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.
USC – over 8.5 (-115) – 2*
You might be looking at a very similar season as 2016 for the Trojans. They have a wealth of talent all over the field, but there’s uncertainty at QB. Clay Helton has a few good options to choose from, but it’s hard to imagine any of them are as good as Sam Darnold right away. And they need to be because after the opener against UNLV they have road games with Stanford and Texas.
Utah – over 7 (-130) – 1*
The Utes are pretty much some variation of the same. They’re gonna score somewhere in the high 20s/low 30s per game and give up somewhere in the low-to-mid 20s per game. They’ll play a lot of close games. They might win six. They might win nine. I really like Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss as a backfield duo, but I’m not sure they’re surrounded by enough talent to break the typical Ute threshold.
The defense should be one of Whittingham’s better groups in his tenure. Their secondary is outstanding, but they had a fairly mediocre pass rush last year (especially for their standards) and they’re replacing three DL starters.
The schedule leaves a lot of mystery with this 10-game stretch: @ UNI, Washington, @ Wazzu, @ Stanford, Arizona, USC, @ UCLA, @ Arizona State, Oregon, @ Colorado.
Arizona – under 8 (-120) – 1*
The combination of Khalil Tate and Kevin Sumlin is exciting and I’m sure the Wildcats will be able to rack up the points. However, I don’t know how much better they can really be than 41 PPG. They also have to replace three OL starters and for as exciting as Tate is to watch, he’s still a pretty average passer and he’s not surrounded by elite skill guys to help him look better.
Defensively, they’ve been bad for three straight years and Sumlin made the somewhat curious decision to keep Marcel Yates as DC. They return nine starters, but, I mean, they sucked last year. Once they got through a crappy non-con schedule, they held one team under 30 points the rest of the season and that was…Oregon State. And they “held” them to 28. The Beavs only averaged 20 for the year.
The schedule is similar to Utah’s in terms of its boom or bust potential. It’s a fairly common theme in the parity-heavy Pac-12.
Colorado – under 5 (-120) – 1*
Steven Montez is probably the most underappreciated QB in a conference full of good ones. However, he loses his 1,500 yard RB and his top three receivers. And his OL stinks. So, not great, Bob.
The defense regressed back to the mean last year after a stellar season in 2016. They’ve got six starters back, but they couldn’t generate any pass rush last year. The two guys who were decent – Derek McCartney and Leo Jackson – are now gone. It’s honestly hard to have less of a pass rush than they did in ’17, but the Buffs might test that theory this year.
The schedule isn’t overly difficult, but they’ve got road games with UW, USC, Arizona, Cal, and Nebraska and a few home games they might be dogs in.
Arizona State – under 4.5 (+110) – 2*
First things first: not a fan of the Herm Edwards hire. It’s the biggest reason I took the under. Herm and Lovie Smith are entirely different personalities, but their experience at the college level is similar entering the job. Herm has held one college job in his life: WR coach at San Jose State from 1987-89. I understand he’s taking the CEO approach and that’s fine, but typically I want my CEO to know what he actually has to manage. Maybe I’m the crazy one.
As far as the on-field stuff goes, there’s one thing to really love about the Devils: the passing game. Manny Wilkins is great and the WR group might be even better. Here’s the problem: Herm doesn’t really have a great history with the pass game and is generally thought of as a conservative coach. The new OC Rob Likens comes from an Air Raid background. If Herm just lets Likens do his thing, ASU will thrive, but I’m pretty skeptical.
The Devils only return four starters on defense and 3 of their top 10 tacklers from a poor defense. New DC Danny Gonzales comes from SDSU, which is encouraging, and Herm can provide his expertise on that side of the ball as well. We’ll see how quickly they can turn things around.
UCLA – over 5.5 (+105) – 3*
It makes me so happy that the Chipper is back in college football. It’s been too long.
Obviously, Chip Kelly is known for offense and his ability to get the most out of groups that weren’t necessarily the most talented. It’ll be really interesting to see what he’s able to do with the Bruins this year. Josh Rosen and his top two WRs are gone. Waiting in the QB wings are Devon Modster, Wilton Speight, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Modster was a big-time pro-style recruit who backed up Rosen last year and played pretty well in limited action. Speight was a fairly underwhelming stiff at Michigan. Neither of them seem best suited for the Oregon Kelly offenses. Which is why it seems at some point DTR will be the starter this year as a true freshman. He’s a 5-star dual-threat that seems to be a perfect fit for the way Chipper wants to do things.
There’s seven starters coming back on defense and a lot more from the two-deeps. 15 of the top 20 tacklers are back. They sucked last year, but I think part of it was circumstantial. Westwood was a bit toxic last year and there was seemingly always the looming threat that Jim Mora was going to get fired. It was such a leap from their typical defensive mediocrity. I’d expect to see them improve by about a TD this year. They’re not quite as talented as the offense, but there are some definite dudes at all three levels.
The schedule is a terror. Phil Steele puts it at the toughest in the country. They draw the four best teams out of the North. They play @ Oklahoma on Week 2 and then will have a grinder against Fresno the next week. I’m not going to lie and say there isn’t a chance they win three games. That’s possible, but they’ve got the potential to win nine also, which leads us to coaching. Chipper hasn’t coached in college for six years, but he was one of the five best HCs in CFB for the four years he was in Eugene. He went 46-7, including 33-3 in the Pac-12. 33-3! I wouldn’t expect the offense to be in peak form right away, but by the end of the year, they’ll get it rolling. I just can’t envision the Bruins missing a bowl game this year.
BEST BET TO WIN PAC-12
I don’t really love anything here, but taking anybody out of the North doesn’t seem like a good idea with Washington as a prohibitive favorite. The schedule isn’t great for the Utes, having to play UW, Oregon, and Stanford out of the North. However, they get two of those at home. They also get their toughest competition in the South – USC and Arizona – in Salt Lake City. Utah has started strong in recent years and that’s good news as they get the UW game on Sept. 15. They’ll be a really good team, it’s just a matter of surviving the schedule.