The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.
Here are the best bets for season win totals (with DraftKings odds):
Alabama Over 10.5 (-265)
When betting Over a high win total, a handicapper must have lots of faith in the coach, quarterback and defense. Alabama is as good as it gets in all three areas. Nick Saban is not a coach who plans fun field trips to Disney World. Saban is demanding and knows how to motivate a team that’s a big favorite, and his no-letdown style will be needed because the Crimson Tide could be favored by two touchdowns or more in all 12 games. Bryce Young is arguably the best quarterback in the country, and linebacker Will Anderson is arguably the nation’s best defensive player. The Tide should not have too much trouble sweeping road games against Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi. Most books have posted this total at 11.5, which is probably the right number, so allow for a margin of error and lay this high price on the 10.5 posted at DraftKings. An injury to Young is the only potential problem. If Saban gets upset once, that’s OK, but anything less than an 11-1 record would be a major disappointment for an Alabama team that’s loaded and should run the table.
Colorado Under 3 (-110)
One way a bad football team can overachieve is by winning a couple of cupcake games early and building confidence. Colorado’s schedule could have the opposite effect because not one “W” can be assumed. The Buffaloes face three quality nonconference opponents — TCU, Air Force and Minnesota — and the latter two games are on the road. The Pac-12 schedule is not much easier. Colorado does not get to face two of the league’s weakest links — Stanford and Washington State — and must play at Arizona, which might be the weakest team. There are a couple of winnable home games against Arizona State and California, but I don’t see four wins on this schedule. It’s about to go from bad (4-8 last season) to worse for the Buffaloes, who project as underdogs in at least 11 games and probably all 12. I bet this Under 3.5 (-135) yet still will recommend the play at 3. It might take a miracle for Colorado to win four games, and coach Karl Dorrell is no magician.
Fresno State Over 8.5 (-130)
Jeff Tedford is back from a brief retirement for his second run as Bulldogs coach. He guided Fresno to 10-4 and 12-2 records in 2017 and 2018 and now inherits a team with enough talent to post another double-digit win season. The key is the quarterback, senior Jake Haener, who’s the best in the Mountain West. Haener passed for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns last season while leading the Bulldogs to a 9-3 regular season that included road victories over UCLA and San Diego State. Eight starters return on offense, including four linemen, the top two wide receivers and running back Jordan Mims. Seven starters return on defense. The Bulldogs project as favorites in 10 games and will be underdogs on the road against USC (Sept. 17) and Boise State (Oct. 8). The back end of the schedule is soft and sets up the potential for a long winning streak. I have enough confidence in the Tedford-Haener combination to predict a 10-2 season for Fresno, although 9-3 is more realistic and that’s enough to get this Over the total.
New Mexico Over 2.5 (+ 105)
In two years at New Mexico, coach Danny Gonzales has won only five games, but he was a double-digit underdog in three of the wins. There will be opportunities for the Lobos to pull more upsets with the Mountain West looking weaker top to bottom than it was last year. On the positive side of things, the defense returns seven starters and will be strong with Gonzales and coordinator Rocky Long calling the shots. This is a well-coached team — Gonzales is underrated and Long is the Bill Belichick of the Mountain West. The offense failed to score more than 17 points in any of the final 10 games last year, but another positive should be the addition of quarterback Miles Kendrick, a transfer from Kansas. The Lobos open at home against Maine and have at least four more potential wins on the schedule with games against UTEP, UNLV, Wyoming and New Mexico State. On the negative side of things, the Lobos do not have enough depth to overcome many injuries. Still, this could be a surprise team if last year’s awful offense shows some improvement.
Oklahoma Under 9.5 (-120)
The luck factor was on the Sooners’ side last year. Oklahoma played with fire by winning six games decided by seven points or fewer, and that was with Lincoln Riley as coach and Caleb Williams as quarterback. Riley and Williams left for USC. Brent Venables, the former Clemson defensive coordinator, is a first-time head coach, and UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel will be his quarterback. Gabriel should put up big numbers with wide receiver Marvin Mims and a stable of talented running backs, but it’s not Riley calling the plays. A Sept. 17 trip to Nebraska, a team with a win total of 7.5, could tell a lot about where the Sooners’ season is headed. There are no pushover opponents in the Big 12. Aside from facing Texas on a neutral field, the Sooners play road games against TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas Tech. Home games against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State are not layups. A 10-win season seems to be asking too much of the Sooners. Venables is unproven as the leader of a program and has a volatile personality. Of all the new coaches at high-profile programs, Venables is most likely to underachieve.
Purdue Under 7.5 (-135)
Jeff Brohm is the perfect coach for Purdue because he can take a team with less talent and accomplish more than expected by being an offensive innovator and motivator. The Boilermakers overachieved last year — and I predicted Over 5 as a best bet — by winning nine games, including the Music City Bowl. But the total has been adjusted a little too much this year. Brohm posted straight-up wins as an underdog against Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska and Tennessee. Purdue tends to be tougher in the dog role while often flopping as a favorite. This team probably will be favored in eight games and be the underdog against Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who completed 71.8% of his passes with 28 touchdowns, returns to trigger Brohm’s explosive offense. A much-improved defense brings back seven starters. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Purdue, especially with Notre Dame and Ohio State falling off last year’s schedule, but eight wins might be the best-case scenario and my projection is for seven.
Arizona Over 3 (-105)
Coach Jedd Fisch seems to be at the beginning stages of something good, as he just recruited the program’s best class since its glory days. He also has a competent QB in play this year in Jayden de Laura, who brings Pac-12 starting experience from his days at Washington State. He had a 23-9 TD-INT ratio last season and has already started 15 games in his career. This should be Arizona’s most production at QB since Khalil Tate. On defense, Fisch’s team wasn’t great last year but it was improved, by 8.4 PPG, and that group brings back eight starters. The Wildcats were 1-11 but lost five games by fewer than 10 points, including three to high-quality opponents — BYU, Washington, and Utah. I’m looking at the Wildcats being one of the more improved teams in the country, and my simulations, which are typically conservative, have them winning 3.2 games.
Bowling Green Over 3.5 (-150)
It’s a bit strange to see a very experienced team’s win prop sit below the number of wins it notched the previous season, particularly when the program seems to be heading in the right direction. Bowling Green hadn’t won as many as four games in a season since 2016, so the 4-8 record from 2021 was actually a decent accomplishment. With the recent struggles, it's easy to forget that this team was consistently one of the best in the MAC from 2001 through 2015, when it finished under .500 just three times. Now, the Falcons return 18 starters, including senior QB Matt McDonald, who has started every game over the last two years. This experienced group led the Falcons to their best PPG averages on offense since 2018 and on defense since 2015. I believe the MAC East stacks up to be a fairly weak division this season, and I’ll take Scott Loeffler’s team to finish .500 or better in the conference.
North Carolina Over 7.5 (+ 115)
A lot has been made about North Carolina losing multi-year starter Sam Howell at quarterback, but this team underperformed with Howell in three years under coach Mack Brown. The program has recruited at an elite level since Brown arrived and the new quarterback, Drake Maye, could be better than Howell. If you recognize the last name, it’s because brother Luke starred for the UNC basketball program a few years back. Drake is a five-star recruit, and the Tar Heels’ schedule looks manageable as I have them as a 9-point favorite or bigger in five games at this point. In six other games I have them in the -2.5 to + 6.5 range. Essentially, they would only need to split those six contests to beat this number of 7.5. All of those numbers are also part of a cautious power rating I have right now. That could easily explode with a couple of good early performances. In a weakened ACC Coastal Division, I think UNC has as good a shot as any to win it.
Northwestern Over 4 (+ 100)
Northwestern went 3-9 in 2021 with one of the most inexperienced teams in the country. I accurately projected the Wildcats’ demise last season, and things look much more promising this season with nine starters back on offense, including former South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski. Coach Pat Fitzgerald always gets this team to play to its best, and when they are experienced they are usually competitive and capable of knocking off pretty much anyone in the Big Ten West. Last year, this team’s best was not very good. The same goes for 2019 when Fitzgerald only had 11 starters back. In each of those inexperienced years they won just three games. In three other seasons since 2017, in which NU brought back more than half of its starters, the Wildcats averaged 8.7 wins. The experience factor seems to be that important to this program. The first four games on this year’s slate are Nebraska in Dublin and home games against Duke, Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio). This bet could be won early.
Louisiana Under 8.5 (+ 100)
Sustaining success as a Group of 5 program is much harder than as a Power 5 one. Bigger schools poach the coaches who have built these programs and the transfer portal has made it a challenge to retain rising stars. The Ragin’ Cajuns will be facing a major challenge in 2022 as they move on without former coach Billy Napier (Florida) and multi-year starting QB Levi Lewis (NFL). Making matters worse, 10 other starters are gone from last year’s 13-1 team. Teams have been taking beatings from ULL the last few seasons and this will be their chance for some payback. The last time this program returned no more than half of its starters it went 7-7 in 2018. The schedule is fairly light early, but with road games later at Marshall, Southern Miss and Florida State, there will be plenty of challenges. Although the Ragin’ Cajuns won’t be completely down, 8.5 wins seems overzealous.
Nevada Under 5 (-120)
Nevada has the fewest number of returning starters in college football, bringing back just six from last year’s 8-5 team. The Wolf Pack are also bringing in an entirely new coaching staff, led by head coach Ken Wilson, who climbed the ladder quickly and arrives from Oregon, where he served as defensive coordinator. This will be his first head coaching job, a challenge that is tough to quantify, especially when there is little experience returning. In 12 years of building my methodology, I never had a team with a Stability Score of 0 heading into a season — until this Nevada team. Despite a relatively easy schedule, I just don’t see this team doing well with the lack of experience and a monumental change in schemes. I expect some of the other more seasoned Mountain West teams to take advantage of their shot at a weakened Nevada program.
Western Kentucky Under 8.5 (-140)
There may not have been a player more responsible for his team’s success in 2021 than QB Bailey Zappe at Western Kentucky. No misprint: He threw for 62 TDs and 5,967 yards last season. Unfortunately, he was a one-year rental, and for those arguing that a lot of his numbers were scheme related, I say he was also a prolific passer in his FCS days with Houston Baptist and that the Hilltoppers scored just 19 PPG in 2020, the season before Zappe arrived. Despite all of his heroics, WKU still only went 8-4 in the regular season, losing in the Conference USA title game before winning their bowl game by scoring 59 points. For the Hilltoppers to beat this year’s win prop, it would mean they will be a better team without Zappe, and just half of their starters back. How could that possibly be the case?
Air Force Over 8.5
My projections have Air Force at 10.25 wins, as the Falcons should be favored in every game on the schedule. This is one of my biggest overlays relative to the market, as Air Force gets Boise State at home and should have limited trouble in conference play. A road game at Utah State after hosting Navy is the only real stumbling block I can see. We have a lot of margin for error with a very experienced team coming off of a 10-win season. Even if we include the COVID-19 season, Air Force is 26-8 in the last 34 games, including two seasons with double-digit wins. This might be Troy Calhoun’s best team of the bunch.
Georgia Southern Under 4.5 (-135)
Georgia Southern has abandoned the triple-option with new coach Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis, who was with pass-happy Western Kentucky last season. This is the most extreme scheme change an offense can have and the Eagles are not built for it. They have two transfer quarterbacks with a collection of players recruited to operate a run-heavy offense. Georgia Southern only threw the ball 275 times in 12 games last season. Now they’re going to throw it a ton? Add in the fact that the Sun Belt East is stacked with holdovers such as Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State, plus newcomers Marshall, Old Dominion and James Madison. The Eagles will be lucky to win one conference game with Louisiana and an underrated South Alabama on the schedule from the West Division. Georgia Southern will be favored just twice this season and upsets are highly unlikely.
Rice Under 3.5 (-130)
Rice drew the short straw this season and doesn’t get to play against fellow bottom-feeder FIU, so the Owls have a long way to go in order to match last season’s win total of 4. They play at USC and Houston in nonconference and host a Louisiana team that is a force in the Sun Belt on an annual basis. The only game I have Rice favored in is the one against FCS McNeese State in Week 2. The Owls play three opponents coming off of bye weeks, and I have them as a double-digit dog in every FBS game except home against Charlotte. How this team is supposed to get to four wins is a mystery to me.
Kansas State Over 6.5 (-170)
While the road schedule is daunting (Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU, Baylor and West Virginia), Chris Klieman has won seven conference road games during his three seasons in Manhattan. Kansas State has seven home games and will likely only be an underdog in one of them (Texas). Deuce Vaughn is one of the most versatile weapons in the Big 12, if not the nation. The junior running back is coming off a season in which he amassed 1,872 yards from scrimmage and scored 22 touchdowns. He’s the best back Nebraska transfer QB Adrian Martinez has ever had behind him. Vaughn will take pressure off Martinez and allow him to cut down on his turnovers.
Wake Forest Under 8.5 (-130)
Dave Clawson is an excellent coach who gets a lot out of a little, and Wake Forest is coming off its most successful season in school history with 11 victories. However, the Demon Deacons only beat four teams with a winning record in 2021. With an offense that averaged more than 41 points per game, the Deacons were able to outscore inferior teams. The offense will be potent again with QB Sam Hartman returning. The defense brings in Brad Lambert from Purdue to be the DC and he is a good hire. Nevertheless, he is changing the scheme from a 4-2-5 to a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 looks. The Deacons lived off turnovers last season, getting 29 takeaways, but they gave up 413 yards per game and only five teams in FBS allowed more first downs. That is a lot to improve on in one season and they lose a lot of super seniors from last year.
Georgia Tech Under 3.5 (-105)
Geoff Collins is on the hot seat in Atlanta after going 9-25 in three years. To be fair, this is a tough rebuild as Tech is transitioning from a triple-option offense into a spread. Every good player the Yellow Jackets had on defense is either gone or went into the transfer portal. The Jackets played the toughest schedule in the nation and this year’s schedule is not much easier with games versus Ole Miss, at UCF and at Georgia. A 1-3 record is the best they will do in nonconference. They have ACC road games against Pitt, Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The home slate includes Clemson, Duke, Virginia and Miami. They may beat Duke, but that is it.