The College Football Playoff semifinals are Saturday, with No. 2 Michigan meeting No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, and No. 1 Georgia taking on No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
You can bet on those results, of course: The Wolverines and Bulldogs are, not surprisingly, favored to get to the CFP National Championship Game that’s on Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California.
But sportsbooks are also offering lookahead odds on the four hypothetical national championship matchups before the semifinals are played. The matchups are hypothetical, but the bets are very much real; if the matchup someone chooses to bet on doesn’t materialize, the bet is graded as a push and money is returned.
So what are the lookahead lines? Let’s dig in, with odds from Caesars Sportsbook:
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 2 Michigan
Lookahead line: Georgia -8
If both favorites win, we’re looking at a championship spread slightly bigger than either of the semifinals, with the Bulldogs solid favorites at that point to win their second straight national championship. Of course, this number will change depending on how the teams look in their semifinals; if Georgia were to scrape by Ohio State while Michigan dominated TCU, for instance, the line could come in under a touchdown, which is why there is sometimes value in betting the lookahead line.
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 TCU
Lookahead line: Georgia -17½
This would be the most lopsided spread of any potential matchup and in fact would be the largest line for a national championship game in the College Football Playoff or Bowl Championship Series era (among semifinals, only the 2020 Rose Bowl, with Alabama favored by 18½ over Notre Dame, had a bigger closing spread).
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Lookahead line: Ohio State -2½
Surprised at this, after Michigan walloped Ohio State 45-23 on Nov. 26? You shouldn’t be. The Buckeyes were 9-point home favorites in that one, and oddsmakers aren’t going to shift lines dramatically based on one result. Figure two or three points for home-field advantage, and this line at a neutral site actually would represent a fairly big shift toward the Wolverines from the first meeting. But Ohio State would still be the favorite.
No. 3 TCU vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Lookahead line: Ohio State -11½
Barring a major injury, the winner of the Peach Bowl will be the national championship favorite. In this case, the fourth-seeded Buckeyes, who only snuck into the College Football Playoff when USC lost the Pac-12 championship game, would be prohibitive favorites to win their first national title since the 2014 season. Of course, TCU is 9-3-1 against the spread this year, so as always, look before you bet!