Favorites to reach the College Football Playoff are favorites for a reason. Sleepers to reach the playoff don’t look perfect on paper but could get to 11-1 or 12-0 if a few things go right. We’re looking for teams that may be being undervalued because they (a) have potential upside and (b) have softer schedules. Here are five teams with longer odds that may fit those parameters.
Texas Longhorns [+2200] Texas has a quarterback, Shane Buechele. Tom Herman is now coaching him. The Longhorns have more talent, and more depth than Herman had last year at Houston. The Longhorns had a substantial number of underclassmen in the two-deep in 2016 who should get better. There’s not a huge gap to make up in a weak Big 12. If the Longhorns can win two of three from USC (away), Oklahoma (neutral), Oklahoma State (home,) they have a good chance to win the conference and reach the playoff.
Wisconsin [+4000] Wisconsin tends to perform at a high level year-to-year with a very high floor. Their schedule is far smoother than 2016. The Badgers don’t play a Power 5 team non-conference. They play only one team in our preseason Top 25, Michigan. That Michigan game is at home, in November, at a time where a thin Michigan could be decimated by injuries on either line.
Georgia [+4000] Georgia should have many starters coming back. Jacob Eason should progress in his second year at starting quarterback. Perhaps “the process” will run smoother in Kirby Smart’s second season as a head coach. If the Bulldogs are a strong team, they may not play a Top 10-ish team all season until the SEC title game. The closest is probably Auburn.
Miami [+5000] Don’t jump ahead until they have proven themselves. But, Miami should have an excellent defense with a lot of starters returning. Their schedule is very amenable, with at Florida State being the only truly challenging game. Their biggest test non-conference is Notre Dame at home. If Miami has a quarterback, things could get interesting.
Washington [+6600] Washington reached the playoff last season. They do have a lot of roster turnover, most notably losing John Ross and Budda Baker, their biggest playmakers on each side of the ball. But, Washington has Chris Petersen. They have a potential Heisman candidate in third-year starting quarterback Jake Browning. The schedule sets up nicely for the Huskies to make another run.