College Football Playoff Rankings, How They Affect Point Spreads

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In College football, it’s no secret, rankings matter. They matter enormously and how teams play from week to week impacts who makes the playoffs at the end of the season. For betters, the same, ongoing questions remain.

  • Who ranks the team’s week in and week out?
  • What polls/rankings really matter?
  • Do small programs have a chance to make it in the playoffs?
  • Do final scores have an impact or is winning, all that matters?
  • How do rankings and final scores affect point spreads?
  • Do coaches look at point spreads and do they game plan around it?
  • Do odds makers/lines movers look at rankings and do they set point spreads accordingly?

Under the current system (CFP) or College Football Playoff Rankings, teams are ranked starting in mid-November by a selection committee, made up of an eclectic mix of people with football experience and/or knowledge. People such as former football coaches or even politicians such as Condoleezza Rice and Lieutenant General Mike Gould (Ret. U.S. air Force).

There are two other polls, and both commence at the beginning of the college football season. The AP (Associated Press) and the coaches poll. The AP poll consists of 65 sportswriters and broadcasters from around the nation that cast a vote each week. Each voter cast a ballot every week for their selection of the top 25 teams in the nation. A first-place vote is assigned 25 points, 24 points for the second place and on down to the twenty-fifth place. These ballots cast by the AP voting members are made public each week.

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The coaches poll works largely the same way as the AP poll. The difference here; is the voting body. The coaches poll is made up of 62 head coaches from Division 1 FBS schools. These coaches are members of the American Football Coaches Association. The coaches poll started out as a tie-in to the Bowl Championship Series or (BCS). This BCS was used from 1998-2013 and was replaced by the current system. (CFP)

The coaches poll as well as the AP poll wield great influence, however, they are not a deciding factor when it comes to the playoffs. The playoffs are determined by the CFP ranking at the end of the season. College football fans in general, believe that the AP and coaches polls are the ones that really dictate everything. The reason for this belief is on merit. With people like Condoleeza Rica and retired navy generals on the CFP committee; fans tend to discredit the committee’s credentials. Thus, leading to the belief that said members of the CFP get their advice from outside or other sources; they believe the committee is highly influenced by the AP and coaches poll. It’s a bit of a mystery for sure and the fans have no choice, other than to live with it. At the end of the season the CFP determines everything.

  • Do small programs have a chance to make it in the playoffs?

Yes, however, since the induction of the CFP it hasn’t happened. During the BCS years there were a couple of schools that made a legitimate run; Boise State, Utah, and Houston as honorable mention.

  • Do final scores have an impact or is winning, all that matters?

You can believe they do! Coaches know this, as do the players. Let’s look at an outstanding example:

Boise State 2006:

In 2006 the Boise State Broncos, led by head coach Chris Petersen, took the college football world by storm. Here is what they did:

DATE       OPPONENT           SCORE

8-31-06                                    SACRAMENTO STATE (Thur.)           WON 45-0

9-7-06                     OREGON STATE (Thur.)     WON 42-14

9-16-06                                    at Wyoming        WON 17-10

9-23-06                                    HAWAI'I                  WON 41-34

9-30-06                                    at Utah                   WON 36-3

10-7-06                                    LOUISIANA TECH                 WON 55-14

10-15-06               at New Mexico State (Sun.)          WON 40-28

10-21-06               at Idaho                 WON 42-26

11-1-06                                    FRESNO STATE (Wed.)      WON 45-21

11-11-06               at San Jose State               WON 23-20

11-18-06               UTAH STATE          WON 49-10

11-25-06               at Nevada            WON 38-7



1-1-07   Oklahoma            WON 43-42 (OT)

The Boise State Broncos scored 473 points for a game average of 39.4 and beating their opponents by an average of 24 ppg. They gave up 187 total points on the season for an average of 15.6 ppg. The Broncos proved to the BCS that small programs can make an impact. The BCS couldn’t possibly ignore the accomplishments on the field and it earned the Broncos a spot in the now famous, 2007 Fiesta Bowl. They went on to win the Fiesta Bowl over Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, 43-42 in overtime.

  • How do rankings and final scores affect point spreads?
  • Do coaches look at point spreads and do they game plan around it?
  • Do odds makers/lines movers look at rankings and do they set point spreads accordingly?

Odds makers/lines movers, understand that coaches game plan, to win and win big. Coaches must win big and make a big impression on the voters. The coaches realize that falling out of the top 25 in any poll, is fatal to their chances for any kind of playoff run. Coaches must put points on the board, the higher they are ranked, the more important this really is.

In college football, schedules are often lopsided, meaning that good teams, play bad teams. This is when “running up the score” really matters! Las Vegas know this, and the coaches know this and they play to it. When high ranked teams play unranked teams, they had better put their foot on the gas and never take it off. Points mean everything. When unranked teams keep the score close; the voters and Vegas do not like it!

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Coaches know that they must cover big spreads, this is one of the ways in which they move up the rankings. The more they smack their opponent, the better they will look in front of the voters. The more they smack their opponent, the better they look to the odds makers.

Las Vegas looks at rankings but even more than that; they look at final scores. How well did a ranked team perform against an unranked team? How well did a ranked team perform against a ranked team? How well did a highly-ranked team perform against not only an unranked team, but a completely unknown school?

Look at a few of the the current, top-ranked programs in the nation:

Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Washington, USC, Michigan….

These are just a few of the top ranked teams in the nation. Again, the CFP will not be out until mid-November so the priority; make a big impression! You can count on these high ranked teams to put the hammer down in a big way. They must do it, they have no choice. Las Vegas will be watching and they will set the number accordingly.

Be sure to check out your favorite sportsbooks for the most competitive odds and the many sports wagering options available, such as teasers, reverse action, parlays and much more. It’s always a great idea to have more than one sportsbook in your back pocket. Smart players absolutely have more than on in their portfolio. Have fun this year and know that highly ranked programs must score a lot of points and must embarrass their opponents. Beat the bookie, win big money!

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