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.
Alabama – over 10 (-135) – 2*
I never like giving so much juice on a future bet, but Nick Saban winning double digit games is about the surest thing in a wild sport. Alabama has won 11 regular season games for the past five years. 2010 was the last time they only won 9.
Of course they have to replace a lot of NFL talent and that’s never that easy, but the Tide have been doing that for years under Saban.
There’s basically two things that should concern you if you take this bet: quarterback and the schedule. At the time of writing this, Saban hasn’t decided who will be QB1 yet, but there’s three options – Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett, and Jalen Hurts. They were all highly regarded out of high school, but none of them have won a game as a starting QB in the SEC yet. Bateman was the only one who’s had a chance and he got down 30-10 to Ole Miss last year before Jake Coker took over and nearly won the game. None of them have to set the world on fire – Coker didn’t most of the time last year – because there’s so much talent around them, but having good quarterback play would obviously go a long way towards winning a lot of games.
To me, you can easily chalk up six wins for the Tide this year. I gave them an additional two wins – USC and Auburn – that they should be favored by more than a touchdown in (which they already are against the Trojans). Their season is going to be decided by four road games: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU. Ole Miss was their only loss of the season last year, the Hogs tend to play their best in big games (Bama won 14-13 last time in FVille), Tennessee is expected to contend for the national title, and LSU is LSU.
With all that said, I still think you’re at least getting a push here.
LSU – over 10 (-110) – 1*
They return 17 starters, including Leonard Fournette, two of the best wide receivers in the country, and 10 of their 11 top tacklers from last year. They had 8 regular season wins last year, but call it 9 since McNeese St. was cancelled. Obviously, Brandon Harris has to suck less this year and they did just lose their third receiver – Tyron Johnson – to transfer and he was a big-time recruit for them a year ago.
However, they have a new DC in Dave Aranda, who is one of the best in the country and should help them improve upon the 24.3 ppg they allowed last year. Phil Steele rates their DBs as tops in the country and the lines on both sides in the Top 8.
As far as the schedule goes, playing Wisconsin in Green Bay won’t be easy to start the season, but the Tigers are 10 point favorites. They get Bama and Ole Miss at home. The season will be decided by those two games as well as road games at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. Obviously not an easy path, but there’s not a more talented team in the country.
Ole Miss – under 8.5 (-110) – 2*
The Rebels went 9-3 last year, but they only return 10 starters and their schedule should be quite a bit tougher.
Chad Swag Kelly is back and should have another big year, but he loses his top two receivers and his new O-Line wasn’t in Steele’s Top 50. Kelly was the Rebels second highest rusher last year (with 500 yards) and the only guy better than him is gone. The problem games a year ago were when Hugh Freeze’s squad couldn’t run the ball. They had 69 rushing yards against Florida (38-10 loss), 40 against Memphis (37-24 loss), and 92 against Bama (43-37 win). Obviously they beat Bama, but the only reason they won that game is that they were +5 in turnovers, which isn’t a very repeatable formula.
I’d expect the defense to be very solid once again and having Kelly in a conference with rather suspect QB play is a big advantage, but I don’t think that’ll be enough to allow them to compete with Bama and LSU.
Their non-conference schedule will be a bit tougher this year. Fresno St., New Mexico St., and UT Martin gets traded for Florida St., Georgia Southern, and Wofford. That FSU game is being played in Orlando Week 1 and the Rebels are 4.5 point dogs. They’ll also get Bama and Georgia at home in the first four weeks. Arkansas, LSU, and Texas A&M are on the road. You’ll likely know the result of this one after their first seven games, if not four.
Auburn – under 7 (even) – 2*
The Tigers return 12 starters from a 6-6 team last year. Their defense should be solid, but they do have three new starters at linebacker. However, Will Muschamp did depart as their DC and was replaced by Kevin Steele, who spent last year as LSU’s DC and in his only year there turned in the highest PPG allowed in years, so you’d have to consider that a downgrade.
I just don’t love the talent on this team. If the draft were held tomorrow, they’d probably only have a few players taken. That’s fine if you play in the Big Ten West, but doesn’t really lend itself to competing in the SEC West.
Their quarterback situation still appears to be a bad one. Sean White and Jeremy Johnson combined for 2,220 yards and an 11-11 TD-INT ratio last year. John Franklin III transferred in from community college after backing up Jameis Winston for a couple years at Florida State. If you’re having visions of another Cam Newton (backed up Tebow, community college, Heisman), don’t. Franklin hasn’t separated himself yet and isn’t really known for his throwing ability. (Update: White is starting. Yikes.)
I’ve got them pegged for three losses off the bat against Clemson, Mississippi, and Alabama. They get Clemson at home, but I just don’t see Auburn being able to keep up with that offense. People were high on Guz Malzahn’s crew heading into last year and they were a big disappointment. I’m not seeing enough to make me think there’s going to be much positive change.
Texas A&M – over 6 (-130) – 4*
I really like the Aggies to beat this number. Obviously things unraveled a bit at the very end of last year, specifically the QB position. Trevor Knight steps in this year as a grad transfer from Oklahoma with a lot of experience. Experience that they haven’t had since Johnny Manziel’s second year. Their receivers are absolutely electric. Their D-Line is one of the best in the country and applies a ton of pressure and their Back 7 returns five starters from last year.
Last year they were 8-4 and two of those losses were Kyle Allen just being terrible. Their biggest question mark is definitely their offensive line. They gave up 37 sacks last year and the team only averaged 4.0 ypc. They only return two starters on that unit, which would be a concern, but they really can’t get much worse than they were, so that’s good?
I’ve only got them pegged for one guaranteed loss and that’s at Alabama. I’ve got them for four wins and seven games that should have rather small spreads. They open with UCLA at home. The Bruins are expected to compete for the Pac-12 title, but they’re replacing a ton on offense and the Aggies should be able to wreak havoc on an inexperienced line. The rest of their non-con stinks, they only play four true road games, and they get Ole Miss and LSU at home.
Arkansas – over 7.5 (+105) – 1*
This one was tough for me. I have three wins for the Hogs marked down and nine toss-up games. And one of the wins – Louisiana Tech – is shaky. LT doesn’t return much from their 9-4 team last year, but they’ll be a relatively tough opener, especially if Arkansas gets off to another slow start like they did last year.
They return 9 starters on defense this year. The Front 7 should have a great year and the DBs have 9 of their top 10 back. While the 27.4 ppg allowed number from last year isn’t the prettiest (up from 19.2 in ’14), it is a bit skewed. The Hogs played in a total of six overtimes last year, which has a big effect on the point total.
Offensively, the biggest concern has to be quarterback. Brandon Allen had a great year in ’15, but is now gone and taking over the reigns is his little brother, Austin. The younger Allen threw a total of three passes last year. They do have to replace RB Alex Collins (1,577 rushing yards in ’15) and three O-linemen as well, but Bret Bielema has been churning out great lines and running backs who average 5.0+ ypc for over a decade now. Their receiving corps is one of the best in the SEC.
Like I said, there are a lot of toss-up games for the Razorbacks, but they only have four true road games and they’re all winnable. They get Bama, LSU, Florida, and Ole Miss all at home.
Mississippi St. – under 6.5 (even) – 2*
11 starters returning and none of them are named Dak Prescott. I can’t say I know much about their backups, but none of them were very highly regarded and they’re highly unlikely to match Prescott’s production. He was responsible for 73% of their total offense last year. Fred Ross has been one of the best receivers in MSU history, but their running backs are very blah and the O-line returns 3 starters who didn’t block very well last season.
Defensively, they’re solid all the way through, but only Richie Brown at the Mike really moves the needle.
Nothing really excites me about this team and the only real reason I could think of to consider putting them over is that Dan Mullen always seems to field a competitive team.
As far as the schedule goes, their only non-con game that should be competitive will be at BYU on a Friday night in the middle of the SEC schedule in October. That won’t be easy. In conference, you can pretty much chalk up losses now at LSU and Alabama and probably at Ole Miss, too. Their only other conference road game is at Kentucky and the other East team they get to play is South Carolina, which is very favorable.
Tennessee – over 9.5 (-120) – 2*
It’s hard not to love the Vols this year. They’ve got 17 starters back, they have no real weakness, they play in the East, nothing too difficult in non-con, and they were this close to busting out last year. Their three losses in SEC play were by a combined 10 points and their only non-con loss was in 2OT to Oklahoma.
Their only losses on offense were WR Von Pearson (38 rec., 409 yds.) and LT Kyler Kerbyson. On defense they just have to replace a DT and both their safeties. For a team that averaged a 15.2 point differential last year, that’s not a lot to replace. Jalen Hurd is a stud at RB and this is hopefully the year that Josh Dobbs puts it all together at QB. DE Derek Barnett and WLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin are two of the best defenders in the country.
Virginia Tech will be the toughest foe in non-con (all due respect to Ohio), but it’s being played in Bristol, TN and the Hokies have a new coach. September 24 to October 15 will be make or break for the Vols’ season. They start with Florida before traveling to play Georgia and Texas A&M, and then end the tough stretch by hosting Alabama in Knoxville. After that they get a bye week and then get to beat up on the bottom end of the division and Tennessee Tech.
Georgia – over 8.5 (-110) – 1*
I don’t know, man. It looks like they might start highly touted freshman Jacob Eason at QB. Freshman QBs haven’t had a ton of success in the SEC, but if he can make plays it’ll give the Dawgs a whole new element that they haven’t had since Aaron Murray left. Otherwise it’s back to dink-and-dunk, game manager extraordinaire Greyson Lambert. They do have a lot of skill guys coming back, most importantly Nick Chubb after he was out for the second half of last year. The O-line is one of the best in the country, as well. Phil Steele points out that the Dawgs averaged 20 more ppg when Chubb played last year. He doesn’t mention that they put up 48+ in three of those Chubb games against ULM, Southern, and South Carolina, but I guess the point still stands.
The Back 7 on D looked like it was going to be a real asset – and it still probably will be – but their top returning tackler, Tim Kimbrough, decided to transfer this month. Kirby Smart’s influence should help them out as well, but they do have a lot of talent to replace on the D-line.
In non-con they play UNC in Atlanta and Georgia Tech at home. They should win both, but they’ll likely be tight games. Out of division they go at Mississippi and home for Auburn. They only have four true road games, but they’ve also got two neutral site games with Florida being the other one. This team could go 11-1 or 7-5 and I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
Florida – under 8 (Even) – 1*
If you made me pick Florida’s record, I would say 8-4, so I hate this total.
I think their offense is going to suck again. Luke Del Rio – better known as Jack’s son and Sean Mannion’s backup – is competing with Austin Appleby – better known as “couldn’t start at Purdue” – for the starting QB job. (Update: Del Rio is getting the start in the opener.) The RBs and O-line aren’t very good. The WRs and TEs may be good, but look at who’s throwing them the ball.
The defense should be rather stout again, on the other hand. MLB Jarrad Davis and CB Jalen Tabor are two of the best in the country and the defense as a whole should be near the level they were last year when they only allowed 18.3 ppg.
They’ve got six pretty easy games on the schedule, which is why it’s difficult to take the under, but if their offense puts up a stinker in one or two of them they’ll be in trouble. Also, their two games against the West are LSU at home and Arkansas on the road. The Mizzou game sandwiched between LSU and the bye week could be dangerous, as well.
Missouri – over 5.5 (-110) – 1*
The last five teams in this division is just a suck parade of offense. Drew Lock started eight games last year at QB and managed 4 TDs and 8 INTs. He’s just a sophomore and is considered to be a future NFL prospect with his prototypical size (6’4″, 221). It’s reasonable to assume he’ll be better this year, but all that really takes is him being bad, as opposed to awful.
I guess if you had to pick a strength of the offense it would be the RBs. Alex Ross is an Oklahoma transfer and Ish Witter led the team in rushing last year with 518 yards.
They really can’t be much worse offensively than they were in ’15. They averaged 13.6 points and 281 yards of total offense per game. They did average 20.7 YPP, which according to some Phil Steele research, indicates that their scoring and wins will increase this season. I’m not sure Phil could indicate to you why besides his consistent optimism that everyone will improve, but he does have 25 years of data to show that teams with that type of number improve the next season at a high rate.
Their defense should be very good again and their D-line especially appears to be one of the elites. We should all look forward to a bunch of 17-14 games from the Tigers.
Traveling to LSU, Florida, and Tennessee are the games I have Mizzou for sure losing. Their non-con will provide a couple of tests. They open the year at West Virginia, a game in which they are currently 10.5 point dogs (I’d probably take the points right now). They also have MTSU sandwiched in the middle of SEC play in late October. That’s no gimme. Every other game on the schedule is winnable.
Kentucky – under 5 (-110) – 1*
The Wildcats return 9 starters on offense this year, including all of their skill guys and four of their O-linemen. Drew Barker takes over at QB after starting the last couple games last season when Patrick Towles was putrid. Barker didn’t exactly light it up himself, but it doesn’t seem like he can be much worse.
The defense, on the other hand, loses 7 of their top 8 tacklers from a year ago.
Kentucky football is Kentucky football. They haven’t had a winning season since ’09 and the last time they were even .500 in SEC play was ’06. They’re 4-20 in the conference in the three years that Mark Stoops has been the head coach.
There’s just not a lot of good that jumps out with this team. RB Boom Williams is certainly talented, but I don’t think you can depend on him to stay healthy. It’s hard for me to get behind any team that struggles at the line of scrimmage. This is a team that is -34 in sacks in their time under Stoops. I’ve got them pegged for six losses and only two wins. The four up in the air are Southern Miss, South Carolina, Vandy, and Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt – over 5 (-110) – 1*
I went back and forth on this one due to the belief that this team could win eight games or two. They return 14 starters from last year and a couple more that had great freshman years in 2014 before being injured for all of last year.
Kyle Shurmur takes over at QB. It’s a similar situation to Kentucky. Shurmur hasn’t shown anything to make you think he’ll be even average, but his predecessor – Johnny McCrary – wasn’t either. RB Ralph Webb is a workhorse and put up over 1,300 yards of total offense last year. WR CJ Duncan is one of those who missed all of last season after a solid freshman year (28 rec., 15.8 ypc). The line wasn’t great, but they have a lot of experience coming back and should be better.
While the offense hasn’t been able to score many points under HC Derek Mason – just 15.2 ppg in ’15 and 17.2 in ’14 – they’re another team that had that high PPY at 21.5.
Defensively, their LBs are some of the best in the country. As a unit, the defense only allowed 21.0 ppg, which was more than a 12 point decrease from 2014. That might’ve been due to the fact Mason took over the D last year and will do the same again this season.
The schedule is what scares me the most. It’s not an overly difficult one, coming in at #44 in the country, according to Steele. The problem with it is that there’s only one easy victory on the schedule and that’s Tennessee State. The rest of their non-con is MTSU at home, at Georgia Tech, and at Western Kentucky. None of those three are outstanding, but I don’t see Vandy being favored by any more than a few in any of those and they’ll likely be dogs at GT.
South Carolina – under 5 (-110) – 4*
They return 9 starters from a 3-9 ball club. Will Muschamp is their coach. They might be starting a true freshman at QB. The only position group they have ranked in the Top 50 in the country, according to Steele, is their special teams. I’m a Purdue fan. I know what it’s like to have your kicker and punter as two of your best players and it doesn’t result in a lot of wins. Hard sell on the Gamecocks this year.
Best Bet for Conference Champion
Texas A&M +3000
Would they be my pick to actually win? No, but there’s a hell of a lot of talent on that team for 30-1. Again, the most difficult games on their schedule are at home, besides Alabama. Obviously that’s going to be a crucial game for the Aggies if they are able to sneak out of the West. The thing working in their favor in that game though, is that A&M will be coming off a bye and the Tide will be coming off their game at Tennessee and they’ll be heading into their own bye week before LSU. It’s possible.