College Football Betting Guide: National Championship

The game of the season is upon us. Alabama and Ohio State meet for the National Championship in what should be a thrilling matchup.

The spread is high due to Alabama’s historic dominance this season, but Ohio State proved it could compete with the best in the country after an assertive win over Clemson on New Year’s Day. The championship game has plenty of betting angles, and numberFire’s model is here to help.

numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.

For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110-spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300. Here are the best bets for this weekend with guidance from our model.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Ohio State +8.5: 2-Star Rating out of 5

In the strangest season in college football history (at least in the last 50 years), the championship game features a team that has played five more games than its opponent. Since the Big Ten started its season late, the Buckeyes only played seven games, while Alabama and the SEC played an entire season for the most part. Ohio State has a smaller sample size, but they truly are the team with the best chance of knocking off this phenomenal Crimson Tide squad.

Not only are these the two best teams in our power rankings, but they’re also the top two in ESPN’s FPI and the Jeff Sagarin Ratings. However, Alabama has been otherworldly this year, particularly on offense where Mac Jones and Najee Harris both finished top five in Heisman votes behind teammate Devonta Smith, who took home the trophy. It’s rare for a title game to have a spread larger than a touchdown, but it’s a testament to Alabama’s dominance.

Ohio State does have a matchup advantage to combat the Tide’s high-powered offense, though. The Buckeyes lead the nation in opportunity rate allowed on defense, according to Football Outsiders, which is the percentage of carries that gain at least four yards (under the assumption that the first four yards are considered the offensive line’s responsibility). Alabama’s offensive line ranks 31st in the same metric. The Tide boast two All-Americans on the line, Landon Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood, but they’ve been much stronger when it comes to protecting Jones than clearing the way for Harris.

Don’t count out the Buckeyes on offense, either. Justin Fields is second behind Mac Jones in QBR, per ESPN, and is widely considered a better NFL prospect than Jones. Ohio State also has an All-American offensive lineman of their own in Wyatt Davis, and Trey Sermon and Chris Olave are legitimate NFL-caliber weapons to help take the pressure off Fields.

Our model gives Alabama a 70.2% probability of winning the game, but only a 39.97% likelihood of covering the 8.5-point spread. While it’s difficult to bet against one of college football’s all-time great teams, Alabama likely won’t be able to cruise past Ohio State without a hard-fought game.

Under 75.5: 5-Star Rating out of 5

After all of the praise heaped onto these team’s offenses, it might seem strange that our model projects this game to stay under the total. While these are indeed the nation’s two best offenses, both teams employ elite defenses that should keep this game from becoming a full-blown shootout.

The total is sky-high at 75.5, and there are just as many future NFL players featured in this game on the defensive end as there are on the other side of the ball. Haskell Garrett is the top defensive tackle prospect, according to CBS Sports, and he’s a major reason that the Buckeyes are ranked number one in opportunity rate on defense. Both first-team All-American cornerbacks will be suiting up in this game, as well: Patrick Surtain for the Tide and Shaun Wade for the Buckeyes.

Alabama and Ohio State finished in the top 12 rushing defenses, and if they each have success against the run, this game could feature long third-down situations, which inevitably would lead to more drives stalling out. That might not be too much of an issue for quarterbacks the likes of Jones and Fields, but a few more punts in a game with high-quality offenses could seal the deal for under bettors.

Our model projects that the game stays under the total with 75.04% likelihood, which would net bettors a whopping 43.20% return.