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.
Big Ten: East / West
SEC: West / East
Pac-12: North / South
ACC: Atlantic / Coastal
AAC: East / West
Boise State – over 10 (+105) – 2*
You could make the argument that the Broncos have been just as good under Bryan Harsin as they were under Chris Petersen. The record isn’t quite as shiny, but Petersen benefited from five years of WAC competition.
In 2017, Boise went 11-3 and now they return 16 starters, 10 of them coming back from a Top 30 defense. Brett Rypien returns for his fourth year of starting at QB and should have a great year after an unhealthy, disappointing junior season. They also return a 1,000 yard rusher.
Ten wins is a high number and could be derailed with the wrong injury, so I’ll hold off, but the schedule sets up where 12-0 is on the table. They have difficult non-con road games with Troy and Oklahoma State, but both teams have to replace key pieces on offense, which makes September the right time to play them. Their toughest MWC road game is Wyoming – who you might’ve heard lost their QB – and the Broncos also get them in September. The difficult opponents come at home, where Boise has only lost two MWC games under Harsin. Both of those came in 2015 when Rypien was a freshman and apparently they couldn’t figure out the option defensively. They were heavy favorites in both games, but lost to New Mexico and Air Force. I wouldn’t expect such issues in 2018.
Utah State – over 7.5 (-115) – 3*
The Aggies have only missed a bowl game one time in the last seven years. Gary Andersen started it, but Matt Wells has kept it going for the last five. The last three years look like more of a slip than they really have been. USU has lost 10 of their last 11 one-possession games the last three years. At some point that trend has to flip and it very well may be this year with so much experience returning. They have 18 starters back.
Offensively, the Aggies improved by more than 6 PPG in Year One under OC David Yost. Yost’s previous stops were Oregon, Wazzu, and Mizzou, so naturally he’s brought a more uptempo, pass-happy system. That system paid immediate results and I would expect even more in his second year, with a talented sophomore QB (Jordan Love), all five OL starters, and the top 3 pass catchers.
Defensively, they’ve got nine starters back, which is more than the last two years combined. They only gave up 22.9 PPG in MWC play last year. They had close to the same amount of underclassmen and upperclassmen in the two-deep last year, so it stands to reason that there is still room for growth.
The schedule is book-ended by probable road losses against Michigan State and Boise, but they might end up as favorites in every other game, or at least close to it. They get a big break in that they don’t have to play Fresno or SDSU from the West.
Wyoming – over 6.5 (-150) – 3*
Here’s the thing about losing Josh Allen: it doesn’t matter at all. Wyoming’s offense sucked last year and Josh Allen sucked with it. And Wyoming was still pretty good because their defense was the Alabama of Group of 5 defenses. And they’ve got eight starters coming back from that defense, including their top six tacklers. They forced a lot of turnovers, which can make things seem better than they are. But the Cowboys gave up 4.7 yards per play, which was nearly two full yards better than the year before. It wasn’t just turnovers.
Offensively, you’d expect things to get better with nine starters back and the only losses being one guard from the OL and the 10th most-efficient passer from a 12-team league. Allen leaves a low bar to jump over at QB in terms of actual production and the run game can only get better. It was the worst rush figures for a Craig Bohl team in 2017.
The schedule is decent, but they do play Wazzu in Laramie and Mizzou on the road in the non-con. I’m low on the Cougs this year and it’s a home game for Wyoming, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cowboys pull a minor upset. It would go a long way for confidence the rest of the season.
Air Force – over 4.5 (-135) – 1*
I have no real thoughts, but once again, just lean over with the service academies.
Colorado State – under 5.5 (-110) – 2*
The Rams have been pretty good under Mike Bobo after Jim McElwain built the program up, but 2017 was a letdown and now they only return nine starters. Unfortunately, Bobo is also going through some health troubles right now that are keeping him away from his team during training camp. Obviously a crucial time for him to be there while they try to get an inexperienced group ready for a difficult September.
New Mexico – under 4 (-115) – 1*
Bob Davie had a good couple of years in ’15 and ’16, but it’s all going to hell if you’ve read anything about the program the past 10 months.
Fresno State – over 8 (-110) – 2*
It’s hard to picture things going better for Fresno than they did last year. I obviously underrated quite the impact Jeff Tedford would have in Year One, but it was amplified by turnover luck and a lack of injuries.
But still, Tedford took them from a 1-11 team to 10-4, division, and bowl winners in one year. They return 15 starters and they’ve got a decent chance to knock off two Power 5 teams this year.
San Diego State – over 8.5 (-120) – 2*
The Aztecs have reached the level where it’s hard to bet the over on them because it’s so high every year. Last year was 9.5 (they hit the over, btw). Their offense will be really good again because they return all five starters on the OL and Juwan Washington is next in line of stud RBs for the Aztecs. The defense will be good because they return seven starters and they’re always good.
But you see road games against three times that will be very good: Stanford, Boise, and Fresno and figure that the ceiling is probably only 10 wins at the most. They’ve also got a home game with Arizona State.
UNLV – over 6 (-130) – 1*
The Rebels should have a potent offense. They’ve got a new DC, which should help things on that side of the ball, but I’m not confident enough to go all-in.
Nevada – under 5.5 (+105) – 1*
The Pack made a lot of strides in the last seven games last year, but at the end of the day, the three teams they beat were a combined 10-27 and all of those wins came at home. They played a tough schedule, but I need to see another year of Jay Norvell before I feel like I have a good read on the program.
San Jose State – under 2.5 (-110) – 2*
I think it’s too low of a total to actually bet on, but as I mentioned last year, this staff is unqualified for their jobs. More unqualified than I even thought. They had 7 starters back on O and dropped 9 PPG. They had 8 starters back on D and gave up 7 more PPG. True incompetence.
Hawaii – over 3.5 (-110) – 1*
Nick Rolovich actually seems like a decent coach, but they’ve been ravaged by attrition and it’s probably going to prevent them from a bowl again. Upside to this one is they have 13 games.
BEST BET TO WIN THE MOUNTAIN WEST
Utah State +1325
This should be a great year for the Mountain West as a whole because so many of the top teams have so many starters returning. Utah State is one of those top teams and they were only 6-7 last year, but they have a favorable schedule against the rest of the Top 5 compared to Boise and Wyoming in their division. They don’t have to play Fresno or SDSU. Wyoming also avoids SDSU, but they have to play Fresno on the road. Boise plays both, although both of those games are on the blue turf. The downside for the Aggies is they play both Boise and Wyoming on the road. However, another positive for USU is that Boise will be going to Wyoming for their head-to-head. Since Boise’s the better team, that’s favorable for a potential loss against the Broncos.
Got all that?