Ducks in Danger as Playoff Race Hots Up

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The race for the NCAAF title is hotting up in the USA and we take a look at the contenders with just weeks to go until the playoffs get underway

Kirby Smart

The college football regular season is reaching a critical stage with just under three weeks left before the four playoff contenders for the National Championship are confirmed. While Georgia are sitting pretty at the top of the rankings at 10-0 and look all-but assured of a place in the final four, the other three spots are up for grabs, with Alabama, Oregon and Cincinnati glancing over their shoulders.

The Bulldogs are 5/6 favourites for the NCAAF title, and while they won’t be in action this week as they hit the bye, they’ll no doubt be paying close attention to how their rivals, particularly SEC adversaries Alabama, get on.

The Crimson Tide, who have won three of the last five national titles and are 18/5 for the top prize this year, will expect to keep up the pace when they face Arkansas and enter that game as 21-point favourites. The Hogs might be a top-25 team, but they don’t appear to pose much threat to the second-ranked team in the States.

History suggests the top of the standings could remain largely unchanged, with 21 of the last 28 semifinalists having been in the top four at this stage, which will offer some comfort to the Bearcats and Ducks as they prepare for tricky engagements.

Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame are amongst the teams hoping to force their way into the picture, with two of those five facing off in a pivotal matchup on Saturday.

Spartans Last Stand

The fifth-ranked Buckeyes will hope to jump back into the top four this weekend when they play host to No.7 Michigan State at the Ohio Stadium. Despite both teams holding 9-1 records, the Spartans enter the game as 19-point underdogs and are 50/57 to cover the spread in their first meeting of the year with a top-25 opponent.

Michigan State are the next team to attempt to slow down this imposing Ohio State offence, something last week’s opponents Purdue failed miserably to achieve as the Buckeyes piled up 59 points and 624 yards of total offence.

The defence continues to be a concern for Ohio, having allowed at least 20 points in the last three games, but when the attack is as sharp as it is, they can get away with it.

The Spartans will struggle to contain the Buckeyes, particularly if the pass defence continues to be as bad as it has been the last three weeks, giving up over 1,300 yards combined through the air. Ohio State should put the Spartans to the sword and cover the spread at 50/59 for a tenth time in 11 games this season.

Bearcats Showing Their Claws

Of the current top four, Cincinnati look the most vulnerable, and they will need to continue to prove themselves to secure a semi-final spot. The Bearcats moved to 9-0 with a 45-28 win over USF as their offence roared back into life after two under par showings.

This week the AAC Conference favourites head to SMU, who still aren’t mathematically out of the title race, giving them plenty to play for. The Mustangs are 12-point underdogs, and a sloppy pass defence will likely find it tough to contain Cincinnati QB, Desmond Ridder.

SMU’s best hope could be to fight fire-with-fire, and they are well equipped in that regard, boasting the sixth-best points per game average in college football. With two good offences on show, this one promises points, and over 65 is available at 50/57.

Utah Lie in Wait For Oregon

In a potential dress rehearsal for the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Oregon Ducks make the trip to Utah State. The Utes have had this game circled on their calendar for a while and start as three-point favourites as they go for an eighth win in 11 games.

The 9-1 Ducks can’t afford a defeat though, if they want to hang third place in the standings and enter this game off the back of a strong showing against Washington, running all over the Cougars as they put up 306 yards in the ground.

Utah State will likely adopt a similar run-first approach, and their offensive line has been very impressive this year. The Utes were sloppy against Arizona last time out, and while they will be all fired up for this game, they are susceptible to a letdown. The Ducks are prone to a key November loss but could buck that trend and are 25/28 to cover the three-point spread.

*All odds correct at time of writing

Chris is broadcast and written journalist with a wealth of experience, across a number of different sports. As well covering football on the radio, he is a regular online and print contributor on the likes of rugby union, American Football and Formula One.

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