2021 College Football Win Totals Odds & Picks: The Top Bet For Each Power 5 Conference
Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Dazz Newsome #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
What a wild 2020 football season. From dealing with COVID-19, to the unknown of what conferences were playing and when, but it all ended with Alabama putting on one of the most historically dominant seasons ever.
Let’s do it again, shall we? Here are my favorite win totals for each Power 5 conference.
The third season under Mack Brown’s reign is poised to be an interesting one. Posting an Offensive Success Rate of seventh last season, North Carolina goes into this one missing its top two running backs and a pair of stud receivers. The Tar Heels bring back quarterback Sam Howell who will look to build his case to win the Heisman.
Ranking top 10 nationally in Success Rate and Finishing Drives, Sam Howell will pick up more passing duties as he picks apart opposing defenses through the air. He led the league on completions of over 20 yards and will continue to press the attack this season.
The Tar Heels also return their whole offensive line which ranked 106th in Sack Rate, a number that hopefully improves with more experience. If they can give Howell more time, that would help combat his tendency to leave the pocket too quickly. Howell has tremendous vision and a powerful arm, a lethal combination that will wow everyone on his way to the Heisman.
While UNC has a formidable offense, the defense is still lackluster. It finished the season top 50 in Defensive Success Rate and 104th in Line Yards. With winning the division most likely coming down to the game against Miami, the Tar Heels defense will have to improve tackling in space.
UNC has a favorable schedule, avoiding Clemson until the potential showdown in the ACC championship. UNC catches a break with its toughest road game being at Notre Dame after its bye week. The Tar Heels also get Miami at home, a game that will go a long way in deciding who goes to the conference championship.
If they can avoid the coin-flip upset against Virginia Tech to start to the season, they will be in great position to go over this win total. Action Network projections has the number at 10.4, well above the listed 9.5.
Jim Harbaugh is back. Joe Milton is the savior. Michigan will win it all. Michigan disappoints. Repeat. Finishing 2-4 and 71st in Offensive Success Rate and 66th in Defensive Success Rate, it’s safe to say the Wolverines more than underwhelmed. This season will not be much different either.
Having an Offensive TARP of 78% and a Defensive TARP of 70%, we will see some similar faces on both sides of the ball, which is not the most ideal scenario when the defense last year finished 110th in Finishing Drives and 120th in Havoc. It was unable to stop a nosebleed.
On the offensive side of the ball, Michigan returns a dominant o-line that ranked top 20 in both Havoc Allowed and Sack Rate. This helps as the Wolverines currently have a question mark at quarterback.
Michigan named quarterback Cade McNamara the Week 1 starter over Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman. McNamara showed flashes of brilliance in the limited play he received last season.
With questions at quarterback and a returning underwhelming defense, Michigan is looking at another disappointing season. Will this be the end of Harbaugh? Only time will tell. They have a coin-flip game early on against Washington that will go a long way in deciding the win total.
If Michigan loses to Washington, that leaves it with Nebraska, Maryland, and Indiana as the remaining coin-flip games to win. Michigan will also need victories over Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Rutgers has greatly improved, and rivalry games are wild cards. Action Network has the projection set at 6.14, well under the listed 7.5.
TCU was a product of misfortune last season. It still went 6-4 and lost two of those games by a single score. The Horned Frogs ranked third in defensive Success Rate and fifth in Havoc. This bodes especially well when they bring back a Defensive TARP of 89% going into this season.
TCU will have a formidable defense going into the 2021 season, which is always a bonus in the offensive-minded Big 12. Led by an explosive pair at DE, they will look to suffocate and confuse offenses with a relentless pass rush.
If TCU can continue to bring havoc and slow down opposing offenses, the Horned Frogs will find themselves in prime position to win the coin-flip games and seal the over.
This will be the best defense that TCU has fielded in recent years, while also getting another season of Max Duggan at quarterback. He can burn you with both his arm and his feet. Last season he logged 526 yards on the ground on 116 attempts for 4.5 yards per carry.
He has a respectable passing game as well, logging 1,795 yards along with 10 TDs last season. With Duggan forcing defenses to spy and congest the middle, this could lead to more passing success.
TCU finds itself in good position to make it to the Big 12 championship game, with an end-of-season Iowa State game being the potential play-in game. Action Network has the Horned Frogs projected at 8.1 wins, showing value towards the win total of 7.5.
The key to winning an under is buying on a team that is going into the season with unrealistic expectations. Normally these teams are big-named, over-rate, and had a lucky finish to the previous season. This year, that team is Stanford.
Finishing last season with four wins by a combined 10 points, Stanford checks the box in the luck department. Lucky for us, people only see the wins and fail to dive deeper. This presents value to us as we project Stanford to drastically drop off.
Having an Offensive TARP of 43%, Stanford will have plenty of gaps to fill. Quarterback Davis Mills is gone and will be replaced by four-star recruit Tanner McKee. Stanford also needs to replace Drew Dalman and Foster Sarell on the offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, the defense brings back just 55% of TARP. It already was abysmal last season, ranking 119th in Havoc and 88th on Finishing Drives. The Cardinal lose Malik Antoine who led the team in pass break ups, a component in Def. Havoc.
Stanford needs to figure out the offense with its new leader, and most likely will still have a horrible defense. That's not a recipe for success.
Stanford does not have a single game against a Group of 5 program. We project Stanford at 1.12, making under 4 a strong play. You can also take 4.5 if you want some more security.
In a season full of uncertainty, it almost seemed underwhelming when Alabama was crowned the champions at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Nick Saban’s squad will undergo a whole rebuild on his quest for his seventh championship.
Alabama has one of the lowest offensive TARP percentages, but that is nothing new for the Tide. They bring in freshmen quarterback Bryce Young who is already one of the top choices for Heisman betting. They need to fill a few holes on the offensive line which will hurt last year’s second-place finish in rushing success rate.
On the defensive end, Alabama brings back a TARP percentage of 76%. Filled with a championship-experienced secondary, the defense will stay consistent as it was top 20 in Defensive Havoc. This will greatly help early in the season as the offense tries to find its footing.
Barring injuries, Alabama will be a double-digit favorite in nearly every game this year. The lone single-digit game should be a showdown against Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide start the season against a Miami team with an experienced QB. Projected as 12.5-point underdogs, Miami will have a shot to exploit any defensive holes while the offense tries to gel together in its first game with new pieces all over.
Another notable game that could trip them up is a date with the explosive offense of Ole Miss. Ranking 19th in offensive Success Rate last season, the Rebels look to take another step forward with Matt Corral under center. If they could take advantage of a sluggish Bama offense while also putting up points, then this is the loss we are looking for.
Alabama has never had back-to-back perfect seasons under Saban. I’m laying my money on the fact it doesn’t happen this year either. Our Action Network Projections have Alabama at 10.9 wins, giving some value at under 11.5.