Stuckey’s 10 Favorite Group of 5 Win Totals and Futures
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Justin McMillan
The wait is almost over. We are ONE DAY away from live college football betting action.
Ahead of the start of the season, I thought I’d summarize my favorite preseason bets in each conference. Below you’ll find my 10 favorite Group of 5 futures, including five win totals and five futures.
Let’s get right into it in alphabetical conference order, starting with a 35-1 long shot in the American Athletic Conference.
I’m buying the upside of the Green Wave. The schedule isn’t easy — but if everything falls into place, this team could be one of the biggest Group of 5 surprises.
After going 5-1 as a starter last year, former LSU transfer Justin McMillan returns at quarterback. He will have a bevy of talented skill position players at his disposal.
That includes incoming grad transfer in wide receiver Jalen McCleskey, who arrived from Oklahoma State in order to join his father (former pro and current defensive backs coach). He’s a game-changer and will join Biletnikoff Award Watch List member Darnell Mooney to form a dynamic 1-2 punch on the outside.
Tulane also returns its entire backfield, and I’m a believer in new offensive coordinator Will Hall. He can help take this offense to the next level.
The Green Wave return an abundance of experience on defense. It starts with an outstanding defensive line, led by star defensive end Patrick Johnson, who was named to the Bednarik and Nagurski Watch Lists. Tulane returns its entire front seven on what could be a dynamite defense if the secondary comes around.
If the offensive line and secondary make positive strides, this team could shock the AAC.
I’m also going with Temple Over 6.5 Wins, primarily based on the discrepancy between our number (8.25 wins) and the posted win total. Despite the coaching turmoil in the offseason and new schemes on the way, there’s actually a lot to like about this Temple roster (and schedule).
I’m a huge fan of quarterback Anthony Russo, who will be protected by an outstanding offensive line. They have dangerous weapons at receiver, including Isaiah Wright, who is also lethal in the return game.
The defensive front seven should also be stingy, led by a superb group of experienced linebackers. There are some questions about the secondary but this defense should be firm.
Four of Temple’s first five games come at home (all winnable) with the sole road game at a rebuilding Buffalo. The Owls could easily start 5-0. The schedule is tougher on the backend but they do get UCF and Memphis at home and close with another home game against lowly UConn.
Favorite AAC Preseason Bets
- Tulane to Win Conference (35-1)
- Temple Over 6.5 Wins (-130)
I’ve covered Florida International at length on our podcast. This team brings a ton back on both sides of the ball. The Panthers bring back eight starters on both offense and defense — two units led by quarterback James Morgan and linebacker Sage Lewis, respectively. Lewis is one of the best defensive players in the conference. Also, Iowa transfer Josh Turner gaining eligibility will help immediately at cornerback.
The schedule is also very favorable. If they can pull out a tough win at Tulane in Week 1, it’s possible FIU starts 10-0 headed into a bye week before an intriguing matchup against Miami at Marlins Park.
Shop around and find the best number because you’ll find quite a few different prices on FIU to win the conference. I wouldn’t go any lower than +500.
I also don’t see any way Middle Tennessee gets to six wins, so I’m rolling with the under there.
Favorite CUSA Preseason Bets
- FIU to win Conference USA (+800)
- MTSU Under 5.5 Wins (-130)
Relative to normal MAC years, this looks like an extremely poor conference overall. There are a number of teams that lost a plethora of production and others that are just downright bad.
The worst of the “bad bunch” might be Akron, which has an extremely young roster and an entirely new coaching staff that will implement schemes that I don’t necessarily think will fit with quarterback Kato Nelson. The Zips will likely be underdogs in every game this season — and could be double-digit dogs in eight of their 12.
You also can’t go wrong with the Bowling Green under. The Falcons are dreadful, but I prefer the under with Akron, which will have to visit Bowling Green in one of the least anticipated matchups of the season.
One team I am high on (and there aren’t many) in the MAC is Ohio. The Bobcats did lose their starting running back (A.J Oulette) and best receiver (Papi White), as well as plenty of talent along the offensive line and on defense.
While the Ohio certainly had a lot of attrition, so did many other teams in the MAC, especially in Ohio’s very weak division where Miami Ohio and Buffalo are both resetting. And Akron, Bowling Green and Kent State just don’t have the talent to compete for a division title.
On the positive side, quarterback Nathan Rourke will return for his third year as a starter. He will be a steadying force under center.
This is a revenge tour season for Ohio, which lost a few games it should’ve won last year, namely Northern Illinois and Miami Ohio — both of which will have to travel to Ohio. The Bobcats also have a bye week before a road trip to Buffalo.
Bottom line: Ohio still has the most talented roster in the wins its first ever MAC championship. Ideally, you want to find anything better than +250.
Favorite MAC Preseason Bets
- Akron Under 3.5 Wins (-150)
- Ohio to Win MAC (+360)
This looks like a down year in the Mountain West. It’s hard to imagine anyone challenging Boise State in the Mountain Division (no value to me, however) while the West looks wide-open and where I focused on for a potential preseason future, especially since I’m looking to sell Fresno State.
Not only does Fresno have a new quarterback under center in former JuCo transfer Jorge Reyna, it lost a lot along the offensive line. The Bulldogs only return one starter and need to replace the two most critical positions up front at center and left tackle.
They did have two excellent backs returning but recently lost junior Jordan Mims for the season to injury. Additionally, they may have also lost two other backs for the season in Romello Harris and Peyton Dixon, which will hamper their depth. It’s pretty much all on Ronnie Rivers, who himself has dealt with a hamstring issue during camp.
The receivers are also very inexperienced and replicating the production of KeeSean Johnson (now an Arizona Cardinal) will be close to impossible. This offense should struggle all season, especially against decent competition.
The Bulldogs also lost a lot on defense, including stud linebacker Jeff Allison, the 2018 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. The secondary was one of the best in the nation last year, and while it’s still solid, it may take a step back after losing two important pieces in Mike Bell and Tank Kelly. Replacing them won’t be easy, especially with a lot of depth departures.
Despite what looks like a rebuilding year in Fresno, the Bulldogs are still picked to win the division. But I’m not buying the love, even in an extremely weak division.
I don’t think Hawaii has the defense to take advantage of the Fresno drop-off, so I’m rolling with San Diego State to come out of the West. A healthy Juwan Washington in the backfield should improve the offense this year and Rocky Long’s staple 3-3-5 defense should be rock solid once again.
Plus, the schedule is extremely favorable. Not only does SDSU host Fresno State, they avoid Boise State and have an extremely easy road schedule. If the Aztecs just win the games they should be favored in by a touchdown-plus, they will push this total. And the other four are all winnable coin flips — three of which come at home.
Favorite MWC Preseason Bets
- Fresno State Under 8 Wins (-110)
- San Diego State to Win West (+135)
- San Diego State Over 8 Wins (+120)
In the Fun Belt, I’m taking a shot with Louisiana Lafayette to win the conference. The defending West champs are simply not getting enough respect in the market.
They have a new starting quarterback heading Into this season, but I don’t see to much of a drop-off from Andre Nunez to Levi Lewis. Lewis threw at least one pass in all 14 games last season and was extremely efficient in limited duty. I actually think the passing game has more upside with Lewis.
With no drop-off under center, this potent offense that averaged just under 32 points per game should be even more explosive this year. The Ragin’ Cajuns return almost everybody else on offense.
They bring back five senior starting offensive linemen, in addition to a running back group that might be the best among all Group of 5 schools. Raymond Calais, Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell combined for more than 2900 yards on the ground at a ridiculous 6.7 yards per carry. They even ran for 200 yards against Alabama last year at 5.3 yards per carry. All three are also capable catching the ball out of the backfield.
Ja’Marcus Bradley, one of the best receivers in the conference, is also back. This offense should shred the Belt.
Like many Sun Belt schools, ULL has struggled defensively in recent seasons but I expect a fairly experienced unit to improve in 2019. Getting linebacker Joe Dillon back will also help. Dillon, who missed last season to injury, led the team in sacks in 2017. Him and Jacques Boudreaux will give Louisiana a formidable linebacking corps.
There are also some other factors working in Louisiana’s favor: it had the best recruiting class in the conference and a superb special teams cast. They also have an excellent coach in Billy Napier, who has served time under both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.
The schedule isn’t easy, especially since the Ragin’ Cajuns get Arkansas State (favored to win the division) on the road. However, while the Red Wolves have an elite defensive front and a lot going for them, I think they will take a major step back at quarterback. Logan Bonner is just not the same caliber thrower as former three-year starter Justice Hansen.
A price of +1300 is just too good to resist. This team has all of the pieces to get right back to the Sun Belt Championship.
Favorite SBC Preseason Bet
- Louisiana to Win Conference (+1300)
No, I didn’t forget about the conference-less Independents.
I did bet BYU Over 6.5 Wins (+110). The schedule is brutal but this team is extremely talented and should pull off an upset or two, potentially in week one against my beloved Utes.