It's game week, baby!!! That's right, Week 0 got the appetite wet, and now we've got wall-to-wall football basically from Thursday night to the early hours of next Tuesday morning coming.
The good news is, even with a few games already in the books, it's not too late to make some long-term futures bets on the college football season. Which is what I'm doing today: Dropping my five best over/under win total bets that are still on the board.
Now before we go further, one quick thing: These are our five best bets. Not the five most popular bets, or bets on the teams that we all want to watch the most. The bottom line is that there just isn’t much value in betting Alabama at over/under 11.5 wins or Georgia over/under 10.5 wins. Look, I’d love to bet those teams because you guys care about them more. But there just isn’t value there.
Meaning that most of the teams below are a bit off the radar coming into the season.
Here are five we like, with the lines coming to us from our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook:
Minnesota Golden Gophers - OVER 6.5 wins (-120)
What’s that, why yes, I’m going to open this article by rowing the boat straight to an over with PJ Fleck’s club.
Sorry, that last line made no sense, but I love this club. Remember, this was a team that won 11 games just two seasons ago before being ravaged by Covid last year. Their best player (Rashod Bateman) opted out of the season, then back in, then out again, and in one game they were missing close to 30 players because of positive tests. And despite all that, they still finished 3-4 overall with two losses coming by a combined four points. Also, their much maligned defense - which made Michigan look like the 2008 New England Patriots in the opener - was much better by the end of the year, giving up just 17 and 20 points in their final two games.
This year, the Gophers return 16 starters, play in the much weaker Big Ten West and don’t have to play Penn State or Michigan in cross-divisional games.
Do I think this team wins 11 games this season? I really don’t. But do I think they’re in line to comfortably go over the 6.5 wins here? It’s my favorite bet on the board.
Utah Utes - OVER 8.5 wins (-140)
And Utah is my second favorite bet on the board, for basically all the same reasons I loved Minnesota above. It was just two seasons ago they went 11-1 in the regular season and - had they won the Pac-12 title game - would have made the College Football Playoff (yes, that really happened). But they were forgotten last year after a season in which they played just five games total because of Covid. To their credit though, after a slow start, they won their final three games of the 2020 campaign.
Fast forward to 2021 and they return 18 total starters, including 10 on offense. The only new starter is at quarterback where Charlie Brewer is expected to take over, after transferring in from Baylor where he threw for over 9,000 yards in his career. The Utes also had the No. 2 defense in the Pac-12 last year despite losing nine starters from the year before. This year, they return eight for what should be the league’s best unit.
Add in the fact that Kyle Whittingham has won at least nine games in five of the last six full seasons, and this one is a no-brainer to me.
Virginia Tech Hokies - UNDER 7.5 wins (-175)
The bloom is officially off the Justin Fuente rose at Virginia Tech, where this team has gone from 10 wins his first year to 6-7, 8-5 and 5-6 in the last three.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is: This guy hasn’t gone over seven wins in the regular season since 2017 - now he’s magically going to have a turnaround this year? I don’t see it.
The offense was solid last year but basically lost everyone who made it successful, from 1,000 yard rusher Khalil Herbert to offensive tackle Christian Darrishaw (a first round pick) and two other starting o-linemen to transfer. Oh, and the defense was abysmal in the first year post Bud Foster - they ranked 103rd in total defense nationally.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the schedule is brutal: They host North Carolina on opening night and play at West Virginia and Notre Dame in the first five weeks of the season. Plus, four of their final six are on the road.
Truthfully, I think there’s a legitimate chance they start 2-3, Fuente is fired mid-season and the team quits by Thanksgiving. Even if that doesn’t happen, this team just isn’t equipped to win eight games.
Ole Miss Rebels - OVER 7.5 wins (-110)
It wouldn’t be a college football without some SEC flavor, but unfortunately I think most of the SEC over/under win totals are right on the mark. Well, except for this one.
Yes, I love the Lane Train.
For all the crap that Lane Kiffin gets, the fact that he got Ole Miss to 5-5 last year, against an all-SEC schedule is a minor miracle. That’s especially true when you consider that he put together one of the most potent offenses in the sport, and did it without any spring ball in 2020.
Well, can you imagine what the offense is going to look like this year with a full spring and summer together? Especially with eight starters back?
I also love how the schedule lines up, with a manageable out of conference schedule (Louisville, Austin Peay, Tulane and Liberty - a Hugh Freeze return game) and manageable cross-division SEC games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Yes, the defense needs some work. And yes, the SEC West is always a gauntlet. But I believe this is an eight-win team.
SMU Mustangs - OVER 6 wins (-120)
This is another one that just doesn’t make sense to me.
SMU went 7-3 last year in a Covid season, and return the bulk of their talent off of one of the most explosive offenses in college football. Yes, quarterback Shane Buechele is gone, but he’ll likely be replaced by another Big 12 transfer (Oklahoma’s Tanner Mordecai). The Mustangs however return the AAC’s leading rusher Ulysses Bentley IV (great name, by the way), its entire offensive line, top two receivers (including one that only played four games last year) and add three different Power 5 transfers at tight end.
Can you say points, and lots of ‘em?
And while the defense wasn’t great, they return a bunch of production for new offensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
Yes, the schedule is a little tough with games at Cincinnati and TCU, with a home game against UCF.
But 7-5 seems like an absolute worst case scenario for this team, with the possibility of eight or nine wins.
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