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.
Georgia – over 11 (+125) – 1*
Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift, and four starting OL are back, but the receiving corps need totally revamped. Recruiting rankings suggest capable replacements, but losing four draft picks in a single year is never an easy task. To make matters a bit worse, the only WR with significant experience coming back – Jeremiah Holloman – got kicked off the team.
Playcalling may be a bit different as OC Jim Chaney moves on to Tennessee and James Coley takes over. Coley’s history as an OC at Miami suggests he’ll want throw more than Chaney did. Elijah Holyfield is gone as RB1b, but the Bulldogs always seem to have another stud or two waiting in the wings.
UGA also has a new DC with Mel Tucker taking over as HC at Colorado. Smart hired from within, making both of his LBs coach co-DCs this year. Pass rush was a bit lacking for what you would consider an elite defense last year and they lose their best guy in D’Andre Walker. They also lose CB Deandre Baker, but return all other DB starters.
With all that said, I think you’d make Georgia a favorite in all of their games at this point, maybe by at least a touchdown in all of them. In the regular season last year, they didn’t play a single one-possession game, including the loss to LSU. Tough to make a play either way here.
Florida – over 8.5 (-135) – 4*
I adhere to three steadfast beliefs in life: the Golden Rule, always split aces, and you always take the over on Dan Mullen season totals.
We’ll start with the biggest concern: the offensive line. The Gators lose four starters, two of them all-conference players. It’s an issue, but there’s reason to believe Mullen and John Hevesy can get them ready. Hevesy has been the OL coach alongside Mullen for nearly two decades. He’s been one of the best coaching that position since he started, all the way back to Bowling Green in 2001 when he cut their sacks allowed number in half from the year before.
Hevesy did the same thing last year when he arrived back in Gainesville for his second stint here. His line frequently gives up less than 20 sacks. They also plowed the way for a 5.3 YPC average, the first time Florida had been over 5 YPC since 2009, the year after Hevesy finished his first stint as Gator OL coach (5.6 and 6.0 YPC his last two years).
Do I wish that the rather inexperienced OL group didn’t have to open against one of the best Front 7’s in all of college football, one that has registered 84 sacks the last two years? Yeah, that’s less than ideal. But I think what jumps off the page as a huge concern is really more palatable when you put it into context with who’s going to be leading the charge.
Now that we’ve got 200+ words on John Hevesy’s bonafides, let’s move on to the rest of the roster. Pretty damn good, man! Feleipe Franks got benched against Mizzou last year, but responded by completing 65% of his passes (8.9 YPA), throwing for 8 TDs, and 0 INTs in his last four games. He ran for 177 yards and 4 TDs on top of that.
They’ve got a trio of steady RBs coming back and their entire, very talented WR corps.
The defense returns eight starters from a group that gave up 20.0 PPG last year. They do lose about half of their sack production, including Jachai Polite who had 11 of his own. Todd Grantham isn’t for everybody, but his defenses usually find their way to the QB regardless of who’s on the roster.
To the schedule: the Gators open in Week
One Zero with Miami on a neutral site. That’s big, obviously. The other big games that stand out: Georgia, @ LSU, @ Mizzou, Auburn, @ UK, and @ South Carolina. Certainly not the easiest of paths, but you’re favored by at least 4.5 in five of seven games in which you have to go 4-3.
Missouri – over 8 (-130) – 1*
Honestly, I really have no feel for this, but you’d be amazed how much time I spend still deciding whether I’m going over or under on teams I’m not actually betting. My initial reaction was to go under because of the bowl ban – that’s being appealed – and it’s tough to back a team when you’re unsure of motivation. But then I began reading articles about how none of the upperclassmen transferred despite being able to do so without sitting out a year. No one would blame them for wanting one last postseason opportunity, but literally none of them took it. That’s impressive.
I’m still a little skeptical of Derek Dooley running the offense. Drew Lock could’ve run the show himself last year, but Kelly Bryant is no fresh fish and brings a ton of big game experience with him. RB Larry Rountree is a stud and he’s behind a veteran O-Line that’s been great since the Barry Odom era began.
Defensively, they figure to be fairly average (for the SEC) and that might be all they need to get to 8 or 9 wins this year. They might get to 8-0 until the fun stops when they have back-to-back games against Georgia and Florida.
Tennessee – under 6.5 (+125) – 3*
I’ll go back to the well on the Tennessee under again this year. The Vols went 5-7 last year in Jeremy Pruitt’s debut and they weren’t even close in six of those losses, losing by an average of 25 PPG. Three of their five wins last year were against ETSU, UTEP, and Charlotte.
They did ride a 3-0 turnover advantage to win at Auburn and benefited from getting UK at home in a letdown week after the Cats lost a huge game to Georgia. That may be editorializing on my part, but it at the very least points to inconsistency if the Vols can beat those two teams and still get blown out on six other occasions. They’re 2-15 in their last 17 SEC games.
They have continuity going for them on offense, which typically leads to greater success, but it’s not a given. It’s also difficult not to improve on the 19.5 PPG they averaged against FBS opponents last year. 30 points was their high in those games. And yes, the Vols played a very, very deliberate style of play last year. They ranked 129th out of 130 in Plays Per Game last year, only beating out triple option-running Georgia Southern.
Ten starters are back and they have a new OC, Jim Chaney. Chaney’s most recent stop was Georgia. Vol fans are familiar with big Jimbo, as he was the OC through those golden Kiffin/Dooley years. Chaney got it figured out at UGA the last couple years (it helps when you have nothing but pros), but it was a slow start in his first year there, only averaging 24 PPG. I wouldn’t expect the pace or excitement to increase much for the Vols. Chaney hasn’t had a QB throw for 200 YPG since he left Knoxville, including Jake Fromm. This is kind of shocking when you realize he was Drew Brees’ OC at Purdue and they once threw 83 passes in one game.
Defensively they’ve got six starters back and plenty of talent to go with it, but they have to replace their entire starting defensive line and that’s a big red flag for me. Controlling the run game was the biggest sign of improvement in Pruitt’s first year and now he has to rebuild in a somewhat patchwork manner with transfers, JUCOs, and possibly even a converted TE.
The non-con schedule isn’t daunting, but don’t overlook that BYU game in Week 2. The Cougars won at Wisconsin and Arizona last year and bring back 17 starters. Given their independent status, BYU is used to playing several Power 5 teams a year and have pulled a ton of wins out on the road over the years.
They play Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky on the road this year. It’s hard to gift wrap them any SEC game because like I said, 2-15 in their last 17. Even Vandy’s beaten them three straight years.
Kentucky – under 6.5 (+125) – 1*
Pretty tough to read Kentucky this year. They can’t possibly be as good on defense this year with the loss of three guys drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, the departure of Josh Allen obviously being the most significant.
The offense had its moments last year, but was largely dreadful in the meat of the SEC schedule last year. And now they lose Benny Snell – who accounted for a third of their offense – four of their five top pass catchers, not that there were a ton of passes to be caught. They also replace three starters on the O-Line. They’re left with QB Terry Wilson – who can be downright painful to watch at times – and Lynn Bowden in the slot. Bowden can be electric, but you kind of have to wonder if he’ll be as effective without so much attention being paid to Benny in the backfield now.
The good news for them is that they have the easiest schedule in the league. They don’t play Alabama, LSU, A&M, or Auburn. Their biggest foe in the non-con is a tossup between Toledo, Louisville, and EMU. Mark Stoops has proven consistency in the conference, going 4-4, 4-4, 5-3 the last three seasons in the SEC. They’ve recruited well the past few years, but being bowl eligible would probably be considered a win this year.
South Carolina – over 5.5 (-120) – 1*
Don’t ask me how, man. What an outrageous schedule. To put it into perspective, S&P+ is projecting them as the #18 team in the country and still only winning six games. And here’s why: home games with Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Kentucky, Vandy, App State and road games with Georgia, A&M, Mizzou, and Tennessee. And they play UNC on a neutral field.
To put it plainly: I think you’re a psychopath if you have a bet on this total.
Jake Bentley is the best QB in school history and Rico Dowdle is an excellent RB when he is healthy. Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith are both All-SEC types at WR. They’ve got three studs in their Front 7 on defense.
And they might be favored in five games this year. Don’t do it, psychos.
Vanderbilt – under 5 (-135) – 1*
The Commodores have been pretty much stuck in this range, which is quite fine given their history. The Derek Mason era is one of the greatest eras in program history outside of three years of James Franklin. Which is really saying something considering they still haven’t had a winning season under Mason.
The bad news this year is that they lose their all-time leading passer in Kyle Shurmur and four of their top five tacklers defensively. They’ve also got to replace all three of their interior offensive linemen.
The good news is that Ke’Shawn Vaughn is back at RB and he’s a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball. They’ve also got a sneaky good WR corps and QB Riley Neal transfers in from Ball State after putting up some pretty good numbers in his career, albeit at the MAC level.
It’s easy to underestimate the Dores, but there are a few games this year they don’t have much of – if any – chance in and a few other difficult road games. The quality road wins they’ve accumulated in SEC play are few and far between.
BEST BET TO WIN SEC
I pick the Gators in this spot every year, so why quit now? They’re at the same price as LSU, who I also gave a long look at because I think the Tigers will be really good and they play Florida at home. But ultimately, you’re probably gonna have to beat Alabama to win the SEC title. I just don’t think Coach O can pull it off. Mullen has at the very least played a few close games with Saban when he was coaching with Mississippi State talent.
Obviously the big hurdle in the regular season is Georgia, but it’s conceivable that Georgia takes a small step back this year and Florida makes a considerable jump in Year 2 of Mullen.