I’m picking every over/under regular season win total for all 130 schools in college football. I’ll try to keep the odds/injuries/suspensions as current as possible, but I’m doing this in pieces, so it is what it is.
1* through 5* based on confidence. I’ll be betting anything 3* and higher.
Last year was pretty successful, to say the least. Results:
3*: 10-2-3 (+24.1*)
4*: 1-1 (+0.0*)
5*: 1-0 (+5.0*)
I’ll give my best bet for the conference champion based on perceived value.
SEC – WEST
Alabama – over 11 (-110) – 2*
I don’t know how TV people, writers, fans, whomever, talk about Bama on a daily basis. I write a couple paragraphs on them once a year and find myself stretching for material. They’re really good at every thing, every year.
Not only are they near the best at every area of game again, but they’ve got a terrible schedule to boot this year. The only remotely challenging non-conference game they have is against post-Lamar Louisville in Orlando. Current line on that “challenging” game is…26. Their road games in the SEC: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU. All four of which will be in a battle just to make a bowl game this year.
It’s hard to even imagine a scenario in which they lose two games, but of course you push here if they even lose one. I did see a book out there with the total at 10.5, but the odds are -185 for the over. Obviously a greater chance of cashing out, but you’re losing 20 cents on the dollar.
Auburn – under 9 (even) – 1*
Two things I don’t like about the Tigers this year: schedule and their offensive rushing attack.
The schedule was fairly favorable last year, at least as much as it can in the SEC East. Their four SEC road games were Mizzou (early in the season), LSU, Arkansas, and A&M. They were favored in those games by an average of two touchdowns and went 3-1. This year they get UGA, Bama, and the two Mississippis on the road. They also face a Washington team with high hopes in Atlanta to start the year.
Gus Malzahn also has to replace four offensive linemen and his two stud RBs. Jarrett Stidham and a full stable of WRs coming back lessen that concern a little, but I still wonder about an inexperienced O-line that opens against a UW defense that is as good as it gets.
Mississippi State – over 8 (-135) – 2*
Dan Mullen’s teams were always overperforming and I’m betting Joe Moorhead does the same this season. Joe’s not a first time head coach, going 38-13 in four years at Fordham. Now, the Patriot League is a shade or 27 below the SEC, but the Rams were 1-10 the year before he got there and 4-7 last year (two seasons after his departure). I’d say he did pretty well. Also, his offenses at Penn State were incredible.
He’s also got 17 starters coming back to this team, including one of the best QBs in the country and a full fleet of RBs. Defensively, they have one of the best lines in the country, who were primarily responsible for the defense’s 36 sacks and holding opponents under four yards per carry.
The schedule is fairly manageable. They’re almost assuredly losing in Tuscaloosa, but they get Florida and Auburn at home. The Bulldogs are traveling to Manhattan in September to take on K-State, but I’d consider them the favorite in that game. Their season is going to boil down to how well they play against fairly mediocre teams on the road.
Texas A&M – under 7 (+150) – 1*
There’s a lot to like about the Aggies this year, but I think the schedule is too much to overcome and I’m also not the world’s biggest Jimbo Fisher believer. They return 18 of their top 20 tacklers, their two promising sophomore QBs, and Trayveon Williams at RB. They do lose their big-time playmaker in Christian Kirk.
The non-con schedule is horrific aside from one big exception: Clemson. They also have road games against Bama, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Auburn, which are four of better teams in the league this year. They’re also playing Arkansas in Arlington, which only gives them three home SEC games.
LSU – under 7 (-105) – 3*
I’ve got a bad feeling about Coach O this year. The defense is going to have to carry them to a moderately successful season under LSU standards. They only have 10 starters back, five on each side. They lose their top four rushers, top three receivers, QB, five of their front seven defensively, and the only special-teamer that was really worth a damn.
Although they lose as much as the offense, the Dave Aranda defense should be just fine. They’re stocked with a ton of talent and OLB Devin White is one of the best players in the country.
The offense could be terrible, however. They were mediocre a year ago and lose almost every important skill player. But the biggest cause for concern is Steve Ensminger, the new OC. Every thing this guy touches turns to garbage. He was the interim OC two years ago here, interim OC at Auburn in ’08, and the OC at Clemson in the late nineties. It’s been 20 years and three high school ASSISTANT jobs since Ensminger has been a full-time OC. Of the last 25 games he’s called plays, his offenses have been shut out four times and gone 10-15 and this was at LSU, Auburn, and Clemson. That’s almost impossible to do.
It’s not all about Ensminger though. They play Miami to open the season, road games at Auburn, Florida, and Texas A&M, they have likely home losses to Alabama and Georgia, and four times this year they’re playing teams coming off a bye. It’s been almost 20 years since LSU won less than seven games, but there hasn’t been this many question marks in the Bayou for a long time.
Arkansas – over 5.5 (-130) – 2*
Another new coaching situation, but Chad Morris has really only ever succeeded and is an offensive savant. I don’t think the SEC West is as difficult as it was in recent years and the Hogs have an impressively disgusting non-con schedule. On top of that, they avoid the top three out of the East. 17 starters are back from last year’s 4-8 team.
Austin Allen at QB is the loss that stands out, but he missed 4.5 games last year anyway. Cole Kelley got some valuable experience, wasn’t half bad, and now gets to work under Morris’s tutelage.
Ole Miss – under 6 (-105) – 3*
The Rebels lose Michigan savior Shea Patterson, but it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when you consider Jordan Ta’amu might actually be better. It also helps that their receivers are among the best in the country and the offensive line is supposed to be good with four starters coming back. Although I’ll point out that they gave up 32 sacks last year and the offense only averaged 4.3 YPC, so how good could they really be?
The problem is the other side of the ball. The defense has given up 34 PPG the past two years and this year they lose their top two tacklers and about 65% of their sacks. It’s hard to really compete in the SEC when your front seven stinks.
Sticking with theme, their non-con schedule is pretty easy with three basically guaranteed victories and a neutral site game with Texas Tech. There’s a decent shot they get out of that 4-0, but even then they have to win three SEC games to beat the number here. Their four home SEC games are Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. Right now, I don’t think I’d favor them in any of those games and maybe only one of the road games.
They absolutely have to be carried by the offense and a few injuries in the wrong places could be a death knell with a lack of depth. I still find it hard to trust a team that doesn’t have anything to play for except pride.