Once again, 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.
Alabama – over 11 (-160) – 2*
Nick Saban hasn’t lost two regular season games since 2010. That’s nearly a decade ago. Sure, they lose seven assistants and 10 guys to the NFL Draft, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. The Tide just had their best offensive season in the Saban area and the QB and WR corps that were largely responsible for that major uptick, are all back.
There’s no such thing as an easy SEC schedule, but avoiding Georgia and Florida is a good place to start. The Tide might win by 30+ in all four of their non-conference games. There’s not many games on the schedule I can even envision them possibly losing. If they play their worst game of the season at South Carolina, A&M or Mississippi State, there’s a chance they lose. Obviously the Iron Bowl is always intriguing, but Alabama wins by double digits more often than they lose that game. The LSU game always seems big, but the combined score of that matchup the past three years is 63-10 in favor of the Tide, including two shutouts of the Bayou Bengals.
I’m not going to bet it because it’s a heavy price to pay and there’s very little room for error. If Tua gets hurt, there’s no Jalen Hurts safety net this year.
LSU – over 9 (-115) – 2*
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Tigers last year. I doubted Coach O, REALLY doubted Steve Ensminger, and thought they were doomed with only 10 starters coming back. But LSU went 10-3 and those three losses were to Alabama and road games at Florida and A&M (the one that went 7 OTs). Otherwise, the Tigers were really only ever threatened one time: a one-point win at Auburn early in the season.
The defense loses a couple of studs in Devin White and Greedy Williams, but eight starters return. Six of the top seven tacklers are back and so is the entire defensive line. I’m pretty sure Dave Aranda has never fielded a poor defense in his life and I wouldn’t expect him to start now. They have elite potential.
Joe Burrow is back at QB and so are his top five pass-catchers. They’ve got plenty of experience on the O-Line with four starters coming back. They lose 1,000 yard rusher Nick Brossette. The returning RBs don’t inspire a ton of confidence that the Tigers will get back to their old ways after a dip in production last season. However, a more experienced O-Line and a couple of stud freshmen coming in may help the cause.
Phil Steele rates the schedule as the #6 most difficult in the country, but I think it’s pretty manageable. They get an early big test at Texas in Week 2, but I think LSU is the better team (they’re also currently favored by 2.5 on the road). Obviously the road game at Alabama is probably a loss, but they should be favored in all other road games. They get Florida, Auburn, and A&M at home.
Auburn – under 8 (-150) – 1*
The most important part of this is the schedule, so we’ll just start there. Essentially, they have to go 4-3 in these seven games for this one to go over: Oregon (season opener in Arlington), home games with Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State, and road games at LSU, Florida, and A&M. They’re currently favored in two of those seven. And one of those is the opener against Oregon, who was 9-4 last year and returns 17 starters, including one of the best QBs in the nation.
And the Tigers will be starting a freshman at QB in that primetime season opener. That position is probably the biggest concern for the Tigers because otherwise there’s a lot to like. The skill positions are loaded with talent, but it is still fairly young talent. The O-Line will be one of the best in the country with all five starters returning and all five of them are seniors. The defense returns seven starters. The unit hasn’t given up more than 19.2 PPG since Kevin Steele took over three years ago.
It’s not inconceivable that Auburn has another big year like they did in 2017 when they had a very similar schedule and made it to the SEC Championship game. They also had the exact same number of starters returning (seven a piece) on each side of the ball. The key difference is QB, though. In ’17, they had Jarrett Stidham transferring in from Baylor and you knew he could run an offense well. You can’t say the same this year as it’s largely a mystery of just how ready whichever freshman gets the nod will be.
Since Gus Malzahn went 12-2 in his first year, the Tigers have gone 8-5, 7-6, 8-5, 10-4, 8-5 the last five years. Eight is about the perfect over/under every year.
Texas A&M – under 7.5 (+120) – 1*
Another absurd schedule here. The Aggies are slated to play the Top 4 teams (Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU) in the preseason S&P+, three of them coming on the road. That’s the bad news. The good news is that A&M’s only other road game is at Ole Miss, which is no walk in the park, by the way. There will still be challenges at home when Auburn, Mississippi State, and South Carolina come to town.
Kellen Mond is back at QB after a stellar sophomore season and so are his three starting WRs from a year ago. However, one of the best RBs in program history – Trayveon Williams – is now gone and so is their leading pass-catcher, TE Jace Sternberger (10 TDs last year).
Only four starters are back on defense and all of their top six tacklers from last year are gone.
The Aggies could very well be one of the best 10 or 15 teams in the country this year and they still may only be 8-4. That’s how difficult the schedule is going to be.
Mississippi State – under 7.5 (+150) – 1*
The big news on the offensive side of the ball is that two-year starter Nick Fitzgerald is gone and Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens moves in. Tommy Stevens is like an urban legend in Big Ten circles. Even while Trace McSorley was shattering records at Penn State, it was almost as if McSorley was merely an appetizer for the god of all quarterback gods, Tommy Stevens. “Just wait until Tommy takes over,” they said.
Well, Tommy transferred here to Starkville to team back up with his former OC at Penn State, Joe Moorhead. It should be noted that Tommy has thrown 41 career passes, mostly all in garbage time. It should also be noted that Tommy hasn’t even won the job yet, fit for a training camp duel with Keytaon Thompson. But the hype train rages on…
Defensively, the Bulldogs have to replace the entire starting unit on the D-Line, two of which were first-round picks in the NFL Draft. That’s tough at any school, but especially so at a school like MSU when replacing two first-rounders in a position group isn’t an annual ordeal. The losses aren’t quite as severe with the DBs, but they also lose three starters, including first-rounder Johnathan Abram. The good news is they have one of the best LB groups in the country. Still, I’d imagine it’s difficult for even the biggest Bulldog fan to see the D matching their 13.2 PPG given up from a year ago.
The schedule is middle-loaded. There’s a pretty good chance they start 4-0 and a pretty good chance they finish 2-0. But the middle six looks like this: @ Auburn, @ Tennessee, LSU, @ A&M, @ Arkansas, Alabama. Might only be favored at Arkansas in that list.
Ole Miss – over 5 (+120) – 2*
The Rebels lose almost the entirety of their pass-heavy offense from a year ago, including QB Jordan Ta’amu, their top three receivers, and three starters from the O-Line. Not all is lost, though. New QB Matt Corral is under the radar, but was very good in limited action last year and was a big-time recruit a couple of years ago. RBs Scottie Phillips and Isaiah Woullard averaged 6.1 and 5.1 YPC, respectively.
Oh, and they brought in Rich Rodriguez to run the offense. Rich Rod has obviously had some great offenses throughout his career, but he takes over an inexperienced group here with only three starters returning. He had either six or seven returning starters every year he was at Arizona.
There’s also a new DC and it’s former Colorado HC Mike MacIntyre. MacIntyre has a lot more experience to work with as 10 starters are returning to the defense. The issue is that this unit has been a wreck the last three years.
If you’re taking the over here, you’re essentially counting on wins over SE Louisiana, New Mexico State, Arkansas, Vandy, and Cal, all of which are home games. That would get you a push. From there you need a win in one of the following: @ Memphis, A&M at home, or possibly the Egg Bowl on the road.
Arkansas – under 5.5 (-140) – 3*
The offense only has five starters coming back. Ben Hicks transfers over from SMU to likely take over the QB job. Hicks reunites with HC Chad Morris. Hicks put up some decent numbers when Morris was his coach with the Mustangs, but obviously at a lower level. It’s a better situation at the position than it was a year ago, but I’m not sure it’s a major difference. Hicks was never very good against the best teams on SMU’s schedule and now he’ll be facing those type of teams eight times. They’ve got a few veteran skill players to help the transition, but their could be some talented young freshmen that get a lot of playing time too.
Six starters are back from a defense that gave up nearly 40 PPG in SEC play. The majority of the sack production moves on and the best pass rusher on the roster might be coming from an interior DL this year, which is typically not ideal.
The only reason this is even a question is due to the non-con schedule being horrendous. They should be 4-0 in those games. Should be. Last year they lost to Colorado State and got pummeled by North Texas at home. They also only beat Coastal Carolina by one the year before.
Outside of those four very winnable games, there are the eight SEC games. The Hogs are 1-16 in their last 17 SEC games. Also noteworthy, Arkansas has two (2) SEC games in Fayetteville this year. TWO! They have four road games, their annual battle in Arlington with A&M, and now they’ve sacrificed another home game to play Missouri in Little Rock, three hours from campus. It’ll obviously still be a pro-Arkansas crowd, but it’s worth noting.