So I definitely woke this morning ready to write about Terrelle Pryor and the Supplemental Draft. I had some notes prepared, a pot of coffee ready, and was ready to mount my high-horse and rip Pryor to shreds (Ok, that last part about “mounting a high-horse,” might’ve sounded a little weird. My apologies. But you get the point, right?).
Then something weird happened. I looked myself and the mirror, looked at everything I’ve written recently, and said “screw it.” Within the past 10 days, I’ve written about changes to the NCAA rulebook, college football realignment with Texas A&M and the mess in Miami. For once, I didn’t want to write about the shady, shoddy, underbelly of college football. Instead, I wanted to write about something fun. It’s Friday, and I deserve to have some fun, don’t I?
So with that said, I decided to recycle a column I ran right around this time last year, about College Football Betting, and over/under win totals in specific (For those not who don’t know, over/under win totals are basically exactly what they sound like. Las Vegas sets a line on the number of wins they think a team will have at the end of the year, and then it’s your job to figure out if they’ll go “over” or “under” that total. So if Alabama’s over/under win total is “10,” for example, that means you’re either betting them to go over 10 wins, or under. Makes sense, right?).
Now I know that some of you who aren’t bettors might be saying, “Aaron, I don’t care about this crap, why are you wasting my time?” To which my first response is, “Wow, what’s with the negativity?” Again, relax. It’s Friday.
Beyond that though, even if you don't like to gamble, over/under win totals are actually a really good way to predict a team’s future success. Like everything else in Vegas (and in life really), if an over/under total looks too good to be true, than quite frankly it probably is.
Let me give you an example.
If you remember back to last year, Iowa entered the season as a near-unanimous Top 10 team. The Hawkeyes had finished the previous season with 11 wins and had big-time starters back on both sides of the ball. Some even listed them as a dark horse to win the BCS title. Yet Vegas only had their over/under win total at 8 ½. From the beginning something seemed fishy, and it was. Iowa went just 7-5 in the regular season, and was widely regarded as maybe the most disappointing team in college football last year.
So with that said, let’s take a look at a few of this year’s over/under win totals. But before we do, just one quick note: Please understand that there’s a pretty reasonable chance that you won’t see your team on this list. It isn’t that I don’t like or have interest in them, more that sometimes Vegas does such a good job in picking the over/under number, that I don’t find it necessary to talk about it. For example, both Oklahoma and Alabama are both listed as 10-win teams. That sounds about right, and really I don’t have any strong opinion about that number either way. If anything, I’d probably just stay away from both.
Anyway, with all that said, let’s get to this year’s picks (For the record, all this year's over/under win totals were provided by BetUS.com)
Nebraska UNDER 10 Wins: To me, this is the most can’t-miss, surefire bet on the board. I just don’t see how Nebraska gets to 10 wins this year.
Why? Let me count the ways.
For one, it’s never easy for a team entering a new conference to rack up wins. Period. There are too many new variables that need to be taken into account: There are new opponents, a new slate of coaches and their tendencies, new road venues, etc. And while everyone is dealing with one “new,” everything (Nebraska), the Cornhuskers are dealing with a conference full of it.
Then we’ve got factor in their schedule, which, in and of itself is brutal. Did you know that of the eight conference foes Nebraska plays, seven played in bowl games last year? Included on that schedule are road trips to Wisconsin (at night none the less), Happy Valley and the Big House…only three of the toughest venues in all of college football. To which I ask, what the hell did Nebraska do to piss everyone off in the Big Ten office? Was it Bo Pelini? He definitely said something he shouldn’t have, right?
And finally, there’s Nebraska’s personnel; quarterback Taylor Martinez in specific. Honestly, does anyone think this guy can stay healthy? Looking back to last year, by the time November hit, the guy had more bumps, bruises, nicks and cuts than Forrest Gump’s platoon in Vietnam. Now, going against better defenses (Last year the Cornhuskers faced a grand total of one team that finished in the Top 35 in total defense, Texas. This year, they’ll be facing four, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State), we’re to believe he’s going to stay upright and unharmed? Please. You'll see Pelini walk the sidelines in a full suit before that happens. It also doesn’t help that beyond Martinez, Nebraska has next to no depth behind him; back-up Brion Carnes has zero career snaps under center, and freshman Bubba Starling just left campus to sign a pro baseball contract.
Add it all up, and Nebraska looks like a solid 9-3 team. But factoring in everything, do you see them getting to 10 wins? I don’t.
Southern Cal OVER 7 ½ Wins: I don’t think I’m rocking the boat when I say that to have a successful “over” win total bet, a team needs the right breaks with the schedule and plenty of talent (While I’m here, why don’t I also tell you the sun rises in the East and grass is green.). Well on both fronts, USC is looking good.
As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m by no means sold on anything in the Pac-12 this year (Well, I’m not sold on anything besides Darron Thomas ending up in the passenger seat of a car that gets pulled over in the next few weeks, anyway)
Starting with the Trojans schedule, it’s hard to find five losses. I’m not as high on Stanford as most, and even then, USC almost won on the Farm last year. Arizona State could beat USC under the right circumstances, but they’ve also got players dropping like flies and next to no experience at quarterback. A road game against Cal really won’t be a road game, since Memorial Field is currently under renovation and the Golden Bears are playing all their games in San Francisco (By the way, want to know the combined scores of the last two USC-Cal games? USC 78 Cal 17. Ouch). And I see no reason why games against rebuilding Washington, Arizona and Colorado can’t, or won’t go USC’s way.
Then there’s the talent.
Obviously, no one is arguing that the talent level is nowhere close to what it was three or four years ago. But at the same time, Matt Barkley is still a really good quarterback, and he’s got plenty of skill position talent around him. At wide receiver, Robert Woods may be the most underrated player in the country at the position, and former high school All-American Kyle Prater appears to be healthy after missing last year with an injury. Dillon Baxter seems to be finally have things out at running back, and another five-star guy named George Farmer is expected to contribute too. It’s one thing to have Barkley on your team. It’s quite another to have Barkley, with this much talent around him.
Yes the defense might struggle, but if this offense clicks like it’s capable of, eight wins seems reasonable. Take the over with the Trojans.
South Carolina UNDER 9 Wins: Understand that this pick has as much to do with the schedule as it does the talent on the field.
I mean, have you seen what South Carolina has to deal with this year? Forget a season-opening two games against a tougher-than-you-think East Carolina and a visit to Georgia a week later. Forget home dates with Florida and Clemson in two of the last three weeks of the season. How about a stretch of three straight road games at Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi State? As I said on my podcast Tuesday with Adam Kramer, that’s not just brutal, that’s practically cruel and unusual punishment.
Look, I like the Gamecocks, and think it’s incredible to see what Steve Spurrier has done to raise the talent level in Columbia. And while I think we’re looking at a team with 10 win talent, this looks an awful lot like an eight win schedule.
On the opposite side of things, there’s…
Georgia OVER 8 Wins: As I said a few weeks ago in my Top 25 preview, when it comes to the SEC East, give me the talent of South Carolina, but the schedule of Georgia.
Granted that based on the way the ‘Dawgs have played the last two years, there’s no reason to believe anyone on Georgia’s schedule is a guaranteed win (Everybody who watched last year’s Liberty Bowl is nodding their head in agreement right now). But just looking at their schedule, right off the top, there are six games where Georgia should be comfortable favorites: Coastal Carolina; at Ole Miss and Vandy; home games against New Mexico State and Kentucky (even though the Wildcats won between the Hedges two years ago); and a season finale at Georgia Tech, a team which will likely be so abysmal, that the word “abysmal,” is offended it was used in the same sentence as “Georgia Tech football.”
If Georgia wins those six games (and, if they don’t, than they’ve got bigger problems than worrying about an over/under win bet), that means they only have to go .500 in the following six games to reach nine wins: Against Boise State in Atlanta; South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn all at home; at Tennessee; and the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.
Considering that three of those games are at home (and a fourth is in Atlanta), considering that Georgia played Auburn tough last year, and considering that I don’t trust Florida any more than a woman would trust Tiger Woods if he were her husband, I think the ‘Dawgs get three wins out of those six.
If you disagree I understand. But I’m ridin’ with Richt.
Now, let’s get to a few that I’m not totally comfortable with, but like none the less…
Florida State OVER 10 Wins: I understand that with a 10 win total, I’m leaving myself little margin for error. I get it. But at the same time, look at that schedule. Look at it! The steak I cooked for dinner last night was tougher than what the Seminoles are going up against this fall.
Simply put, I think we’re looking at a situation where Florida State loses one of their last two games in September. Either they beat Oklahoma and have a letdown at Clemson the following Saturday, or lose to the Sooners and take it out on Clemson in Death Valley. But I do see the Seminoles losing no more than one of those games, and maybe neither. Beyond that, Florida State gets Maryland, NC State and (a depleted) Miami at home, and avoid Virginia Tech and North Carolina all together.
If they can get through a road game to close the season against Florida in the Swamp, you’ve got your 11 regular season wins right here.
Michigan State UNDER 7 Wins: When Adam I spoke on my podcast Tuesday, we agreed: This is absolutely the strangest number on the board. Given a few extra days to think about it though, it seems to me that the Spartans are this year’s Iowa. In other words, they’re the team that can’t possibly go under the win total….until they do, and you’re left scratching your head in mid-December, asking “how did this happen,” and looking through your couch cushions for loose change to pay for your Christmas gifts. Don’t worry, it’s happened to the best of us.
First things first, let’s be honest about the Spartans: Just about everything went right last year. Under different circumstances, and with a different break or bounce, Michigan State easily could’ve lost to Notre Dame (the fake field) and Northwestern (a wild fourth quarter rally). Now to their credit, the Spartans won those games. But will they be so lucky in 2011?
Don’t forget too that Michigan State’s biggest break last year was the schedule, and that this year, it’s much tougher. The Spartans didn’t have Ohio State or Nebraska to contend with last year, and get both this year. There is a return trip to Notre Dame, Wisconsin at home, and a schedule quirk that sees them travel to Iowa and Northwestern for a second year in a row. You may remember Iowa as the team that beat down Michigan State in Iowa City last year, and Northwestern should be much improved too.
In the end, I’m not saying that I would necessarily bet this number at all, as much as I’m just pointing out that’s it’s really fishy.
Does Vegas know something we don’t?
South Florida OVER 8 Wins: You know what I like more than Skip Holtz’s charming personality and 1,000-watt smile? Well, nothing really. But I do like South Florida’s schedule nearly as much.
The Bulls tough conference road games are early in the year at Pitt and UConn, when both will still be adjusting to new head coaches. South Florida’s only true cold weather road game (always a factor with a team from Tampa) is in November at Rutgers, which could very well be the worst team in the conference. Plus the Bulls get their last three games at home.
I like the Bulls over eight wins here a lot.
And finally, here are a few other teams who have interesting numbers, but are still probably “stay-aways,” none the less:
Oregon Over/Under 9 ½ Wins: I just don’t see three losses on this schedule. But given the offseason they had, and that this program has a recent history of their best players getting in trouble (Blount, Masoli, Harris), is it possible that the Ducks could be due for a violent downturn?
Florida Over/Under 8 Wins: I’m buying the combination of Muschamp and Weis. I’m selling the combination of Brantley and this schedule.
Eight wins seems just about right.
Baylor Over/Under 6 ½ Wins: I think Baylor is going to hit the over here. I just don’t know it.
Oklahoma State Over/Under 8 ½ Wins: Let’s do some simple math here, shall we:
A much tougher schedule + A quarterback old enough to qualify for Social Security – Dana Holgorsen= …. RUN THE OTHER WAYYYYYY!!!!!!
LSU Over/Under 9 ½ Wins: I love Les Miles about as much as one man can platonically love another (Call me coach!). But in a worst case scenario, the Bayou Bengals could have three losses by the end of September, before conference play is really even under way. It’s not likely to happen, but not totally impractical either.
If this isn’t the definition of "stay away," I don’t know what is.
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