The most frequent criticism of college football is that the same teams are always in the mix to become national champions. Teams like Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama are seemingly in the mix every year. This year is no different as those four teams are in the top-five favorites to win it all at BetMGM.
However, it seems like the betting public is ready for a change at the top. Tennessee currently has the fourth-best odds to win it all at 11-to-1. Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama have better odds than the Volunteers. However, it's Tennessee who has received the most bets of any team in the country.
Tennessee is the most popular bet
Tennessee opened as a 100-to-1 long shot to win the college football national championship. Those odds put them on the same tier as teams like Michigan State, Iowa, Auburn and Kansas State. While there was some hope for growth, the idea of the Vols being a legit contender on the national stage seemed a little far-fetched.
However, the expectations have changed. After a clinical dismantling of a pesky Kentucky team on Saturday, Tennessee sits at 8-0. The Vols' marquee win against Alabama is the most impressive win any team has on their resume. In addition to Alabama, Tennessee has handled Pittsburgh, LSU, Florida and Kentucky, who were all ranked ahead of playing the Vols.
Hendon Hooker has emerged as the betting favorite to win the Heisman. He's now even-money to win the award, passing C.J. Stroud, who was the betting favorite since the first few weeks of the season. Stroud now has the second-best odds at +175.
Bettors are believing in Tennessee. Their odds to win it all last week were 18-to-1. Their odds today are sitting at 11-to-1. Overall, 16.5% of bets placed so far have backed Tennessee to win it all. That's the most of any team in the country. Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia round out the top-five most popular bets. None of those schools have received over 13% of the bets.
Tennessee is now the biggest liability for BetMGM in terms of the national championship market.
Big game on deck
If you're holding a futures ticket on Tennessee, this upcoming Saturday will be a massive day for you. Unfortunately, Tennessee is a rather sizable underdog in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs. Currently at BetMGM, Georgia is an 8.5-point favorite against Tennessee.
Supporters of Tennessee will be quick to point out that Alabama was a favorite in the same range ahead of their meeting with the Vols. That's a fair retort. However, this challenge against Georgia will be on the road.
A win for Tennessee on Saturday would go a long way in securing a playoff spot for Tennessee. The Vols' last three games are against Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. They'll be sizable favorites in all three games. With wins over Alabama and Georgia in their pocket, it would seem likely that Tennessee would even be able to withstand a loss in the SEC championship game and still get in.
However, with a loss on Saturday, things get murky. Tennessee would then likely not play in the SEC championship game, as Georgia would represent the SEC East. In a world where the SEC West winner (cough, Alabama, cough) potentially defeats Georgia in the SEC championship game, it would be tough to push Tennessee into the playoff. You'd likely have a one-loss SEC champion and a one-loss Georgia who defeated Tennessee head-to-head.
Three SEC teams would be a tough ask, especially with how the rest of the country is shaping up. You'll have likely an undefeated Ohio State or Michigan claiming a spot from the Big Ten. There's also the very likely chance we have an undefeated Clemson out of the ACC. In the Big 12, TCU is still undefeated and if they run the table, they'll be tough to leave out as well. There's also Oregon in the Pac-12. If they run the table, that's a one-loss conference champion with its only loss being to the defending national champions in their season opener way back when. You can certainly make the case Tennessee is better than those teams, but it'd be a tough sell for the committee.
Of course, all of this dialogue is way down the line as we're over a month away from the selection committee making that choice. We still have a month of games. However, when you're making a futures bet, these are all of the scenarios you have to process and run through. If Tennessee wins on Saturday, this is all a moot point. If they lose, it becomes a hairy situation.
National championship odds
With the committee set to release its first College Football Playoff rankings this week, now is a good time to take a look at the betting odds for a college football national champion at BetMGM:
Ohio State (+200)