Nothing extraordinary happened over the weekend. No contenders lost. A new contender did not emerge. Theoretically, the national championship picture did not change. But it still might have been one of the more impactful weekends of the season.
Well, Clemson saw their game get postponed at the last minute. Assuming they get to play this week against Pitt, they will have had three weeks off since their last game (the loss to Notre Dame). Trevor Lawrence has not played in over a month.
Few coaches prepare their teams as well as Dabo Swinney does, but if there happens to be a little rust and the Tigers do not play well… An upset loss at this point will eliminate them from playoff consideration.
Clemson is favored by close to four touchdowns, but this is 2020—crazier things have happened.
But Clemson not playing is far from the most impactful thing that happened over the weekend regarding the national championship picture.
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Clemson’s (+350; odds via DraftKings) long layoff could prove problematic for them. With the loss to Notre Dame, they must run the table to make the playoffs. A loss, whether it is to Notre Dame in the ACC title game, or someone else will eliminate them.
Notre Dame (+1400) was off last weekend, so their outlook has not changed. They might remain in the top four if they lose to Clemson in the ACC title game, but they will be out more than likely.
Alabama (+135) did not face much of a challenge against Kentucky, so we learned nothing new about them. But from what we have seen, teams can score on Alabama. However, the hard part for most teams will be stopping Alabama from scoring.
The most interesting development over the weekend had to be the close call that Ohio State (+225) had. In their first three games, the Buckeyes did not face much of a challenge from anyone. Subsequently, they appeared to be fantastic on both sides of the ball—and nearly impossible to beat.
But then Indiana almost pulled it off by throwing for nearly 500 yards against the Ohio State defense.
Now, the Buckeyes are not going to be facing another good passing team until the playoffs. But if Indiana can decimate their secondary, Clemson and Alabama will be able to do so much more.
Florida (+1000) still belongs in the conversation and looked great in a win over Vanderbilt. But even if they beat Alabama in the SEC title game, they might not get in. Their best hope is to beat Alabama and for Notre Dame to beat Clemson.
That way, Notre Dame moves up to No. 1, but Alabama will not fall out of the top four. But a Clemson loss will knock the Tigers out, which would make room for Florida to move in. If they make it in, they have the kind of offense that could win it all.
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However, depending on how the Committee seats Florida and Texas A&M, the Aggies could be the team moving into the top four (+20000). With how well their defense is playing and their run game, they might be able to make things interesting if they make it in.
But they are going to be massive underdogs to whoever they face.
One team that has not been in the national title conversation, and will probably not win it, could impact it. But Northwestern could certainly affect who plays in the title game. With how well their defense is playing, Ohio State will have their hands full in the Big Ten title game.
If Northwestern (+5000) does win the Big Ten, they will probably not make the playoffs. But they will knock Ohio State out of the running—and potentially open a door for Florida or Texas A&M.
So, the teams viewed as contenders going into the weekend still are. But no one really looks as invulnerable as they once did. If any contenders play less than their best the rest of the way, their national championship dreams could end.