendous growth last season as the Wolfpack finished in the top four in total defense in the ACC for the first time since 2011.
The non-conference slate is not going to help North Carolina State’s cause. However, opening ACC play against preseason conference favorite Clemson will provide an early chance to catch the eyes of the nation.