College football season-win bets
I’ve spent the last six weeks or so revealing a lot of the information I like to go over each offseason in preparation for the next college football season. After going back through the coaching changes, Stability Scores, transitional systems, recruiting rankings and playing out the schedule according to my power ratings, I’ve locked in on 30 team season-win total bets that I will be making. Below are those 30 wagers, with the odds available at DraftKings.
If you missed any of my college season prep work, simply go back through the recent articles under my name at VSiN.com or visit my Twitter account for the links. Most or all of it will also be made available in the upcoming VSiN College Football Betting Guide, due out in early August.
Before revealing my 2023 plays, here is how I fared on my 2022 plays at this same time one year ago, when I went 14-5-1, including 9-1 on UNDERs. This should give you a better idea of the criteria I use as the basis for my plays, and how it works out:
Arizona OVER 2.5 wins — WIN
This one finalized early as Arizona went 3-2 in its first five games and finished 5-7. I loved the experience and QB upgrade that head coach Jedd Fisch had working for him.
Bowling Green OVER 3.5 wins — WIN
Bowling Green had a very experienced roster coming back and a fourth-year starting QB in Matt McDonald. I also felt the MAC was weakened a lot heading into 2022. BGSU finished 6-6 in the regular season and received a Quick Lane Bowl bid.
Florida State OVER 6.5 wins — WIN
This one was a layup, with FSU bringing back a talented, experienced roster, led by dynamic QB Jordan Travis. FSU won its first four and last five games of the regular season.
Fresno State OVER 8.5 wins — LOSS
I went against my usual grain on this play and backed a team with a new head coach coming in. Fresno State had a good year, winning 10 games, but only eight came in the regular season, and a 19-14 loss to UConn as a 23-point favorite proved to be the key defeat.
North Carolina OVER 7.5 wins — WIN
I felt UNC had a great shot to come on strong last season in a weakened ACC Coastal Division, and I called for UNC to have as good a shot as anyone to win it. The Tar Heels did but lost both the ACC title game and their bowl game to finish 9-5.
Northern Illinois OVER 6.5 wins — LOSS
This was my most definitive miss as NIU suffered through some key injuries at quarterback and lost six times as a favorite, finishing 3-9.
Northwestern OVER 3.5 wins — LOSS
An experienced Northwestern team won its first game overseas against Nebraska and appeared ready to take off. That turned out to be the only game the Wildcats would win, and now the program is in shambles.
SMU OVER 7 wins — PUSH
SMU was another team I backed that was bringing in a new coaching staff. That’s rare and I will learn from it. SMU played well, not great, last season and finished 7-5 in the regular season before losing the New Mexico Bowl.
Stanford OVER 4.5 wins — LOSS
Stanford brought back 17 starters last year, including eventual NFL draftee QB Tanner McKee but failed to take advantage. I thought I had a chance to win this one after the Cardinal beat Notre Dame and Arizona State in back-to-back weeks to go 3-4, but they didn’t win again.
TCU OVER 6.5 wins — WIN
An obvious and easy winner here as TCU went 12-0 in the regular season and eventually played for the national title.
Arizona State UNDER 6.5 wins — WIN
ASU was a train wreck in 2022 and there were plenty of hints that it could be heading that way entering the season. A 3-9 season turned out to be head coach Herm Edwards’ last.
Colorado State UNDER 5.5 wins — WIN
Colorado State had a stability score of just 2 (out of 19) last season on my scale. New coaching staff, new QB, lots of other new starters. I almost always bet UNDER on these teams. The Rams finished 3-9.
Hawaii UNDER 4.5 wins — WIN
Another team that was completely starting over last year. Head coach Timmy Chang’s Rainbow Warriors went just 3-10.
Louisiana UNDER 8.5 wins — WIN
After a run of success under head coach Billy Napier (now at Florida) and behind QB Levi Lewis, Louisiana faced a retooling challenge last year. A 6-6 regular season was the result.
Nevada UNDER 5 wins — WIN
Nevada was the first team I ever had with a Stability Score of ZERO heading into a season in 2022. It was an automatic bet. Nevada went 2-10.
Oklahoma UNDER 9.5 wins — WIN
Oddsmakers were overzealous last year in thinking the Sooners wouldn’t drop in a clear transition season. Granted, new head coach Brent Venables had a lot of talent to work with, but he is a defensive guy, a major change for the school. The Sooners wound up 6-7 but should be better in ’23.
Texas Tech UNDER 5.5 wins — LOSS
This was a significant miss for me, as new head coach Joey McGuire guided the Red Raiders to a 7-5 regular season that included three upset wins.
Virginia UNDER 7.5 wins — WIN
Virginia had QB Brennan Armstrong back but just 10 total starters and an entirely new coaching staffs (HC, OC, DC). That has always been a bad recipe. Virginia was just 3-7 and canceled its final two games after a school shooting.
Western Kentucky UNDER 8.5 wins — WIN
WKU had to replace QB Bailey Zappe last year after a season in which he threw for 62 TDs and 5,967 yards. It was a massive void to fill. The Hilltoppers and head coach Tyson Helton did well but fell short, going 7-5 in the regular season.
Western Michigan UNDER 6.5 wins — WIN
WMU was facing declining recruiting rankings and brought back an inexperienced roster in 2022 after a good run of success for the program. Oddsmakers didn’t seem to notice. The Broncos wound up 5-7.
Now for my 2023 plays, of which I’ve settled on 15 OVERs, 15 UNDERs.
Teams to go OVER their 2023 DraftKings season win props:
Akron — OVER 3.5 wins
In my recent article on Statistical Transition Systems from season to season, I detailed an angle that shows how close losses can be a galvanizing factor for teams that stay the course. Of the 24 teams over the last nine seasons that suffered five or more close losses of seven points or fewer and brought back their head coach and at least half of their starters (11+), only two finished worse the next season. The average win improvement was 2.6 per season, representing a 20% jump. Akron qualifies for this system in ’23, and if it only performs to the average level of the system, it will win 4.6 games this season. Head coach Joe Moorhead is back for a second season and has his starting QB and 14 other starters back. Look for an improved Zips team.
Ball State — OVER 4.5 wins
The 2022 Ball State team played in 11 games that were decided by 11 points or fewer. The Cardinals were 5-6 in such games. How might factor into their 2023 success? Well, gaining valuable experience in close games is always important, and for a team that is bringing back 13 starters, an intact coaching staff and a transfer quarterback in Layne Hatcher who is playing in his fifth full season of college football, the chances of turning around many of those six losses are much better. BSU starts with road games at Kentucky and Georgia that should help get it ready for the MAC slate. I expect this team to at least equal its 5-7 record of last season.
Kansas — OVER 6 wins
Another team that made a quantum leap last season and is looking to build on the momentum in 2023 is Kansas, and if the pattern follows anything the likes of which head coach Lance Leipold accomplished at Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo, this team should continue trending upward. The Jayhawks were 6-7 last year and bring back 17 starters, including QB Jalon Daniels, who, after a fast start, was lost to injury and missed five starts last season. The offense definitely fell off without him, dropping by about 10 PPG in his absence. This is also one of four teams with 13+ starters returning and coming back after a year with a losing record despite outscoring opponents. This is a big improvement scenario usually. With a weaker Big 12 lined up for 2023, I expect Kansas to keep climbing.
Kansas State — OVER 7.5 wins
Chris Klieman’s K-State team won double-digit games for the first time since 2012 last year. He used that success to step up recruiting efforts, bringing in the school’s best class in over a decade. This obviously enhances the chances of continued success. The key for this team this season, however, is QB Will Howard, who emerged late last year after the Adrian Martinez injury and gets the full-time job this fall. Replacing RB Deuce Vaughn will be tough, but there are eight offensive starters back in all. This number of 7.5 seems pretty modest considering how well things went last year and how much experience is back.
Miami — OVER 7.5 wins
I am usually the first one to go against anything Miami in college football, as I feel the Hurricanes are usually priced too highly by oddsmakers and perennially underachieve. However, one of the biggest systematic improvements in wins from one season to the next you’ll find comes when nine or more offensive starters, including the quarterback, return from a team that won 33% or less of its games against the spread in the prior season. The average win increase is 16.5% SU and 25.5% ATS. These teams score nearly 6.0 PPG more as well and combined to go 53.1% ATS. The Hurricanes qualify for this. I also like that the first-year pressure is off of head coach Mario Cristobal after a 5-7 season. Behind QB Tyler Van Dyke and 18 other returning starters, this could be a surprise team this fall.
Nebraska — OVER 6 wins
Teams that compete in a lot of games but lose in close fashion are usually good candidates to improve the next season, especially if the coaching is stable there. Well, Nebraska lost five games by seven points or fewer last year and has a new head coach, but I believe the Cornhuskers will benefit greatly from the coaching change. New head coach Matt Rhule took on much bigger rebuilding jobs at Temple and Baylor and led those teams to significant improvement. He is a far better football coach at the college level than at the pro level, where he struggled at Carolina. In Lincoln, he will be back in his element and has a pretty decent roster ready to compete in a questionable Big Ten West Division that could be up for grabs. Don’t be surprised to finally see Nebraska back in a bowl game this year.
Oklahoma — OVER 9.5 wins
Last year was a total transitional season for Oklahoma under first-year head coach Brent Venables. It was only natural that the team would decline despite what remained a very talented roster. A lot of people assumed that veteran transfer QB Dillon Gabriel could just pick up where the previously powerful OU offenses left off. These same people also counted on Venables’ new defense providing much-needed improvement from the Lincoln Riley era. Neither happened. However, the talent level is still high here, and Year 2 in a new system is almost always better than Year 1. I give this team a shot at a Big 12 title in its final season in the conference and would be surprised if it lost more than two games.
Ole Miss — OVER 7.5 wins
Lane Kiffin has taken Ole Miss recruiting efforts to the next level, and the Rebels are now competing in that area with the likes of Florida, Auburn and Tennessee. The results have shown on the field the last two years and should continue in ’23. QB Jaxson Dart has a full season under his belt and has 15 returning starters around him. My power ratings projections call for a 7.5-4.5 record exactly, which would represent a push on this wager, but I believe this team is capable of pulling an upset or two along the way to bring that win total up.
Rice — OVER 4.5 wins
During its recent heyday of football success (2012-14), Rice was playing with players obtained in recruiting classes ranked in the low 90s across the country typically, Three of the last four classes under head coach Mike Bloomgren were at such a level, and the Owls could be ready to see those efforts bear fruit on the field. One of the key pieces brought in this season is transfer QB JT Daniels, who has the experience and pedigree to post some of the best numbers the Owls have seen at the position in many years. This team won five games last year and brings back 14 starters. Even with a switch to the AAC, I don’t see this group being worse than last season.
South Alabama — OVER 8 wins
There is a lot of positive momentum brewing for head coach Kane Wommack at South Alabama as his team comes off a strong 10-3 campaign. He was able to parlay that into an 83rd-ranked recruiting class, its second straight respected group, and the highest for the program on record. With QB Carter Bradley and 17 other starters returning, I don’t see much, if any, reason to forecast a step back. The schedule starts off fast with trips to Tulane and Oklahoma State in the first three weeks, but this team is in solid shape and should be competitive in those games, potentially getting a win or two.
South Carolina — OVER 6.5 wins
It’s easily explainable when a new incoming coach strikes out on his first recruiting trail, and that is exactly what happened to Shane Beamer two years ago at South Carolina. He has certainly redeemed himself since, scoring the program’s best-respected class since 2012 this spring. Off back-to-back winning seasons, the Gamecocks are a team on the rise. It could coincide with a down year in the SEC East as well, as truly, behind Georgia, do you see anyone else that is much better on paper than the Gamecocks? They have arguably the best QB in the division in Spencer Rattler and are riding good momentum. This could be a fun year in Columbia.
South Florida — OVER 4 wins
Clearly there is major room for improvement when a team wins 25% or fewer games in the prior season, but some of the biggest improvement is realized when these teams bring back their starting quarterback AND hire a new head coach AND coordinators. Over the last 10 seasons, there have been some pretty good improvement numbers out of teams that meet this criteria. USF and new head coach Alex Golesh have the added boost of playing in an AAC that has been weakened dramatically. With veteran QB Jerry Bohanon leading the way, I think the Bulls can be one of the more improved teams, at least record-wise, in 2023.
Texas A&M — OVER 7.5 wins
Head coach Jimbo Fisher has brought Texas A&M to the elite of the recruiting rankings, with the program scoring five straight top-10 rankings nationally. The seat is getting warmer for him, however, as the talent in College Station is good enough to compete with the likes of Alabama and Georgia. At least on paper. Could this be the year it finally comes together for Fisher’s program? It's possible, and sometimes all that talent only needs a fresh slate. QB Conner Weigman was very sharp in limited starting action last year but showed the promise of a guy ready to lead an elite roster. Even though the win prop is 7.5, I don’t like to look at the schedule for teams that have the talent to be special. I think the Aggies have that potential. Some things will just need to go very right early.
Utah — OVER 8.5 wins
Head coach Kyle Wittingham scored his best recruiting class in his tenure at Utah this spring, and with the program having been given ranks of 35th or better in four straight years, it sure looks as if the Utes will continue building on back-to-back double-digit win seasons. His team has reached another level by going to back-to-back Rose Bowl games, and with 16 starters back for ’23, should continue ascending. The Utes are now elite on both sides of the ball and with QB Cam Rising back for his senior season, they have a great on-field leader as well. The schedule is very tough, but this team is experienced and gritty and has the makeup to navigate it successfully.
USC — OVER 10 wins
Coming off a double-digit win season for the first time in five years and boasting perhaps the nation’s top player in QB Caleb Williams, expectations couldn’t be any higher in L.A. for USC and second-year head coach Lincoln Riley. While the bewildering loss to Tulane in this past season’s Cotton Bowl left a stain on an otherwise incredible resurgent season for the Trojans, the aspirations for 2023 are even loftier. There are 17 starters back in all and Riley has returned the program to the elite recruiting standards that were set in the Pete Carroll days. The Pac-12 is looking pretty strong for 2023, but USC is the team to beat and should be on a 6-0 roll when it arrives in South Bend in mid-October for a clash with Notre Dame. Utah comes right after. I usually shy away from these big numbers, but, barring a Williams injury, of course, this should be a magical season for USC.
Teams to go UNDER their 2023 DraftKings season win props:
Bowling Green — UNDER 4.5 wins
The 2023 season will be Scott Loeffler’s fifth at Bowling Green and he will no longer have veteran QB Matt McDonald as his stabilizing force. Far less experience this season combined with lower-rated recent recruiting classes suggest this year could be a struggle for the Falcons. Before 2022, a season in which I bet BGSU’s Over on wins, it had 19 starters back. This year there are only 13. Over the last 10 years, 115 teams have had at least six fewer returning starters than the prior season, and only 28 of them have improved that season. Look for a drop here.
Cincinnati — UNDER 5.5 wins
Two years ago, Cincinnati became the first Group of 5 conference team to reach the CFP. Now, the Bearcats are stepping up into the big time, joining the ranks of the Power 5 through the Big 12 Conference. They couldn’t have picked a worse time to do it, as they just lost head coach Luke Fickell and most of his staff to Wisconsin. Not only that, but the program was also hit hard by transfers once the Fickell move was announced. In all, just eight starters are back, only two on offense. There will also be a quantum leap in schedule strength for a team that relied on its togetherness to surprise bigger programs in recent years. With a Stability Score of just 1, this could be a long first season in the new league for the Bearcats.
Clemson — UNDER 10 wins
Could the magic be wearing off at Clemson for head coach Dabo Swinney? The last two recruiting classes rank as the worst consecutive seasons since 2013 and 2014. It’s not as big of a problem in the ACC as it would be in the SEC, but is this program still a perennial national title contender? If not, is double-digit wins too much to expect for a team on a downward trend? Last year Clemson won 10 games in a lesser ACC. This year I believe Florida State, North Carolina and Miami can all challenge for the crown. With non-conference games against Notre Dame and at South Carolina accenting a tougher ACC slate, I find it doubtful this Tigers team reaches 10 wins.
Illinois — UNDER 6.5 wins
For as much as I believe head coach Bret Bielema has the Illini trending in the right direction with recruiting and coming off a first bowl season since 2019, I have some concerns with the way the Illini won last year that might not carry over to ’23. There is a potential landmine system that has affected teams coming off a season in which they enjoyed a positive 1.0 or better turnover differential but are now starting fresh at quarterback. The 32 most recent teams that have fit this bill have dropped by 1.7 wins per season in the next campaign, representing a 20.8% plunge outright. This angle affected Louisiana and Nevada in 2022, and both teams dropped by at least six wins each. Also, it can easily be argued that the teams that got the “luckiest” in the prior season were those that had the best turnover differentials combined with the smallest point differentials. It can also be predicted that these teams are due for a fall when “starting over.” The average decline of this group has been 2.8 wins per season. Illinois is going to have to overcome what on the surface appears to have been “good fortune” last season with a less experienced roster this fall. Usually not a good combo.
Kent State — UNDER 2.5 wins
Nevada became the first team to post a ZERO stability score on my scale last year and for 2023, three teams equal that dubious honor. One of those is Kent State, which brings back the fewest starters in the country with just four, including none from the offense. That might not be as disastrous of a situation as you might think, however, as with new systems being put in place by first-time head coach Kenni Burns, who comes over from Minnesota, it might make the installation process a little easier. That said, the talent level at KSU is not what it was just two years ago, and it’s going to take some time for this very unstable situation to show any promise. Having gone 24-19 over the last four seasons, it seems quite fishy that the Golden Flashes’ win total is just 2.5. This seems like a scenario where someone smarter than the rest of us knows something.
Louisiana-Monroe — UNDER 3.5 wins
ULM doesn’t figure to get out of the rut it’s been in anytime soon as the two most recent recruiting classes rank in the bottom six of the country and are nowhere near the level needed to compete in the ever-improving Sun Belt. The Warhawks won four games last year, but six of their eight losses were by double-digit margins. With just 10 starters back, there figures to be more blowout losses and more losses in general, this fall.
Louisville — UNDER 8 wins
Things could be very promising at Louisville, where a well-respected former player returns to take over as head coach. Fans are definitely excited about Jeff Brohm returning to the Cardinals program as he sports a pretty strong recent history of explosive offenses while coaching at Purdue. Furthermore, he brings an experienced QB with him in Jack Plummer, who should be able to seamlessly transfer the work he put in for Brohm’s Boilermakers offense. The Cardinals were 8-5 last season and put up a good performance in a 24-7 Fenway Bowl win over Cincy. That said, with the new systems in place and just 12 starters back, I’m cautious about THIS season. I don’t see this team being better than last year’s seven-win team in the regular season.
Mississippi State — UNDER 6.5 wins
Losing a coach with the engaging personality of Mike Leach would naturally have an impact on recruiting. However, his final class and the current group brought in by Zach Arnett were not up to MSU standards and it could show on the field in the coming years. The Bulldogs really came together in last year’s bowl win over Illinois and seemed to be feeding off the energy of playing for Arnett in the emotional aftermath of Leach’s death. Typically that doesn’t tend to carry over in an offseason. Realistically, with less talent than the rest of the teams in the SEC West, and I have MSU pegged for the bottom of the division, it’s going to be very tough to finish over .500 this year.
Old Dominion — UNDER 3.5 wins
Old Dominion’s recruiting class ranks are headed in the wrong direction, and there’s a good chance it could come back to bite the Monarchs in 2023. Not only have the recruiting classes dropped in three straight years, but starting QB Hayden Wolff transferred to Western Michigan and the Sun Belt Conference is stacking up tougher than Conference USA did. ODU has just seven starters back from last year’s 3-9 team, and the total number of starters returning has also proved to be a great predicting factor, as there have been 163 teams in the last 10 seasons that returned 10 or fewer starters, and only 36 have improved their winning percentage. The average drops for this group were 11.9% in win percentage. If this team even drops just one game lower, this will be a comfortable winner.
Purdue — UNDER 5.5 wins
Louisville’s gain is Purdue’s loss as Jeff Brohm’s departure leaves a void for a program coming off a season that included its first trip to a Big Ten title game. Ryan Walters takes over as the new head coach and will be leading a team with just half of its starters back for ’23. Several prognosticators have pegged the Boilermakers for last in the West Division in the conference, so it’s quite possible we could be looking at a first-to-worst scenario in this first transitional campaign. That’s the nature of instability, however. Purdue was in a better place in 2019 and 2020 as far as stability is concerned and went 6-12 in those seasons combined. If you look at this year’s schedule, there is not even a single layup game.
Stanford — UNDER 3 wins
This is not a revenge play for me after the Cardinal fizzled on one of my wins bets before 2022, but incoming new head coach Troy Taylor’s first recruiting class at Stanford bombed, according to the experts, setting a new low standard for the program by nine points. Off back-to-back 3-9 seasons, there’s little reason to believe things will turn around this fall. Stanford is another team with an imperfect score of ZERO on my Stability Scale this season. Keep in mind that Nevada was just 2-10 SU and 4-8 ATS with this challenge facing it a year ago. The Cardinal could have an even bigger challenge than the Wolf Pack did last year, though, as they are playing in what shapes up to be a very strong Pac-12. The schedule is treacherous, to put it mildly, and he’ll have only six total starters back, three on each side of the ball. Be patient with Taylor.
Tennessee — UNDER 9.5
The oddsmakers clearly think a lot higher of this year’s Tennessee team than I do, as they have set a season win total prop of 9.5 while my power ratings against the ’23 schedule show the Vols winning just 8.1 games. Why the disconnect? Well, I believe this team may have caught lightning in a bottle last year. Three of their first six wins were by seven points or fewer, including the memorable 52-49 win over Alabama. If any of those games turned the other way, we aren’t thinking nearly as highly of head coach Josh Heupel’s team. Second, QB Hendon Hooker put it all together last year for Pruitt’s offense. For as much as replacement Joe Milton is a high-quality option and fared very well in Hooker’s absence from injury, I’m not sure he can sustain the magic this offense had for all of 2022. Third, replacing wide receiver Jaylin Hyatt and his production is going to be virtually impossible. If that weren’t enough, the Vols’ SEC division crossover games are against Alabama and Texas A&M. I’m projecting 8-4 or 9-3 tops.
Tulsa — UNDER 4.5 wins
The last five years of Tulsa’s recruiting classes have bottomed out, and after a 5-7 season in 2022, the program may continue feeling the consequences as it transitions under new head coach Kevin Wilson. There is definitely negative momentum as well, as Tulsa’s drop in the AAC last season was unexpected, especially with QB Davis Brin and an otherwise experienced and winning core group back. Wilson, who comes over after serving as OC at power Ohio State, provides some room for optimism, but mind you, it figures to be down the road. This year’s Tulsa team boasts little experience (nine returning starters) and faces a schedule that finds at Washington and hosting Oklahoma in Games 2 and 3. Even with the AAC being weaker than it has been with the departure of the teams to the Big 12, I think the Golden Hurricane will still struggle.
UAB — UNDER 5 wins
The third and final ZERO team for the 2023 season in terms of Stability Scores is UAB, under the leadership of first-time head coach Trent Dilfer, a curious hire at best. Dilfer’s first job will be a tough one, as UAB is switching conferences to the AAC (from C-USA) and has only seven starters back. This program has been riding high under Bill Clark and Bryant Vincent, but this hire is a massive shock to the system. The Blazers qualified for a bowl game every year since returning to FBS football in 2017 after a two-year hiatus. That was a remarkable feat. It’s a good bet that streak ends in 2023 as they play what looks like a tougher-than-usual schedule for the program. In fact, I could see a scenario where this team loses all six of its road games. Going 6-0 at home to beat this win total is not going to happen either.
Virginia Tech — UNDER 5.5 wins
It was just two years ago that Virginia Tech opened its college football season with a captivating upset win over North Carolina. Since that game, this program has gone just 8-15. Why? Well, from 2010 through 2019, Virginia Tech averaged a national recruiting ranking of 28.0, without a single year being ranked worse than 42nd. The four most recent classes were ranked 43rd or worse. For whatever reason, elite players aren’t drawn to Blacksburg like they once were. Don’t expect recognizable improvement from this program until they are. On top of that, the ACC has generally gotten stronger in that time span. This doesn’t seem to be a program ready to return to a bowl game. Thus, UNDER is the play.