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College Futures: Season Win Totals

College Futures: Season Win Totals

College Futures: Season Win Totals
by T.O. Whenham

I don't think that betting college team regular season win totals is as attractive as it is for the NFL. Teams play fewer games, which means that there is a tighter range of possible results, and many of those games are such mismatches that the outcome is practically predetermined. It's relatively rare in college football that a reasonably high profile team will differ by more than one or two wins or losses from the general consensus opinion heading into the season, whereas an NFL team can be dramatically better or worse than expected. All that being said, it's still a valuable exercise to take a look through the college win totals when they are posted to look for anything that might not make perfect sense, and could be an opportunity for some value. Here's a look at a few with some potential (totals are from Bodog):

Florida State (9.5) - A prevailing sentiment seems to be that the Seminoles have solved their problems of last year, when they were a disappointing 6-6 despite high expectations, by hiring Jimbo Fisher to run the offense and Rick Trickett to coach the offensive line. That should help, and Fisher surely can't do worse than Jeff Bowden did, but I still don't see how this team improves dramatically this year. Drew Weatherford still has to prove that he can play, and the ACC hasn't exactly dominated their opponents outside the conference. I see three games on the schedule that I expect them to lose (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Florida), and two more that I wouldn't favor them in at this point (Clemson and Wake Forest). That leaves them a long way from 10 wins. I like the under.

Michigan (10) - This one comes down to a total coin flip. Unless the team is somehow extremely disappointing they will start the season at 10-0. They have three straight reasonably challenging games over that stretch - Oregon, Notre Dame and Penn State - but all three are at home, and all of the opponents have some questions and are not up to the Michigan standard unless the Wolverines falter. That's where it gets interesting, though. The finish the season by traveling to Wisconsin and then hosting Ohio State. If they win one of those two games then they would go over the total. I think that it is worth a bet that they will win at least one. If I had to choose it would be Ohio State because Michigan will be hungry and I expect the Buckeyes to take a bit of a step back without Troy Smith. That means I like the over. At worst I think this ends up as a push, and there is nothing wrong with getting your money back.

Ohio State (9) - I know I just said that I expect Ohio State to take a step back, but I don't think it will be hard for them to get to 10 wins. It comes down to their schedule. Their first five wins - Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Northwestern and Minnesota - are virtually guaranteed wins. They will also almost certainly beat Kent State, Michigan State and Illinois. That leaves Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Unless they struggle mightily they have a good shot to go 2-2 and they will at least go 1-3 for the push. I like the over.

UCLA (9) - I will probably live to regret this, but I am going to believe in the Bruins this year. They have won 10 in a row at home, and they have the schedule - BYU, Washington, Notre Dame, Cal, ASU and Oregon - that should let them continue that streak as long as they play near their best. They haven't been nearly as good away from L.A., but they should be improved this year provided Ben Olson is healthy. Trips to Stanford, Washington State and Arizona should be successful. That gets them to the total of nine. USC is a very likely loss, but it is far from out of the question that they could beat either Utah or Oregon State to get their 10th win. Since I am probably going to regret picking UCLA anyway, I might as well go all the way - I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them head to their season finale against USC at 11-0.

Florida (9.5) - The public isn't very optimistic about the defending champs (the over is +150 while the under is -185), but I think there is solid value in the over at this price. Tim Tebow is essentially a new starter, but he has been working in the system for a year, and he is tailor-made for Urban Meyer. The schedule also makes it relatively easy for Tebow to get comfortable. The first two games against Western Kentucky and Troy will be good confidence boosters. Mississippi, Vanderbilt and FAU are also very likely wins. Auburn, who could have a challenging year, has to travel to Gainesville and certainly wouldn't be favored at this point. Florida also gets Tennessee and Florida State at home, so it is certainly within the realm of possibility that they win both. Kentucky has a chance to be decent, but Florida will be better and should win. That leaves one likely loss (LSU) and two winnable trips (Georgia in Jacksonville and South Carolina). Meyer overachieved last year in a huge way, and so I see value in not underestimating him this year. I like the over.

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