2021 College Football Preview: Our 15 favorite over/under bets

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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VSiN’s 2021 College Football Betting Guide is now available for order. Get access to over 300 pages of information, including over/under picks for all 130 FBS teams and our experts’ favorite season win total bets right here.

College football season is right around the corner and our VSiN college football experts -- Adam Kramer, Bruce Marshall, Jon Von Tobel and Matt Youmans --  have shared their favorite win total bets from among the 130 FBS teams.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Here are our experts' favorite over/under bets for the 2021 season:

Rice Owls Over 5.5 (-125)

Bruce Marshall: For the first time in years, genuine excitement abounds at Rice, where what once seemed a stubborn resolve to install a Stanford-type power offense by David Shaw disciple Mike Bloomgren is starting to pay dividends. The Owls impressed in their compressed 2020 slate, in position to win all five games, and return eight starters from the stingiest Rice defense since the Jess Neely era in the middle of the last century, ranking 12th nationally in scoring defense. With depth on the OL and a big WR target in 6-5 Bradley Rozner (55 catches in 2019 before opting out in 2020) all Bloomgren needed was a QB. And the transfer market provided options with former Nebraska prospect Luke McCaffrey (Christian’s brother) and ex-Weber State starter Jake Constantine, who already has 33 career TD passes. 

True, the schedule opens like an old Southwest Conference slate with Arkansas, Houston and Texas. But even if the Owls swallow the big doughnut against that trio, plenty of wins await in watered-down C-USA, and they also face crosstown rival Texas Southern of the FCS. Bloomgren can get Rice to a bowl and start to get mentioned as the heir apparent at Stanford whenever Shaw decides it’s time to move to the NFL.

Air Force Falcons Over 6.5 (-125)

Marshall: Underestimate coach Troy Calhoun at your own risk. With the exception of 2013, when injuries decimated his roster, Calhoun’s Air Force teams have usually punched above their weight. The Falcons split six games last year despite almost the entire projected defense opting out. Several starters from the 2019 defense thus resurface to compete with many who stepped into their roles a year ago, with the result likely a highly combative unit. 

Competition has often been the ingredient to the most successful Calhoun teams, as on the other side of the ball, longtime offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen is usually able to cobble together a functional option-based attack. In fact, the offense led the nation in rushing a year ago. Starters must be replaced en masse along the line, but reloading up front is standard operating procedure for the Falcons, and Haaziq Daniels flashed enough upside in his QB audition last fall to suggest this could be another dynamic Calhoun offense. 

The schedule presents many win opportunities, with nonconference games against Florida Atlantic and Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy foes Army and Navy all winnable, besides many opportunities for wins in the modest Mountain West.  Getting above .500 and to another bowl is well within reach.

Texas Longhorns Over 8 (+ 105)

Kramer: I’m buying into the Steve Sarkisian hype. While he was blessed with historic talent at Alabama, his evolution as an offensive guru has been striking. Perhaps lost in the discussion is the fact that he inherits a decent roster. It’s not like the one he just left, but there is talent.

Getting a win against a quality Louisiana team out of the gate is pivotal. Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry and Iowa State on the road are tricky but both winnable. The rest of the schedule is ripe with opportunities.

Texas returns eight starters on offense, has one of the nation’s most dynamic running backs and has viable options at QB. The results might not be instant, but they are coming.

And I think they’ll start to show sooner than many think.

Marshall:  For some reason, it became almost obligatory for sports analysts to degrade the Longhorns in the Tom Herman era, and many are doing it again even as Sarkisian takes control after a successful stint as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator with title-winning Alabama. Sarkisian inherits a program that was a handful of plays from playoff consideration a year ago after narrow losses by two and three points, respectively, and another in OT against Oklahoma. We also saw enough of sophomore QB Casey Thompson in the blowout of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl to suggest he could be a worthy successor to four-year starter Sam Ehlinger, though sophomore Hudson Card has some support. 

Whichever QB takes snaps will spend time handing off to sophomore RB Bijan Robinson, perhaps the highest-touted back from the 2020 recruiting class and posed for a breakout after gaining 8.2 ypc last fall.  An experienced secondary and plenty of potential within the front seven suggests the defense should be at least functional. Meanwhile, Sarkisian will embrace this second chance as a head coach after the USC adventure went off the rails and he was fired in 2015. The combination of his Pac-12 experience plus the rehabilitation of his reputation under Saban suggests Sarkisian should hardly be over his head in the Big 12.

 

New Mexico Lobos Over 4.5 (-125)

Jonathan Von Tobel: No program turned in a more impressive performance in 2020 than New Mexico. In Danny Gonzales’ first year as coach, the Lobos won just twice, but they covered four of their seven games and were one of the most competitive teams in the Mountain West despite not playing a single game at home. This season, Gonzales gets a traditional home schedule and 17 returning starters, meaning New Mexico can really build on an impressive start to the Gonzales era. 

The Lobos bring back eight starters on offense, most of them at key positions. Every quarterback who played a snap in 2020 returns, and they add former Kentucky QB Terry Wilson. Leading rusher Bobby Cole is back, and he lines up behind an offensive line that returns four starters. On defense, New Mexico has nine starters back with a ton of depth on the line and at defensive back. The Lobos open at home against Houston Baptist and New Mexico State. Those are two perfectly winnable games, so New Mexico should be undefeated before being fed to Texas A&M on Sept. 18 at College Station. The next week the Lobos travel to El Paso in a coin-flip spot against a UTEP team returning as much talent as the Lobos. New Mexico’s conference schedule does provide some hurdles, playing division powers Boise State and Wyoming on the road and drawing San Diego State from the West. However, the Lobos also get UNLV and Fresno State from the other division, avoiding Nevada and San Jose State. 

New Mexico’s home schedule is very favorable, and if it is to surpass 4.5 wins, it will do so by taking advantage. Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV and Utah State will visit Albuquerque. Those four programs have the lowest win totals in the conference, opening the door for the Lobos to win five or more games for the first time since 2016.

UNLV Rebels Under 1.5 (-125)

Von Tobel: Not often will bettors see a win total of 1.5 shaded to the Under, but the Rebels have no big positives. Marcus Arroyo’s first season as coach went as poorly as possible, with zero wins and one cover for a team that seemed to get worse as the season went along. UNLV lost every game by double digits and brings back 18 starters from that team. Couple that with a brutal schedule and another winless season is not out of the question. 

The quarterback’s job will likely come down to Doug Brumfield or Justin Rogers. Both appeared in two games last season and combined to throw for 312 yards and one touchdown. Whoever gets the job will have some quality talent to work with, at the very least. At wide receiver, Mountain West freshman of the year Kyle Williams is back, and senior running back Charles Williams is a fantastic runner who averaged over 5 yards per carry in his first four seasons. The defense is making a transition to a 3-4 scheme, which means key pass-rushers Adam Plant and Jacoby Windmon are making the change to outside linebacker. The roster is not devoid of talent, but with another massive hole at quarterback and a scheme change on defense, it is hard to see this team being very competitive. 

The schedule will do the Rebels no favors either. They open against a quality Eastern Washington team before games against Arizona State and Iowa State. In conference play, the Rebels must face San Jose State, Nevada and San Diego State — and will be substantial underdogs every time. In fact, UNLV will be an underdog in every game this season, and for good reason. 

Utah State Aggies Over 3 (-120)

Von Tobel: There is a lot to like about the Aggies this season. Blake Anderson takes over the program after leading Arkansas State to 51 wins and six bowls in seven years, and he brings along quarterback Logan Bonner. The team has 19 starters back, which will help Anderson’s transition, but more importantly, the schedule is very manageable. The Aggies have UNLV and New Mexico State on the docket, two programs with win totals of 1.5 and bottom-tier talent. From there they must grab two more wins, which is plausible since they have home games against North Dakota, Colorado State and Hawaii. Much of this handicap is based on the improvement I expect to see from Anderson’s team as the season goes along, and three wins should be the worst this team does.

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Ole Miss Rebels Over 7.5 (-110)

Youmans: Like him or not, Lane Kiffin has developed into a sharp college coach. His offense looks explosive again this year with Matt Corral coming back as arguably the top quarterback in the SEC. Nine starters return on defense. The Rebels should open with wins over Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane to get to 3-0 before the Oct. 2 game at Alabama. The Ole Miss-Alabama game was tied at 42 in the fourth quarter last year, and that was proof the Rebels can hang with any team in the conference. The rest of the schedule breaks well for Ole Miss, which gets Arkansas, LSU, Liberty, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt at home in addition to Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State on the road. It’s reasonable to project nine wins for the Rebels, but 8-4 appears to be a good bet.

Nevada Wolfpack Over 7.5 (-120)

Youmans: It should not come as a surprise if the Wolf Pack win the Mountain West. Ten starters return on each side of the ball, and Carson Strong is the best quarterback in the conference. Strong completed 70% of his passes with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions last season, when Nevada finished 7-2. Strong is working with three elite playmakers — running back Toa Taua and wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks — so he’s set to put up big numbers. Strong might not be Josh Allen, who starred in this league at Wyoming, but he’s an NFL prospect. The schedule is tough, especially the road portion against California, Kansas State, Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State and Colorado State. But the Wolf Pack are capable of winning a few road games and should go 6-0 at home. The wolves will be howling in Reno because this team is loaded.

Purdue Boilermakers Over 5 (-125)

Youmans: This is a buy-low price on Jeff Brohm, who heads into his fifth year knowing the honeymoon is over. Since the Boilermakers’ blowout victory over No. 2 Ohio State in 2018, Brohm’s record is 8-16. His last two teams were plagued by injuries. Feeling the heat, Brohm made important changes to his defensive coaching staff. Purdue returns nine starters on each side of the ball, with defensive end George Karlaftis and wide receiver David Bell ranking among the Big Ten’s best players. Brohm is an aggressive offensive coach, and sophomore quarterback Jack Plummer has the experience and talent to trigger a high-scoring attack. The Boilermakers are expected to be favored in four of the first five games — against Oregon State, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota — so this play should be a push at worst, and a 6-6 season is realistic.

Utah Utes Over 8.5 (-120)

Youmans: Kyle Whittingham is the most reliable coach in the Pac-12, and his team reflects his blue-collar image. It starts up front, where the Utes return all their starters on the offensive line and boast a deep, experienced defensive line. Ten starters return on defense. The team’s most important starter could be a newcomer -- Baylor graduate transfer quarterback Charlie Brewer, who can lift the offense to the next level after poor quarterback play doomed the Utes early last season. Utah could be favored in 11 games, with the only obvious underdog spot Oct. 9 at USC. The Utes catch a scheduling break by getting home games against Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. Whittingham is a bet-on coach, and he has the league’s top offensive and defensive lines, so Utah has the potential to win nine or 10 games if Brewer delivers as expected.

Texas A&M Aggies Over 9.5 (+ 105)

Kramer: Maybe I am sipping too much of the Jimbo Fisher Kool-Aid, but outside of a home game against Alabama (and maybe a final game at LSU), the schedule looks somewhat manageable.

While the offense will need to be reworked, the defense returns nine starters and should be one of the best in the country. Despite the loss of Kellen Mond at QB, this is an offense

that should have plenty of meaningful pieces thanks to recent recruiting. According to 247Sports, A&M’s classes have ranked nationally as follows: No. 8 in 2021, No. 6 in 2020 and No. 4 in 2019.

It would be a shock if the Aggies are not unbeaten entering the Oct. 9 game against Alabama. After that? Missouri, South Carolina, Auburn, Ole Miss, Prairie View A&M and LSU.

Not bad.

Wisconsin Badgers Under 9.5 (-115)

Kramer: This team wasn’t great last year (4-3 overall and 3-4 ATS). Granted, it was a bit of a broken season, but I think a 10-win rebound is asking a lot. And the season begins with three very losable games in the first five weeks with a bye wedged in between.

Let’s start with the schedule. The Badgers play Notre Dame and Army, which won’t be easy. They also open with Penn State, play Michigan after the Irish and have Iowa and a handful of other losable tussles on deck.

They return 15 starters and should have one of the better defenses in the conference, but my concern lies on the offensive side. If this group is not considerably more explosive, the Badgers are likely to top out at eight or nine wins.

USC Trojans Over 8.5 (-120)

Kramer: It wouldn’t shock me if the Trojans flirt with a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Lost in the COVID-19 season was a rather impressive -- albeit abbreviated -- performance by USC. While a perfect year was undone by Oregon in the final week, there are reasons to finally be optimistic.

We’ve said this before, of course, and it hasn’t gone well. But the schedule really does set up nicely.

A road game in South Bend will not be easy, but games at Washington State, Colorado, Arizona State and Cal should be wins. USC also draws BYU in the final game, although that team will likely look very different without Zach Wilson.

A total of 16 starters are back. Also, the return of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell could be enormous on an offense poised to make another leap forward.

West Virginia Over 7 (+ 105)

Kramer: So, the Oklahoma game might not go great. Iowa State could get ugly as well. Let us address the two box scores from last season that might not be easy on the eyes. (The Oklahoma matchup in 2020 was ultimately canceled, although the Mountaineers were crushed by Iowa State 42-6.)

West Virginia will welcome back 16 starters from a team that showed flashes outside of those two games. I like the renovation that head coach Neal Brown has done -- providing balance to both sides, particularly a defense that certainly needed it.

The opening game at Maryland is crucial for this over to hit. Week 3 against Virginia Tech will

also be huge for this total. Down the slate a bit, I believe WVU will win enough swing games (Texas Tech, at Baylor and OK State) to eclipse seven wins.

Indiana Hoosiers Under 8 (-130)

Kramer: By Big Ten standards, the schedule is pretty ugly. In fact, by national standards, it is ranked as one of the top 20 hardest schedules on the docket.

Road games at Iowa, Penn State and Michigan won’t be easy. Home games against Ohio State and Cincinnati are brutal, too. There are very few gimmies on tap for a team attempting to validate a 2020 season that was magical in nature: The Hoosiers finished the year 6-2 overall and 7-1 ATS.

The good news? Indiana welcomes back 17 starters, headlined by wide receiver Ty Fryfogle. He was truly exceptional. This roster certainly has talent. I’m just unsure about carrying this momentum forward, and I believe many of the teams Indiana beat last season should be improved.

Great story in 2020. I just see regression.

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