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2018 CFB Season Win Totals: AAC East

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
Independents
MAC
Pac-12: North / South
ACC: Atlantic / Coastal

UCF – under 9.5 (-115) – 1*

I don’t think it’s much of a question that the Knights regress this season, it’s just how much. They lose Scott Frost and the rest of the staff. They bring in Josh Heupel, who was a good coordinator, but an unknown as the head man. They keep McKenzie Milton at QB, but lose two big playmakers in Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Akins at WR/TE. They also lose defensive studs Mike Hughes and Shaquem Griffin.

It wouldn’t be a shock if the Knights had another big year, but the defense still has quite a few holes and the new staff causes some concern. They also have to travel to Memphis, UNC, and USF this year and have some tough home games with FAU, Temple, Navy, and Pitt.

Temple – over 6.5 (-125) – 3*

Temple had somewhat of a disappointing season last year considering their recent success, but it was somewhat expected with a staff change. However, they showed a lot of improvement in the second half of the season and it’s easy to feel good about them heading into 2018.

The offense was a lot better with Frank Nutile at QB, who will be the starter this season. Their top five rushers are back, as well. They lose two of their top WRs, but production still may be better with Nutile under center.

Defensively, four of their top five tacklers are back and they also had a midseason uprising. They lose three starters in the secondary, but the secondary was a disappointment last year, so I don’t find it to be a huge deal. Rock Ya-Sin – a transfer with a great name from Presbyterian – should be a big help at CB.

The problem with the total is that the road schedule is pretty tough: Maryland, BC, Navy, UCF, Houston, and UConn (not as tough). But if they’re able to run the table against an easy schedule at home and beat UConn, that’s all you need. Generally, I just liked the direction they were heading at the end of Geoff Collins’ first year. They were +47 against the spread over the last five games of 2017.

USF – under 8 (-135) – 2*

On the day I’m writing this, I happened to watch the USF-UCF game from last year out of desperation for football, and it made it abundantly clear how big of a loss Quinton Flowers is going to be. He almost single-handedly beat a 13-0 team and very well could have if not for repeated mistakes by the rest of the Bulls.

It’s unclear who’s going to replace Flowers, but Blake Barnett seems to have a chance and I can’t think of anyone less like Flowers. Their top WR is gone, the top two RBs are gone, their top 3 tacklers are gone, and 75% of the starting D-Line is gone. Oh, and their good kicker is gone, which is kind of a big deal.

The schedule isn’t brutal, but it’s possible we see a 6-6 Bulls team with all the uncertainty.

Cincinnati – over 5 (-125) – 2*

Cinci feels like the epitome of 6-6 this year, but the schedule is such that a lot of their tougher opponents are at home and their weaker opponents are on the road. That’s always a tough one to pin down, especially when you’re dealing with a team that has the bulk of their talent in freshmen and sophomores.

The Hayden Moore-Kahlil Lewis combination should be a good one in the passing game, but there’s still a lot of question marks defensively. I think they’re 6-6, but there’s also a very real possibility that they lose a bunch of close games and go 3-9. Tough call.

East Carolina – under 3.5 (-130) – 4*

I don’t mean to be rude, but this team is dogshit. My favorite thing about reading Phil Steele’s magazine every year is his eternal optimism, but his thought that “this is (Scottie) Montgomery’s best team” is peak Steele. There’s nothing good about this team.

For starters, the coaching staff could never realize that Gardner Minshew was a better QB than Thomas Sirk. Major red flag. Sirk was bad and Minshew transferred after the year and is probably going to be QB1 for WASHINGTON STATE. Mike Leach typically pretty good with evaluating QBs. Their top two RBs are back, but they were terrible last year so who cares? Three of the top four receivers are gone.

Defensively, they gave up 45 PPG last year. This is Montgomery’s third year as HC. They had given up 25ish for the three years prior to his arrival. In his first year they gave up 36, then 45, now we turn to this year where they lose their top two tacklers (by a lot).

Now, to the schedule. They open with North Carolina A&T, an FCS school. Supposed to be an easy win until you realize that the Aggies went 12-0 last year and the Pirates got waxed by James Madison in Week 1 last year. The only other winnable games are against ODU and UConn at home and then Tulane and Cinci on the road. The road games are only “winnable” in the sense that the spread might be less than 14. ODU returns 16 starters and has a good coach and will likely be favored in the game. If ECU wins four games, I’ll eat my hat. Team stinks.

UConn – over 3 (-135) – 1*

They return almost nothing defensively, but I’ll take the over out of respect for Randy Edsall. Shoutout to Bob Diaco and Paul Pasqualoni for wrecking the program.

 

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2018 CFB Season Win Totals: ACC Coastal

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
Independents
MAC
Pac-12: North / South
ACC: Atlantic

Miami – over 9.5 (-115) – 1*

I don’t have a ton of strong feelings on Miami, but they just scream 10-2 to me. Mark Richt is still the coach, after all. They return 14 starters. There’s plenty of skill, Malik Rosier is fine, their top five tacklers are back. They’ll probably have a very good defense and force a bunch of turnovers again. It all sounds good and looks good and they’ll probably at least win this division, but I don’t think they’re quite ready to be a serious national title contender yet.

North Carolina – under 5.5 (+125) – 3*

One of the big reasons to feel good about the Heels this year was their injury troubles of last season. The law of averages would indicate that they’re due for much better health this season and therefore, a likely better record.

Kind of negates the good feelings when 13 dudes get suspended, including nine of them for the first four games. Included in those nine: the likely starting QB, their two best returning pass rushers (which was already a weakness), a WR who scored three TDs last year, and two OL from the two-deep when the OL was already the biggest concern of the offense.

About those first four games: they’re pretty important. They start with a road game at Cal, road game at ECU, UCF, and Pitt. Getting out of that 2-2 was probably the hope/expectation, now you just hope to avoid disaster and go 1-3. After that, they’re almost assuredly losing at Miami, regardless of who’s playing. If they’re 1-4 or possibly 0-5 heading into the bye week, it’s all over and that might be the end of Larry Fedora.

Duke – over 6 (-135) – 3*

Duke Football was basically a pile of garbage from the early 60’s until David Cutcliffe took over in 2008, aside from a three-year stint in the late 80’s when the HBC won an ACC title. It was a slow burn for Cutcliffe – the Devils didn’t make a bowl until Year 5 – but since then they’ve made five bowls in the last six years. This year, he’s got 15 starters coming back from a 7-6 team.

The defense has a ton returning and really should be a Top 25 squad this year. 7 of the top 8 receivers are back and they’ll have quality depth at RB. The O-Line has only two starters returning, but Cutcliffe always rotates there so he still has plenty of experience to work with. Traditionally, they’re excellent in pass protection in Durham.

But the real reason to ride with the Devils this year is QB Daniel Jones. Jones is now a junior, having started since Day 1 on campus. Cutcliffe makes essentially everyone who takes snaps for him a good QB and Jones now has 25 starts under his belt. With Jones’ experience and a trio of senior WRS, it should be a great year for the Duke offense.

The schedule is strong this year, but I’ll put my faith in Cutcliffe to to get this team back to another bowl and score a big upset along the way.

Virginia Tech – under 8 (-115) – 2*

They lose four pros from the defense, including the Brothers Edmunds that both went in the first round. There’s just not a lot of production returning on that side of the ball and it will be legend Bud Foster’s biggest job in a while. The offense should improve, but it’s tough to anticipate how much with the loss of stud receiver Cam Phillips. Phillips was the leading receiver by 32 catches and 510 yards over the next closest guy. The schedule is fairly soft, however.

Georgia Tech – under 6 (-105) – 1*

Not a ton coming back on defense – including an entirely new starting secondary – and one of the toughest schedules in the country. TaQuon Marshall still has some things to prove in the option game and definitely a lot to prove throwing the ball. It’s not going to help that Ricky Jeune is gone at WR, who caught 58% of the passes last year.

Pitt – over 5 (-140) – 3*

The offense fell off the planet last year after the loss of QB Nathan Peterman, RB James Conner, and OC Matt Canada. That was to be expected, but they did find out that true frosh QB Kenny Pickett might be the future at the end of ’17. Pickett entered at the end of the VT game (in Blacksburg) and nearly pulled the upset. In his first start, he was INT free in taking down 10-0 Miami. Pretty impressive. This year, he’ll take the reins and be backed up by former stud recruit Ricky Town (previously USC and Arkansas). The top two RBs are back, as are three of the top four WRs.

Defensively, they return nine starters, including the entire front seven. They return 16 of the top 19 tacklers and should be the closest thing Pitt has had to an MSU Narduzzi defense. If they’re able to generate more of a pass rush this season, the Panthers could be looking at a Top 30 group nationally.

The schedule is tough, but Pitt has slayed a giant in each of the last two years and will have a few chances this season. Penn State is on upset alert in Week 2.

Virginia – under 5 (-135) – 1*

Maybe my favorite quote of the offseason was Bronco Mendenhall telling the media that he thought the Hoos only had 27 ACC-caliber players on the roster. Reasons I loved it:

  • Teams are granted 85 scholarships, which means Mendenhall thinks only 32% of his players are capable of playing in their conference
  • Such a savage move to disrespect 68% of your players
  • It’s quite an exaggeration. They’re not THAT bad.
  • BRONCO MENDENHALL IS IN HIS THIRD YEAR WHICH MEANS HE’S RESPONSIBLE FOR RECRUITING THE MAJORITY OF THE ROSTER AND IT’S ALMOST ENTIRELY HIS FAULT IF HIS ROSTER IS THAT BAD

With that said, he would know better than me, so I’ll take his word for it. Under.

BEST BET TO WIN ACC

Florida State +925

The ACC is largely a conference full of mediocrity, which isn’t necessarily an insult. There’s like 12 or 13 teams capable of beating anyone else in the conference. But I think there’s only three teams legitimately capable of winning the league. Clemson, Miami, and Florida State. Obviously, I’m high on the Seminoles. They have the potential to get back to that 2012-14 range this year and I’ll go out on a limb and say they only lose one ACC game this year. If that game is not to Clemson (who they play in Tallahassee), they’ll win the division.

 

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: ACC Atlantic

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
Independents
MAC
Pac-12: North / South

Clemson – over 11 (-110) – 1*

Clemson will be insane.

Florida State – over 8 (-125) – 4*

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh boy. I can’t contain myself here. I feel like I’m always over on the Noles, but they did win at least 8 in every year of the Jimbo Fisher era except the last one, which was an unmitigated disaster. But there’s also the part of me that just thinks about the Doak. Specifically night games at the Doak. Osceola riding in on Renegade and planting the burning spear in the ground. Bobby Bowden and those stupid glasses he was wearing for the last decade of his career. Jameis looking bewildered at all times, yet dropping 50 on everybody. Jenn Sterger, obviously.

But there’s a touch of analysis in here too. For one, I really like Willie Taggart, which is a big reason I was high on Oregon last year. He had it going in Eugene before losing Justin Herbert. Speaking of QBs, Deondre Francois is back this year and due to their Oregon-like situation last year, James Blackman will provide an experienced backup this year. Francois will be terrific in Taggart/OC Walt Bell’s offense. Cam Akers is back at RB after posting 1,000 yards as a true freshman. Nyqwan Murray and a bevy of other talented WRs will make a ton of plays. The O-Line returns four starters and is among the best in the country.

The defense only returns four starters, which isn’t great, but the last time the Noles returned four starters on D they only gave up 12 PPG, went 14-0, and won the NC. That really has nothing to do with this year, but of the 11 guys slated to start this year, here’s where they rated at their position coming out of high school: 1, 1, 5, 6, 9, 15, 20, 21, 22, 24, 35. To put that in perspective, BC is slated to have a Top 30 defense and 35 is their highest ranked guy on their entire defense.

Defense was far from the issue last year, as the Noles only gave up 21 PPG. With Harlon Burnett coming over from Michigan State, it’s natural to feel that FSU will at a minimum have a Top 20-25 D this year.

Not to be discounted, FSU also has a Top 10 special teams unit.

The schedule is challenging, but again, I don’t think there’s a team on the schedule more talented than the Noles. The three games that stick out: @ Miami, Clemson, @ Notre Dame. To be honest, the only real gimme is Samford at home. I think there’s a chance they push here, but it’s hard for me to envision things totally falling apart again.

Boston College – under 6.5 (+120) – 1*

The Eagles seem to be a trendy pick and I think their defense will be really good again, but I’m still not totally sold on the offense. AJ Dillon is awesome and so is the OL, but is it enough? I’m sure Anthony Brown will get better, but I’m not as high on him as the consensus seems to be. He was pretty inefficient as a passer last year. He was a true freshman, but I think we sometimes assume QBs will progress just because they age. Scot Loeffler doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for me as an OC, given his below average offenses at VT and his abysmal offense at Auburn. If Dillon misses any time, this offense is falling off a cliff. There’s nothing proven behind him.

Louisville – under 7 (-105) – 1*

I don’t think the offense will totally take a nosedive post-Lamar, but it’ll probably regress by a TD or so. My real concern is that the defense is going to continue to slide into “legitimately bad” territory with only four starters returning and Brian VanGorder taking over at DC. The Cards are probably going to get smashed twice (Bama and Clemson), but they’ve probably got a pretty good chance in the rest of them.

NC State – under 7.5 (-115) – 2*

Ryan Finley and a good WR corps is back and that’s nice, but what else do they have that’s proven? Finley loses RB Nyheim Hines and HSV (human safety valve) Jaylen Samuels. Samuels was the go-to guy in a lot of situations. He played H-back, running for 12 TDs (mostly near the goal line) and he led the team in receptions with 76. Hines ran for 1,100 yards and 12 TDs as well. Finley is certainly good at advancing the ball, but still only has 35 passing TDs in 26 starts. For perspective, Finley was 10th in passing attempts last year, but tied for 50th in passing TDs. I think it’s a legitimate question whether they will be able to finish drives in the redzone this year given Finley’s history and the loss of Samuels and Hines.

Defensively, they only return three starters and they’re all DBs. Their D-Line has to replace four NFL draft picks. That’s extremely difficult to do at a place like NC State where you don’t have a bunch of big-time recruits waiting in the wings.

Wake Forest – under 6.5 (-130) – 1*

Dave Clawson might be the most underrated HC in CFB, but he loses the most underrated QB in CFB last year in Johnny The Wolf. Wolford was incredible last year. He had a QB rating of 158.0, completed 64% of his passes, threw for 29 TDs, only had 6 INTs, was the Deacs second leading rusher, and added 10 rushing TDs. They wouldn’t have matched that production even if projected starter Kendall Hinton didn’t get suspended for the first three games.

The defense was pretty average last year and now they lose some of their biggest playmakers in the front seven.

Syracuse – under 5.5 (-120) – 2*

It’s hard to feel great about the Orange when there’s nothing encouraging about the defense. They’ve had zero pass rush the past couple of years and, outside of Alton Robinson, there’s no one that has produced anything or has the pedigree to suggest they will. Chris Slayton did a couple of years ago, but I don’t think it’s good practice to rely upon your DTs to actually get sacks.

The offense will have its moments, but it’s hard to put a lot of faith in Eric Dungey actually staying healthy. That’s not meant to be a dig at Dungey, but it’s been the reality for a few years now. Not only is he expected to throw the ball all over the field, but he was the leading rusher a year ago and had more rushing TDs than everyone else on the team combined.

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Pac-12 South

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
Independents
MAC
Pac-12: North

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

Utah +1900

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.

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Pac-12 North

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
Independents
MAC

Washington – over 10 (-130) – 1*

Alabama is probably the only team I’d ever consider actually betting over a double digit win total, but the Huskies are close. They return 17 starters, they’ve got the best QB/RB duo in the country, and their defense is going to be insane.

With that said, they start with a de facto road game with Auburn to start the year in Atlanta. If they drop that, there’s no room for error. In conference they have road tilts with Utah, Oregon, UCLA, Cal, and Wazzu. None of those teams are close to as good as the Huskies, but all five are capable of stealing one at home. They’ll also get Stanford at home.

Stanford – over 8.5 (-115) – 2*

I think the perception of Stanford is that they’re “boring”, a consistently great defense full of smart kids that happened to land a couple of exceptional running backs over the last few years. They’ve got the potential to change that narrative this year. It pretty much all depends on KJ Costello. If Costello builds upon the end of last season, this offense can be explosive. Everyone knows about Bryce Love at RB, but the receiving corps are one of the most talented in the country. Their TE duo of Kaden Smith and Colby Parkinson have been two of the most highly-regarded recruits at their position in the past few years. Combine all that with one of the elite offensive lines in the nation.

The slight regression defensively last season was surprising. And just based on losing three draft picks on that side of the ball, you might expect the slide to continue. But I think you have to maintain confidence in the program to keep playing at a high level, like they’ve done year-after-year. Their “regression” was still only to 22 PPG and if they can even just maintain that level, they’ll be a better team overall with an expected uptick in offensive production.

The problem with all of this is that their schedule isn’t very forgiving. They have road games with UW, ND, and Oregon among others. They’ve also got USC at home in Week 2.

Oregon – over 8.5 (-130) – 1*

I was ready to tee off again on the Ducks after last year’s disappointment with Justin Herbert getting hurt. But wow, that’s a high number. The schedule isn’t overly difficult with only two Top 25 opponents (UW and Stanford) on it and both coming to Eugene, but there are quite a few road games against decent teams. And, yeah, Herbert’s injury still lingers in the back of my head. Royce Freeman is also gone and I’m not sure they can match that production.

Although Willie Taggart bailed, I like that Cristobal moved up from co-OC, Marcus Arroyo went from co-OC to the lone OC, and Jim Leavitt also stayed at DC. I’ll still lean over here, but can’t bet the farm this year.

Cal – under 6.5 (-125) – 1*

I think Justin Wilcox is going to be a really good coach and that was evident in Year 1 when his and Tim DeRuyter’s defense improved by two touchdowns a game. Unfortunately, the offense went the other way. The O has 10 starters coming back this year, but they’re going to have to improve quite a bit to survive a schedule with only one gimme and a couple of scheduled losses.

Washington State – under 6 (-115) – 1*

Mike Leach is Mr. 8-4, but outside of that level of consistency, there’s not a lot to grab on to in Pullman this year. Leach always seems to get production out of his offense, but it’ll be a challenge this year after losing his Top 2 QBs, his top RB, and his Top 2 WRs. Only two starters return on the O-Line.

Defensively, they were pretty good last year, but a big reason was QB pressure and 17 sacks are out the door with the losses of Hercules and Frankie Luvu. DC Alex Grinch left for Ohio State. Tracy Claeys takes over that role and he’s had some good defenses at Minnesota, but the talent that steps into starting roles this year suggests it might take some time.

And, quite frankly, there’s some weird vibes in Pullman. Obviously, it started with the incredibly sad loss of Tyler Hilinski and continued with Leach’s Twitter account throughout the summer.

Oregon State – over 2.5 (+130) – 1*

Live to take flyers on terrible teams with a low total. If we don’t get Southern Utah, we’re screwed. I will remind you that the Beavs nearly beat Colorado and Stanford at home last year. In the words of Casey Jacobsen, “Nobody wants to play in Corvallis!”

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: MAC

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
Independents

WEST

Northern Illinois – over 6.5 (-115) – 1*

The Husky D has a lot to like with a couple of talented Power 5 transfers, Sutton Smith (14 sacks last year), and one of the best D-Lines in the Group of 5. They’ve got a good chance to rack up wins in the MAC, but the non-con is brutal: @ Iowa, Utah, @ Florida State, and @ BYU.

Toledo – over 8 (-110) – 2*

The loss of Logan Woodside is obvious, but my take is…it’s not that big of a deal. They’ve got plenty of QB talent waiting in the wings and their WRs are among the best in the country. They’ll pile up points like they always do. The Rockets haven’t missed a bowl game since 2009. Jason Candle will have a big job next year.

Western Michigan – under 6.5 (-115) – 1*

The Broncos had a ton of injuries last year and went 6-6. The jury is still out on whether Tim Lester can maintain the success PJ Fleck created. Their schedule is a total wildcard.

Eastern Michigan – over 5.5 (-125) – 1*

It’s another wildcard schedule once again for the Eagles. You might remember them playing nine games decided by a single possession last year, losing six of them (all in a row). The law of averages says they’ll end up on the happier side of that this year.

Ball State – under 4 (-125) – 1*

The Cards should be healthier this year, but they’re probably only better than two teams on the schedule. Big year for HC Mike Neu, who’s 1-15 in MAC games so far.

Central Michigan – over 4.5 (+120) – 3*

Last year I made a 3* bet on the Chips to go over 6.5 at +145 and they started 3-4. Did we panic? No, not for a second. You know why? Because John Bonamego wins football games. The Chips finished 5-0 (underdog in three of them) and we took the over going away.

It’s insulting that some are predicting the Chips to finish last in the West. Even beneath those bums in Muncie. I don’t care that they only have 10 starters coming back. Bonamego is back. Johnathan Ward is back. Mike Danna and Nate Brisson-Fast are going to be studs on the D-Line. Tony Poljan is a 6’7″ renaissance man of offense at QB. They’re going 6-0 at home. #FireUpChips

EAST

Ohio – over 8.5 (+110) – 2*

Eight starters coming back from Frank Solich’s best offense by far in his ridiculously consistent tenure in Athens. The defense has only four coming back, but they’ve given up between 22-28 PPG for years now. They don’t face a team better than them on the schedule…but there’s enough that are close.

Miami (OH) – under 6.5 (-130) – 1*

This should be Chuck Martin’s best team, but the Redhawks have shown a penchant for losing close games in his tenure.

Buffalo – over 6.5 (-140) – 3*

Love the Bulls this year, but hate the juice and it’s a tough road schedule. I’m optimistic about every team they play on the road except for Bowling Green. They return eight starters from an offense that made a huge jump last year. Defensively, they’ve got Khalil Hodge back at LB, who might be the the best defender in the MAC.

Akron – over 4.5 (+130) – 1*

A lot of question marks on offense, but a lot coming back from a decent defense last year and should carry them to at least 5-7. The Zips have won at least five since Terry Bowden’s first year, which was Year Zero in Fleck lingo.

Bowling Green – under 4.5 (-120) – 1*

The offense should take a step this year, but the defense is still garbage and it’s a lot to ask Carl Pelini to fix it in a year.

Kent State – under 2.5 (-130) – 1*

The team is terrible, but best of luck to Sean Lewis in his first year. He’s trying to bring Dino Babers’ high octane offense, which tends to take a little while when you have bad players.

BEST BET TO WIN MAC

Buffalo +1150

They have a tough road schedule ahead of them, but if they’re as good as I think they can be, they’ll have a real chance to win the East. There’s no real discernible advantage for them in terms of where games are located against Ohio and Miami, or advantages over those two when it comes to playing the West, or QB advantage because they’re basically all equal in those categories. Which means they’re not at a disadvantage in any of those areas and yet you can get them at a much better price.

 

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Independents

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

Notre Dame – under 9 (+120) – 1*

The Irish came through for me last year and they return 15 starters this year. There’s two real red flags this year: a brutal schedule (again) and the loss of Mike Elko. Elko was in his first year as DC last year and guided the best defense the Irish have had since they qualified to get destroyed by Alabama in the national championship. He moved on to Texas A&M and Brian Kelly promoted Clark Lea from LB coach. Lea’s never been a DC, so that causes some concern. Elko was one of the biggest reasons I was on the Irish bandwagon in ’17.

I’m also not sure if you’ll see much growth offensively. It’s unclear if Brandon Wimbush can really pass yet, Josh Adams went to the NFL, three of the top five pass catchers are gone, and they lost two Top 10 NFL Draft picks from the OL.

ND plays another loaded schedule. It’s not quite last year’s, but it still includes five teams projected in the Top 21 of the S&P+. On top of that, there’s road games with Northwestern and Wake Forest.

Army – over 7.5 (even) – 1*

Just take the over. Support the troops. There’s not a lot coming back offensively, but they’ll at least be average-ish. Defensively, they return eight starters and will likely only give up around 20 per game. When in doubt, bet the over on service academies.

New Mexico State – over 6 (+115) – 1*

Kind of surprised by the numbers here. Doug Martin can clearly coach and he’s got 15 starters back from a bowl team and they face the nation’s worst (easiest) schedule. Admittedly it’s historically a bad program, but the biggest reason for the uptick last year was the defense and they return nine starters. The offense does lose their top playmakers, but they return all five on the OL.

BYU – under 5.5 (+110) – 1*

I figured the total would be firmly set at six, but I’m still taking the under and here’s why:

  • Tanner Mangum has regressed…a lot
  • They face a rugged road schedule: Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, Boise, UMass, and Utah
  • Toss-up games at home: Cal, Utah State, Northern Illinois
  • It’s unclear if Kalani Sitake is actually a good HC

UMass – over 5.5 (-120) – 3*

I don’t like to pat myself on the back, but this pick takes serious guts. Not all men have the cojones to put money on the line for a program to reach its first bowl game in 46 years. But I’m putting my faith in the hands of the best QB you know nothing about: Andrew Ford.

Ford guided the Minutemen offense to 30.6 PPG last year, more than a TD better than the year before. He had 22 passing TDs, compared to just 4 INTs. And his top WR is back in Andy Isabella. As is Marquis Young at RB, who averaged 5.4 YPC. They also only lose a guard from the starting O-Line, so you’d think they have to improve on the 46(!) sacks they gave up last year (45 in ’16).

Defensively, it could be better, but they haven’t been good in years. If they just maintain from a year ago, they’ll still be plus points when you factor in the offense’s likely progression.

You’ll likely know the outcome to their season based on how they perform before October even hits. UMass has a weird schedule where they play six games before September is over. And in September, they have road games with potential victories against Georgia Southern, FIU, and Ohio. They really only need to win one of those, but if they get shutout, they need to go 2-1 in the following: USF, BYU, @ UConn. They’ve got the potential to win 8 or 9 games this year.

Liberty – ?

Couldn’t find a total anywhere on the Flames. This is their first year transitioning to FBS. I guess you can’t bet on them, but they will play a factor in quite a few totals for C-USA, Sun Belt, MW, and Independent teams (they play NMSU twice). If you were wondering what happened to Turner Gill after he ruined everything Mark Mangino (very dear to my heart) worked for at Kansas, he’s been supremely mediocre in Lynchburg for six years now.

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: SEC East

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

SEC – EAST

Georgia – under 10.5 (-105) – 1*

Quite a few conflicting things with the Dawgs this year, which I’m just going to bullet point:

  • Their schedule is one of the easiest Power 5 schedules
  • They’re losing some of their most influential defenders, including Roquan Smith, who was one of the best college LBs of the past 10, 20 years
  • The majority of their offense is back
  • Although Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are not. Chances are the run game is still very good, but probably not the same elite level as a year ago.
  • Jake Fromm will most likely be one of the best QBs in the country
  • Their Yards Per Point numbers suggest they’re going to score less points and give up more points this year, which is generally bad

Florida – over 8 (+110) – 3*

Two big things to like: Dan Mullen and the schedule. No coach overachieves more regularly than Mullen. He’s previously done that at MSU, so I’m excited to see how well he does with a more gifted roster.

The schedule is even worse than Georgia’s. They play their usual non-con game against FSU (on the road this year), but otherwise their toughest game is Colorado State at home. They avoid Alabama and Auburn out of the West.

They have 19 starters coming back. The YPP numbers from a year ago, returning their best guys, and Todd Grantham running the show are all signs pointing toward a return to typical Gator form on defense.

The offense is a little more questionable, but returning all five offensive line starters is a great place to start. There’s unproven production at the skill positions, but they certainly don’t lack in talent and I think you have to put a lot of faith in Mullen, who guided productive offenses in the SEC with far less talent. It’s unclear who will run the show behind the center, but Emory Jones was a big-time recruit and a guy whose skillset is a perfect fit for Mullen’s offense. (Note: Well, maybe it won’t be Emory.)

South Carolina – over 7 (-130) – 2*

There’s a lot to like about the skill positions for the Gamecocks. Jake Bentley was a highly recruited QB who has now started for a year and a half. Deebo Samuel and Rico Dowdle are back this year at WR and RB, respectively, after missing a large chunk of last season. The only skill guy they lost was TE Hayden Hurst, good enough to be a first round pick, but his production is matchable.

The D keeps getting better under Travaris Robinson, but they do lose some key players at all three levels. They’ll be solid, but by SEC standards, I’m not sure they overwhelm you.

Their first three games of non-con are fairly stress free, but then of course they have to go to Clemson at the end of the year. The great news for Will Muschamp is that they don’t have to play Alabama, Auburn, or Mississippi State from the West.

Missouri – under 7 (-110) – 1*

The personnel returning on the field for the Tiger offense would make you believe they’re going to be lighting up the scoreboards once again. However, Barry Odom hired Derek Dooley to be his OC. You may remember Dooley as the guy who inexplicably got the Tennessee job around a decade ago and was the worst HC in Knoxville of the past century. Also notable: he’s never been an OC. If there’s any way to screw up Drew Lock and eight other returning starters, that’s a good place to start.

The defense returns seven starters. They were horrendous to start the year in 2017, suddenly had a five game stretch where they only gave up 16.6 ppg, but then finished the regular season by giving up 45 to Arkansas. I think the midseason “resurgence” was more a product of inept offenses than anything and I don’t have a ton of hope that they’ll be much better than the 31 ppg they’ve given up the past two years.

Kentucky – under 5.5 (-105) – 1*

It’s hard to feel good about the Wildcat offense. They’re essentially screwed if Benny Snell misses any time. Lynn Bowden is the other really talented skill guy, but he doesn’t have a defined place in the offense and I don’t know that he’s a big enough difference maker.

Defensively they’ve got eight starters returning, but the Cats have been solidly average for what feels like a century. That seems like it’s likely to happen again. The total seems about right with five road games and three loseable games at home.

Tennessee – under 5.5 (+110) – 3*

It doesn’t seem like the Vol offense can be as bad as they were a year ago, but there’s a pretty good chance Keller Chryst is playing QB. Chryst had a good record at Stanford, but as far as I know Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love will not be lining up behind him. RB Ty Chandler was a highly touted guy coming out of high school, but he’ll be running behind a young and unproven line.

Defensively, the Vols are fine. They return their top four tacklers, but lose quite a few guys who were disruptors in both the run and pass game. They were gashed for 40+ points on five occasions last season.

Obviously, the very public coaching search for the Vols ended with Jeremy Pruitt. He may be a good HC, but no one really knows. For me, he’s still most notable for appearing in MTV’s Two-A-Days, a tremendous show by the way. His coordinators might be fine, but both are most notable for being the guy under the guy, under the other guy.

Phil Steele puts Tennessee’s schedule as 54th in the nation. I’m not sure what formula he uses, but I would tend to disagree with that ranking. I’d urge anyone to find a tougher five game stretch than this: Florida, at Georgia, at Auburn, Alabama, and at South Carolina. The rest of the schedule is manageable, but with that stretch occurring in the middle of the season, it’s got the potential to break them heading into November.

Vanderbilt – over 4.5 (-110) – 1*

I don’t know. Maybe I just feel bad after profiting from their failures – and rooting so hard for it – last year. Kyle Shurmur’s good. They should go 3-1 in non-con and they draw Ole Miss and Arkansas out of the West.

BEST BET TO WIN SEC

Florida +1800

I waffled back and forth between the Gators and USC at +3000, but I’ve got more belief in Mullen to put a really quality offense on the field. I’d be surprised if they give up more than three touchdowns a game on defense. They don’t have to play Alabama or Auburn and they only have three true road games in SEC play this year and two of them are UT and Vandy.

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: SEC West

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

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.

 

2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Big Ten West

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

BIG TEN – WEST

Wisconsin – over 10 (-115) – 1*

The Badgers return nine starters from the most productive offense they’ve had since Melvin Gordon left Madison. And it seems fairly clear that’s a result of getting another stud RB in Jonathan Taylor, a favorite for the Heisman this year. Phil Steele didn’t rank Wisconsin’s QBs among the Top 55 and that’s outrageous. I’m not the biggest Hornibrook guy, but go find me 55 other guys who could’ve hung 258 yards and 4 TDs (0 INTs) on Miami in the freaking Orange Bowl.

Hornibrook loses TE Troy Fumagalli to the NFL, but I’m pretty sure Wisconsin just grows NFL tight ends in some lab up there. They also return all five starting O-Linemen and they’re all monsters and four of them are potential/likely first rounders next year. It’s honestly disgusting.

The defensive backs need to be rebuilt, but there’s really no reason to worry. The Badgers are good defensively every year and will give up somewhere between 14 and 20 points per game.

The schedule is good and bad. The good news for the Badgers: they’ll be favored to win all of their non-conference games by at least 21 points. The bad news: they have road games at Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa, and Purdue. Obviously you don’t count them out of any of those and they’ll probably actually be favorites in those last three.

Iowa – over 7.5 (even) – 3*

There’s definitely some questions that stick out with the Hawkeyes this year. They lose 1,100 yard back Akrum Wadley. They lose AA and Big 10 DPOY Josey Jewell and their other two starting linebackers. They lose Josh Jackson, who had 8 INTs last year. Their offensive line isn’t expected to be very good, a staple position group of Iowa football.

On the other hand, their front and back four on defense are still Top 20-30 in the country. Nathan Stanley is probably the best QB they’ve had since Drew Tate.  Noah Fant is the best TE in the league. And, I might add, K Miguel Recinos is money.

More than anything this play is about track record. The Hawks have some big losses defensively, but history says that they’re still going to be pretty good. History also says that Iowa has one losing regular season since 2000.

The schedule has two elite teams on it (@ PSU, home for UW) and a lot of mediocre. They have four very winnable road games against Minnesota, IU, Purdue, and Illinois. They avoid OSU, MSU, and Michigan out of the East. Their non-con consists of NIU, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa at home.

Northwestern – over 6 (-110) – 2*

Wouldn’t suggest touching this when their still seems to be some uncertainty of how quickly Clayton Thorson will be ready to go. And he needs to be ready to go early. They start at Purdue, followed by home games with Duke and Akron, who won their MAC division last year. With how poorly the Cats have started recently, that’s a concerning stretch. They draw Michigan, @ MSU, @ Rutgers out of the East. And they’re also playing Notre Dame.

They do have a promising defense and Thorson is one of the best QBs in the league and that’s why I’d definitely lean over here. But if Thorson isn’t 100% early, things could get off the rails quickly.

Nebraska – under 6.5 (+110) – 3*

Scott Frost is the savior and he seemed to talk quite a big game at the Big Ten media days, but it’s still just his first year and he’s returning a 4-8 team that has a Top 10 most difficult schedule this year and their wins last year were against Arkansas State, Rutgers, Illinois, and Purdue.

Frost does have quite a duo to work with at WR in his offense with Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman returning. His running backs are decent, but are dependent upon a JUCO (you’ve seen Last Chance U, no?) and Tre Bryant, who was very productive last year, but only lasted two games.

Outside of that…it’s tough. They’re probably going to start a freshman at QB. They’re both very talented, but I wouldn’t have high hopes right away. The defense returns eight starters, but they gave up over 36 points a game last year. Frost and Co. did a lot right at UCF, but I wouldn’t say they built a stellar defense.

Again, the schedule is tough. Maybe it’s dangerous, but I’m just chalking them up to 0-5 on the road this year. Those five road games: Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa. They didn’t play Michigan last year, but they went 0-4 at home against the others and lost by an average of 28 points. Their home schedule: Akron, Colorado, Troy, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State. It’s not a murderer’s row, but only maybe Akron and Illinois are a walkover in that group. Do you feel confident a team that went 2-5 at home last year is going to run the table this year?

Minnesota – under 6 (-130) – 1*

I think they’re definitely winning two games and I think they’re definitely losing two games and I have no idea what’s happening with the other eight. Their defense will be solid, Rodney Smith will be good, their QB situation appears to be a bit of a disaster, and PJ Fleck will annoy the hell out of me. Really excited to not watch them play a lot of games that are 17-17 in the fourth.

Purdue – over 6 (+110) – 1*

The fact this total is set at six while Phil Steele has them facing the #2 most difficult schedule in the country is a testament to Jeff Brohm. The roster talent is still largely at a slightly above average Mountain West team level.

I would expect Purdue to make a jump offensively with nine starters returning in Brohm’s system and some dynamic playmakers added to the mix. Everything seems primed for Elijah Sindelar to control the QB job, but having David Blough on standby is a nice luxury.

Defensively they only return four starters. On the surface, that’s very problematic for a team that only gave up 20.5 PPG last year and doesn’t have a bunch of highly touted guys waiting in the wings. However, those same guys that gave up 20.5 also gave up 38.3 the year before Nick Holt got there. While I’m sure the defense won’t be quite as good, Holt’s guidance makes you think they’ll keep it respectable.

Illinois – under 4 (-140) – 3*

They went 2-10 last year. They averaged 15.4 PPG on offense and their starting QB this year couldn’t beat out Jeff George Jr. or Chayce Crouch last season. I don’t know what else to say.

According to Bill Connelly’s S&P+’s projections, the Illini’s highest percent chance at winning a game after Week 2 are 37% against Minnesota at home.

BEST BET TO WIN BIG TEN

Iowa +2700

Wisconsin’s the obvious favorite to come out of the West, but the schedule works well in the Hawkeyes’ favor. Iowa gets the head-to-head at home and they’re at least one team in the West who’s had a modicum of success against the Badgers recently. They also avoid three of the big four from the East, while UW has their five toughest conference opponents all on the road. You can take a stab at somebody out of the East, but there’s four Top 12 teams there and any of them could make the championship. The Badgers are the favorite in the West for a reason, but you can get the Hawkeyes at more than 10x the return.