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“Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.”

I’m not going to advocate for the Joker’s political ideologies from “The Dark Knight” — one of the best movies ever — but I am going to agree with how that quote can apply to the College Football Playoff. As an alum of a Division I-AA football school (shoutout to Villanova in the second round of the FCS playoffs this Saturday!) I don’t have a significant attachment to FBS teams. My best friend went to Alabama for law school, so I dabble in Crimson Tide fandom here and there. But I mostly root for chaos and upsets.

Which could make this the best conference championship week of college football in quite some time.

Excluding the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season, only seven 1-loss Power 5 teams have missed the CFP (less than one per year). With the right amount of chaos, we could have four of them this year alone. Sure, that would require Iowa Hawkeyes to beat Michigan Wolverines, Louisville Cardinals to beat Florida State Seminoles, Alabama to beat Georgia Bulldogs, Oregon Ducks to beat Washington Huskies and Texas Longhorns to beat Oklahoma State Cowboys. But it’s possible!

The betting public seems to be on the other side, expecting the status quo to continue. All 4 unbeaten teams were seeing the majority of tickets on the spread at ESPN BET as of Tuesday night.

The public seems to think chaos won’t happen at all. The above scenarios paint a picture where we have four unbeatens and ZERO 1-loss Power 5 teams. In that situation, even the infamously indecisive Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place could pick the playoff teams without any stress.

But we need to have some chaos right? These head coaches have to earn their paychecks somehow. As the Joker notes, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

Trend or Trap

We probably won’t see Gotham descend into true chaos, but might there be a few upsets brewing? Here’s a quick look at some of the notable betting storylines in Power 5 championship games this weekend.

No. 5 Oregon (-9.5, 65.5) at No. 3 Washington
Friday, 8 p.m. ET, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Oregon is a 9.5-point favorite over Washington despite losing their first meeting this season. It’s the first time since 2020 that a team has been at least a nine-point favorite in a same-season rematch after losing the first meeting. That year, Clemson won and covered an 11-point spread against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game.

This doesn’t bode well for the Huskies, who clung to victory in Seattle but were significantly outplayed in most of the ways that are predictive moving forward. Washington was outgained by 126 yards, had nine fewer minutes of possession, and blew an 11-point lead. The Ducks were 0-3 on fourth down, including multiple possessions inside the 10-yard line and a third opportunity to seal the victory with 2 minutes left. Even after all that, Oregon missed a 43-yard field goal that would have sent the game to OT.

Washington deserved the win, and Michael Penix Jr. had his shining moment, but they were not the better team in October, and they won’t be the better team in December. I can’t wait for this game, but I would lean towards Oregon if forced to make a pick here. The Ducks are 9-2 ATS as a favorite this season and 15-3-1 ATS vs Washington since 2004 (including covering two months ago as 3.5-point dogs).

Washington is the hero the College Football Playoff deserves, but not the one it needs right now.

No. 1 Georgia at No. 8 Alabama (-5.5, 54.5)
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

This is the fourth time Alabama has been an underdog since 2010. All four of those games have been against Georgia.

The chart above paints a similar picture of Alabama as an underdog, occasionally sparking the upset and winning big, or losing by multiple scores.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are the Harvey Dent of college football. You either lose as an underdog, or you win so often that you see yourself become the villain. Georgia has lost just once in the last three calendar years, an SEC title game defeat to Alabama, which they avenged one month later.

Will the new Goliath fall? We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon.

The Bets

“Two-Face”: split bets on Georgia-Alabama

As I mentioned above, we’ve seen two versions of this Alabama team this season. We’ve also seen Georgia’s offense look unstoppable for much of the last month since Brock Bowers returned. There’s a reason the total opened at 49.5 and is now at 54.5 and pushing higher.

Ideally you could have gotten these bets in with more closing line value, but the concept is the same. I expect the over to hit, and I also expect Alabama to win outright, or Georgia to win in dominant fashion.

That means using Harvey Dent’s lucky coin and grabbing significant plus-money odds on two separate outcomes. On one side, give me Alabama ML (+180) and over 54.5 (-115) parlayed together. On the other side, I’ll take Georgia -11.5 (+175) and the over 54.5 (-115) in another parlay. Both would pay out over 4-to-1.

Place 0.5 units on each bet, so you have a full wager on the game, and if 1 of them hits, you’re still going to win more than double your money.

One last parting nugget of info: Alabama is 6-5 outright and 6-4-1 against the spread as an underdog under Nick Saban. Breaking that down, all six outright wins are also covers. Which means in all five Saban losses as an underdog, they failed to cover the spread, which gives me more confidence in the split bet above.

SMU +3.5 (-115), SMU ML (+150), SMU -6.5 alt line

Another different way to balance out your bets is to use a “ladder” when you think the projection or line is way off the market.

In this scenario, ESPN Analytics has SMU as an 8.3-point favorite against Tulane in the AAC title game, listing the Mustangs as the 20th best team and the Green Wave as the 50th best team according to FPI.

You could simply say “I’m very confident SMU covers here” and leave it at that. You could also say “SMU should win this game, so I’ll take the moneyline bet”. Or a riskier bettor could take the exact FPI projection and find an alternate line for SMU -8.5.

Laddering allows you to mitigate risk on an overall bet while banking in some extra upside for a line that has the potential for extreme outcomes. My suggestion for this bet would be a half-unit on SMU to cover +3.5, and a quarter-unit on each of the next two options listed above.

If SMU wins by a touchdown or more, all 3 bets pay out and you profit a lot more thanks to the risk you took. If SMU covers but doesn’t win, you end up about breakeven. But the reason for using less than full bets on each is that if SMU fails to cover the +3.5, you only lose one full unit rather than three all at once.

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Vogelbach’s slow HR trot draws ire of Yanks’ Cole

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Vogelbach's slow HR trot draws ire of Yanks' Cole

TAMPA — Having Gerrit Cole walk off the mound mid at-bat in the first inning would usually mean disaster for the New York Yankees. But spring training is different.

Cole, making his spring debut Friday night, gave up a two-run home run and a triple before manager Aaron Boone pulled him during a 1-2 count six batters into the Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

But the Yankees’ ace reappeared in the second inning — that’s allowed in spring training — to smoothly complete his workday, retiring the side in order and facing two more hitters in the third inning. In all, he allowed two earned runs on four hits across the two-plus innings. He threw 39 pitches.

“I’m executing the way I want to execute there,” Cole said.

The only issue Cole had Friday had nothing to do with his own performance. It was with Blue Jays designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, who punctuated his two-run blast off Cole in the first inning with a bat flip and trot that bothered the right-hander.

“What’s the day?” Cole said. “Are we still in February? March 1st? Yeah, he enjoyed that homer.”

Asked if he would remember Vogelbach’s enjoyment, Cole replied: “I don’t forget a lot of things.”

Cole, 33, was one of the few bright spots during the Yankees’ disappointing 2023 season. The right-hander went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 209 innings across 33 starts. The performance earned him his first Cy Young Award.

This year, he tops a starting rotation with a few question marks. Friday was a solid start even if he didn’t finish the first inning.

“It was good to be out there again,” Cole said, “and yeah, the stuff was pretty good.”

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Sources: Giants, 3B Chapman agree on $54M deal

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Sources: Giants, 3B Chapman agree on M deal

Matt Chapman, regarded as one of the best defensive infielders in baseball, agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, sources confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

The deal also includes opt-outs after the first and second year of the agreement.

Chapman’s deal is very similar in structure to that of Cody Bellinger, who re-signed with the Chicago Cubs last week, with his highest salaries at the outset of the contract. Like Bellinger, Chapman also has the built-in opportunity to test the market again if he has a better season offensively than in 2023.

Chapman, who turns 31 in April, won his fourth Gold Glove Award in 2023 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Since the start of the 2018 season, he ranks first among all players at that position in defensive runs saved and he is third in outs above average.

As Chapman moved into free agency this fall, however, some talent evaluators privately expressed doubts about their interest in him because of his offensive performance — 71 homers over the past three seasons, but with a .226 batting average and 537 strikeouts in 446 games.

His 2023 season was a microcosm of the good and bad he’s generated at the plate: After starting very well and batting .384 in April, he flatlined, generating a .205/.298/.361 slash line the rest of the way. Evaluators noted his trouble against fastballs.

The Giants have had difficulty signing high-end free agents in recent winters, with their overtures to Aaron Judge and others turned down. The addition of Chapman should complement what is expected to be a good pitching staff — including sinkerballer Logan Webb.

The New York Post first reported Chapman’s deal with the Giants.

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Rodon allows 4 HRs vs. prospects in sim game

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Rodon allows 4 HRs vs. prospects in sim game

New York Yankees left-hander Carlos Rodon allowed four homers to minor leaguers over three innings during a simulated game with the wind blowing out in Florida on Friday.

“I don’t want to give up homers, but I’m glad I give it up to our guys,” Rodon said. “Makes them feel good about themselves.”

Josh Breaux, Agustin Ramirez, Ben Rice and Jose Rojas went deep. After Rojas’ homer in the final inning, Rodon struck out three of his final four batters, including top prospect Spencer Jones twice.

“I had some sequences there at the end,” Rodon said. “Got some work on curveballs and work on the cutter, so it’s good.”

While the outing wasn’t great, Rodon feels healthy and that’s most important after an injury-marred 2023 where he went 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts.

Rodon, 31, is in the second year of a six-year, $162 million contract he signed with the Yankees last winter.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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