Wilson: Six Power 5 Win Total Openers Worth Considering
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Stanford running back Bryce Love
As most of the sports world focused on the Stanley Cup and NBA Playoffs on Wednesday night, one sportsbook released college football win totals for a large number of Power 5 teams. From a betting perspective, college football is truly back.
The limits currently sit at a maximum of only $100, but you can get down several times on a line you like — although the juice may move five cents in between wagers. Let’s examine a number of teams I took a stance on for the 2018-19 season.
I will go over four win total openers I played and two others that I am waiting for better numbers on. Remember, the public will eventually have its say, which can move a number in your favor.
2018-19 Win Totals I Played
Clemson Over 10.5 +110
I recently wrote about my love for the 2018 Tigers in the ACC Win Total piece. I mentioned that I didn’t want to add any Clemson exposure, but I can’t pass on this over at plus money. Clemson should be favored every step of the way, and I project 11.1 wins for Dabo’s boys.
Florida Over 7.5 -130
For those of you who read our March early season futures piece, you know we already have some Gators skin in the game with a 100-1 national championship future (Westgate). I want more after seeing this opener. I keep reviewing Florida’s schedule and I simply can’t find five losses, which means 8-4 is the worst-case scenario.
The big question for new head coach Dan Mullen this fall will be the quarterback position. Many anointed Emory Jones next in line before he even arrived on campus, but that sentiment might have been a little premature — especially after watching the spring game.
Dak Prescott… Nick Fitzgerald… Feleipe Franks looked like a different player under center in that game, even adding a fantastic 60-yard touchdown run.
I highly recommend getting in on Florida over 7.5 wins, which should eventually settle at 8. Stay tuned for a deeper dive into the SEC East once all conference odds get posted.
Stanford Under 9.5 -140
I seem to always find myself getting money down on the Trees every summer. I usually back Stanford with a division/conference future and/or a win total over. However, that won’t be the case this year.
I was shocked to see a 9.5 posted, as I have Stanford winning just a shade over seven games. My bearish projection most directly relates to how much the Cardinal will lose on defense. Don’t expect a repeat of 2017, when Stanford was +16 in turnover differential.
On the offensive end, health could be an issue. Running back Bryce Love returns for his final attempt at a Heisman, and quarterback K.J. Costello will come back under center. They are two of the most explosive players in college football, but both have injury concerns. Love dealt with injuries for a good chunk of last season, and Costello missed the spring game with a hip injury. Former walk-on Jack Richardson was actually the only healthy quarterback during the spring game. Stanford offered him a scholarship after his performance.
Finally, Stanford doesn’t have an easy path. According to ESPN FPI, the Cardinal have the 13th-toughest schedule in the nation. I simply do not see them winning on the road at Notre Dame or Washington. They will also be underdogs in an early season road conference test against a very offensively talented Oregon Ducks squad. If they lose those three games — which I think will happen — Stanford would need to sweep at home (and avoid a road upset) just to get to 10 wins. I don’t see it, especially since the Cardinal will play coin-flip home games against USC and Utah.
Baylor Over 5.5 -125
Baylor’s 2017 season was nothing short of a tire fire. Not only did the Bears almost rank dead last in Turnover Luck, it seemed like every turnover came in their opponent’s territory.
That said, they did show signs of life late in the season, nearly pulling off upsets against Oklahoma and West Virginia before routing Kansas. The Bears’ offense, which ranked 11th nationally in Passing Explosiveness (IsoPPP), had its moments. A lot of that talent will come back, as the Bears rank fourth in returning production for 2018.
I expect major improvement from head coach Matt Rhule, who enters his second year in Waco after plenty of success at Temple. In addition to the returning experience and turnover regression, Baylor should benefit from one of the highest Second-Order Win Totals of 2.1, which speaks to how unlucky it was last season.
Lastly, the schedule is favorable, as Baylor benefits from five home conference games and has to leave the state of Texas only three times. The Bears also play three teams on the back end of consecutive road games in Duke, TCU and Texas Tech. Also, they might catch Oklahoma State looking ahead to Bedlam when the Pokes visit Waco on Nov. 3.
Win Totals I Am Waiting On
LSU Under 6.5 +100
Super sharp opener that should draw plenty of action on a juiced over. If the public over money I anticipate does come indeed come in, I’m convinced that an 8 will eventually pop up at an offshore or Vegas book. If not, I will wait even longer and hit Miami +2.5 against LSU as one of the first plays of the season.
I am very low on the Tigers, who lose stability at quarterback and see their running back depart for the NFL. They also suffered a downgrade at offensive coordinator and lost a number of key defensive pieces.
Plus, their schedule includes four teams in the College Football Playoff discussion: Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Alabama. They also have a road trip to The Swamp and face four teams coming off bye weeks in Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Alabama and Arkansas. Keep your eyes peeled for props on Coach O, who might not make it to the Texas A&M game to end the season.
USC Under 7.5 +140
Yet another win total juiced heavily to the over, but I’m personally holding out for an 8 before I bet the under. My win projection for the Trojans this season came to 7.1, with a very low probability of winning nine games. The jury is still out on head coach Clay Helton, who now won’t have the benefit of Sam Darnold pushing away the critics. USC will also miss Ronald Jones III — a workhorse back who would touch the ball 30-plus times and control the clock.
Schedule-wise, USC goes to Stanford in Week 2 before a second straight road game against a Texas team that should be hungry to avenge a tough overtime loss at USC last season. It’s a down year for the Pac-12 South, but USC must travel to two of the most talented teams in the division in Arizona and Utah. Ultimately, I don’t think the Trojans even compete for the South Division in 2018 and should struggle to finish with eight wins.
Stats via Football Outsiders