I’m picking every over/under season win total for the Power 5 schools in college football, as well as quite a few others from around the country. I didn’t write all this shit in a day, so the odds are probably not the current ones. Also, there’s a good chance I missed an injury or suspension or twelve. It’s a lot of teams to keep track of and I’m currently putting in 60 hour weeks. Don’t @ me.
Huge shoutout to Phil Steele and a variety of websites on the line making their #content available for all of us to consume. If you don’t use Phil to help you with gambling on college football, you’re lost, pal.
Also, at the bottom of each of these, I’ll give my best bet for the conference champion. It’s not based on who I actually think will win, just my best perceived value. So again, don’t @ me.
Ohio State – under 9.5 (+150) – 1*
This is a tough one to take, but it’s also not any easier to go the other way and lay -185 for the most inexperienced team in the country to win double digit games.
Let me just lay it out there: Urban Meyer is 46-2 in his four regular seasons in Columbus. This season will be the most challenging, however. They’re replacing a ton of NFL talent and 16 of their starters from a year ago. Also, the schedule is quite a bit more difficult from ’15.
Of course there’s plenty of talent still left on both sides of the ball, but it’s unproven talent. JT Barrett will get all the snaps this year at QB, but the loss of Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller means they’re one injury away from Joe Burrow, whose resume currently consists of a “great spring game”. 1800 yard rusher Zeke Elliott is gone and his replacement – Curtis Samuel – only got 17 carries last year. Samuel’s been good in his moments, but you don’t just replace someone who’s good enough to go in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft as a RB. They also have to replace every meaningful receiver from a year ago and 60% of their O-line.
Defensively it’s more of the same, but they do get back Tyquan Lewis and Raekwon McMillan, who were their leading sacker and tackler in ’15. Even still, it’s unlikely they can match the 15.1 ppg the D put up last year, which was about 7 points better than any Buckeye unit has had in Meyer’s time. Add in the fact that DC Chris Ash left in the offseason and the high 20.6 YPP figure that they had and the result should be probably about a touchdown higher.
The schedule isn’t as friendly this year. I’ve got them down for 7 wins and 5 toss-ups. They travel to Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State and Michigan at home won’t be easy. The league didn’t do them any favors with Wisky and Penn St. coming off byes heading into their respective games. If it were anybody else in the country besides Meyer or Nick Saban coaching, this would probably be a 3* bet, but Meyer has earned that respect.
Michigan – over 10 (-120) – 1*
The bets don’t reflect that I necessarily like Michigan more than Ohio State as a team more, but the Wolverines schedule is soft and there’s only about three games that really matter.
The offense should at least match their production from a season ago. They do lose QB Jake Rudock, but he spent most of last season being average and John O’Korn and/or Wilton Speight should be able to match his play. The relevant receiving corps and starting RB De’Von Smith (with depth behind him) are all back. The O-line brings back four starters and project to be one of the best units in the nation.
The D-line and DBs are both Top 10 units, according to Phil Steele. There’s a lot to replace at LB, but Jabrill Peppers will be moving their full-time. While DC DJ Durkin is now the head man at Maryland, Jim Harbaugh brought in Boston College’s DC Don Brown, who led a Top 5 defense nationally a year ago. 16.4 ppg from last season will be a tough mark to match, but certainly attainable given the schedule.
To that schedule, it boils down to road games at Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State. The Wolverines might be favored by double digits in the other nine games.
Michigan State – over 8.5 (-120) – 2*
South Point opened this one at 7.5, which would’ve been nice to get, but there’s still a lot to like here with the Spartans. They’ve been really consistent, winning at least 10 regular season games in four of the past five years. The one year they didn’t – 2012 (6-6) – they were also going through a changing of the guard at QB, but they also lost five of those games by a combined 13 points. Also, five of those six losses came at home. Not really a relevant stat, but I found it interesting and now force that knowledge upon you. You’re welcome.
Fifth year senior Tyler O’Connor takes over at QB. There hasn’t been a ton of game action in his career, but he did make the start for that Ohio State win (8-16, 91 yards passing) last season in Columbus. Connor Cook obviously had a ton of experience, but he was never forced to carry the offense and neither will O’Connor. They return their Top 3 RBs from last season and all of them had 500+ yards rushing. WR is a bit of a concern after losing their top two, but RJ Shelton has made plays in the past and they’ve got size on the outside. The O-line loses three guys to the NFL, but it was a unit that suffered a bunch of injuries last year and still managed to play okay.
Defensively, the Spartans should be one of the best again. They’ve been deep for years now and have shown the ability to restock talent, especially with their recruiting being better every year. Their LBs are some of the best in the country.
Four games stand out on the schedule: home for Michigan and Ohio State and at Notre Dame and Penn State. They beat both UM and OSU on the road last year and have a great shot at getting them both again this season.
Penn State – over 6.5 (-120) – 2*
Let’s start with the defense because this would probably be twice the play for me if they weren’t losing so much on the D-line. What they’re losing is three draft picks and the 26 sacks that went with them a season ago. Their Back 7 should be quite good actually, but I’m a stickler for good fronts on both sides of the ball.
Offensively I’d expect their best year yet under James Franklin. They’ve got 9 starters back and while you’d usually expect a drop off after losing a 2nd round pick at QB, I don’t because Christian Hackenberg was kind of trash. Franklin likes mobility at QB and Trace McSorley will bring that. He’s not known for being an elite passer, but Hackenberg completed 53.5% of his passes and only threw for 16 TDs, so it’s not that high of a bar to beat. Their skill position guys are among the 10-15 best in the country. Their O-line has stunk under Franklin, but McSorley should help, they have a lot of experience coming back, and they can’t do much worse than the 41.5 sack average they’ve given up over the last two years.
I’ve only got them solidly in for four wins, but also only one loss (@ Michigan). Going at Pitt and home for Temple will be key to getting their season started off in the right direction. They lost at Temple last year after getting shutout for the final 3Q. The season will ultimately be decided by how they fare against Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State at home.
Indiana – over 4.5 (-110) – 4*
I don’t really get this total at all. I put their floor for wins this year at five with a ceiling of nine. Yes, they have to replace some key guys on offense. QB Nate Sudfeld will be the most difficult. He had a really productive career, but they did bring in Richard Lagow from JuCo and it appears he’ll get the nod over two guys who actually have experience at this level, so he must not be terrible. RB Jordan Howard was a force, but Devine Redding is back and he actually led the team in carries and had over 1000 yards rushing last season. They lose their AA LT to the NFL, but they’ve still got a lot of talent on the O-line, including the best G prospect (Dan Feeney) in the country.
Full disclosure: their defense probably won’t be very good again. They haven’t held opponents under 30 ppg since 2009. It is what it is. At least they do return 29 of their 37 lettermen on that side of the ball and they’ve got a new DC who may help. He can’t possibly make it worse.
Their non-con is pretty easy. I’m not sure who thought playing at FIU on a Thursday night Week 1 was a good idea, but you’d still expect them to win. After that they get Ball State and Wake at home. The other two wins I’ve got them for are Maryland and Purdue at home. I don’t expect them to have a shot at beating the Top 3 in the division, but the other four games on the schedule are all win possibilities.
Maryland – under 4.5 (-110) – 2*
I just don’t see much to like with the Terps. They have a new coaching staff, who could be good, but who knows? They had a TD-INT ratio of 1-2 last year, which is horrendous for the non-sabermetric crowd out there. Their top rusher (by a lot) is gone, their receivers have their quarterbacks throwing to them, and the O-line loses three starters.
Their defense was pretty bad last year and they lose 6 of their top 9 tacklers. DJ Durkin is a very good defensive coach, but he doesn’t quite have the talent he had at Florida and Michigan, to put it mildly.
Their non-con schedule doesn’t involve any good teams, but they’re also playing on the road at FIU and UCF back-to-back weeks. I wouldn’t call those gimmes, especially for a team that got beaten soundly in four of their five road games last year. They’ve got a five game stretch in the second half of the season that starts with Michigan State, followed by road games at Indiana and Michigan, Ohio State at home, and ends with Nebraska on the road. They could be at least two touchdown dogs in all of those.
Rutgers – over 4.5 (-110) – 1*
They bring in Chris Ash as the head man after he’s spent the last couple of years as the DC at Ohio State. He inherits a 4-8 team that returns 16 of their starters. Ash should bring some stability to a defense that gave up 35 ppg last year after returning just three starters.
In general, I like this team for a few reasons. They don’t have the mess that was the Rutgers coaching staff last year, they’ve got great lines on both sides of the ball, and they’ve got so much experience returning from a team that was a play or two away from going bowling last year.
I doubt they’ll beat any of the big boys in the conference or Washington in Week 1, but outside of those five games, they have a ton of opportunities for wins.
Iowa – over 8.5 (-160) – 3*
The Hawkeye offense only returns five starters, but none of it’s back-breaking NFL talent or anything. The two biggest losses are RB Jordan Canzeri and C Austin Blythe. Blythe was an AA, but they’ll manage without him. Canzeri was just short of 1000 yards rushing last year, but LeShun Daniels and his two backups will at least be able to match last year’s rushing numbers. CJ Beathard is back at QB and should be one of the league’s best.
The defense returns 8 starters including their top tackler (Josey Jewell) and their top cover man, Desmond King, who won the Thorpe Award last season. They lose top sacker Drew Ott, but he missed the last nine games last year anyway.
The biggest reason to like the Hawkeyes this season is their rather soft schedule. Four of their five road games this year are against four of the bottom teams in the conference. They avoid Ohio State and Michigan State and get to play Michigan at home.
Nebraska – over 8.5 (-120) – 1*
Let’s get the hypocritical part out of the way: they’re replacing 7 of their 9 guys between the two starting lines. Don’t love it. I’d rate this wager higher if that wasn’t a fact.
However, they do return about everything else, plus their defensive line wasn’t all that good anyway. They had a lot of talent that got them drafted, but the production level didn’t match the talent.
Last year they lost a ton of close games with a new coaching staff and they ended up 5-7 in the regular season before beating UCLA in the bowl game.
The schedule gets quite a bit easier this year. Their non-con consists of Fresno, Wyoming, and an Oregon team that has inexperienced lines as well and all of them are in Lincoln. They do draw Ohio State from the East, but luck out with Indiana and Maryland being the other two. However, they do have to play the three other top teams in the West – Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern – on the road.
Wisconsin – under 7 (-110) – 3*
A 10-2 team a year ago loses most of their top talent and goes from a baby shit soft schedule to one of the most difficult in the country. I’m also not sold that Paul Chryst has the ability to be anything other than mediocre as a head coach.
Their run game fell way off last year in Chryst’s first year as HC. He was the OC here back in the Bielema days. Bielema has shown that he can take the running game other places with him – like the SEC – and it kinda seems like Chryst can’t do the same thing. I’d expect their passing game to stink. Defensively, their Front 7 should be pretty good, but their DBs are a big question mark.
The schedule is the biggest problem. They open with LSU in Green Bay. They draw Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State from the East and the latter two are on the road. They also play Iowa and Northwestern on the road. Really the only favorable thing the B1G schedule makers did for them is letting them play Nebraska at home.
Northwestern – over 6.5 (-130) – 2*
They basically have to replace all of their receivers, but that’s no big deal because their receivers stunk anyway. After a rough freshman year, I would expect QB Clayton Thorson to be much improved. RB Justin Jackson is one of the best in the league. Their O-line has to replace a couple guys, but the unit was ravaged by injury last year anyway.
Defensively, they should be really good again after only giving 18.6 ppg last season. Anthony Walker just might be the best linebacker in the league.
Special teams isn’t exactly a strong suit for the Wildcats. The punting was good net wise last season, but K Jack Mitchell was only 2-8 from 40+ and missed two kicks under 30 yards and three extra points.
They go on a four game stretch that includes road games at Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Those are unlikely to result in Ws, but every other game is winnable. Their biggest non-con contest will be Duke at home.
Minnesota – under 6.5 (+125) – 1*
Phil Steele only has one Gopher unit in the Top 50 and that’s the special teams coming in at 42. QB Mitch Leidner stinks. The RBs seem decent, but the O-line lost a combined 108 career starts and that could be a real problem for them offensively.
Defensively, they were actually pretty solid last year, but they do lose 4 of their 6 top tacklers, including their leading sack man and 4th round NFL Draft selection, LB De’Vondre Campbell. There’s really not a whole lot of bad or good to say about the defense. They’re the definition of average.
The biggest reason for the odds on this total is that the Gophers play a very weak schedule. Oregon State and Colorado State are their most difficult non-con games and two of their East teams are Maryland and Rutgers. They’ll play Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin on the road.
Illinois – under 4.5 (-110) – 2*
I have them for one guaranteed victory: Murray State. Outside of that who knows, absolute best case scenario is 6-6.
They only have 4 starters back on D and overall they have one of the fewest amount of letterman returning in the whole country. QB Wes Lunt will be their best hope to carry them and he lost his two best weapons on offense.
Lovie Smith is the new HC. People seemed excited about that, but he hasn’t coached college kids for two decades, so put me in the skeptic category.
Purdue – under 4.5 (-110) – 1*
They’ve won six games in three years. They are the most experienced team in the league, but unfortunately that stat alone doesn’t win games. In reality, they’ve got five winnable games to start the year, but they have created ways to lose under Darrell Hazell. They’re gonna need their O-line to stabilize if they’re going to accomplish anything this season.
Best Bet For Conference Champion
Michigan State +1200
They’re fifth in the odds. Ohio State and Michigan are both pushing close to even. I definitely understand why people would have some pause on the Spartans heading into this season, but they seem to consistently play above their public perception every season recently except for 2012. As I mentioned before they get the Wolverines and Buckeyes at home and beat both of them a year ago. They don’t have to play either Iowa or Nebraska from the West. I think their B1G schedule is the easiest of the Top 3 in the East and they’ve got a good shot of making their fourth conference title game (won two) in the six years of the game existing.