The CFP picture is about as clear as it gets this early in the horse race: there are four teams that, if they win out, will be in the playoffs — no question: a combination of metrics, eyeballs, and/or schedule simply leads you to the Final Four: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Michigan — maybe in that order, maybe Michigan jumps Notre Dame.
So, with landscape set, the first spreads came out for the four prohibitive favorites last night. I received this one from BetOnline.ag.
Among the four non-Alabama pairings, this is what oddsmakers have generated
Clemson -5.5 versus Michigan
Clemson -12 versus Notre Dame
Michigan -6.5 versus Notre Dame.
That seems about right. I think Michigan wins a rematch against the Irish. Shea Patterson has grown into this system, and as much improved as the Irish are with Ian Book, the Wolverines are just meteorically better than they were in Week One. Clemson may be a little high versus the Irish, though. Notre Dame has excellent line play all across the board and a veteran deep secondary. Clemson may still take that one, but likely not by 13. I have no problem with the CU-UM spread though. You can easily see a nasty 20-14 kind of game between these two defenses.
Alabama versus the field? It’s a vastly different sort of landscape:
Alabama -8.5 versus Clemson
Alabama -14 versus Michigan
Alabama -20.5 versus Notre Dame
Honestly, given the deficiencies in the Tigers secondary, that -8.5 spread may be too low; 10 points seems about right. And the Tide laying 14 against Michigan is also about right, particularly if you operate under the probably-valid assumption that the Wolverines’ defense is at least as good as the LSU Tigers, if not as athletic, and that Game of the Century of the Week spread opened at -14.5. So too does Notre Dame at +20/+21 seem fair. The Irish would be competitive up front, but there’s no analogue for what they would see against a Nick Saban defense that has improved every week. Ian Book, like Tua Tagovailoa, has less than a season under his belt as a starter. And while he’s been solid against the Northwesterns and Va. Techs of the world, there’s no one on the schedule that has or could prep that offense for the step up in athleticism or scheme.
So, what is too high? What is too low? Seem about right to you?