Media days are suddenly just a few quiet weeks away, and the offseason is slowly but surely losing the battle against time. Preview magazines are showing their age, baseball is the only show in town, and sportsbooks are gearing up in their own special way.
Point spreads for the college football season were released a few weeks ago, and these betting odds now have company. The online sportsbook, 5Dimes, has released win totals for than 40 teams, putting their expectations down on paper so the public can have its say.
The significance of these numbers is quite simple: Will a team go over or under the total posted?
It should be noted the values apply to the regular season only, meaning conference championship wins and bowl victories do not factor in. Also, the win total isn’t the only important number defining expectations, and this is where it gets complicated for those new to the exercise.
The (+/-) number given—or the “juice”—impacts this betting as well. Alabama, for example, has a win total of 11.5 (perfection or bust). Accompanying this is an under betting line of (-180) and an over betting line of (+140).
In this instance, the under is favored (signified by the negative value). One would have to wager $180 to win $100, because the sportsbook feels this is the more likely result. The over, on the other hand, is the longer shot. One would only have to wager $100 to win $140, meaning the payout would be greater because Vegas feels the scenario is less likely to happen.
With the betting crash course complete, let’s assess some of the better plays.
Louisville Over 10.5 Wins (-150)
Give me Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville’s 2013 schedule and a little room for error. That’s exactly what 5Dimes has done by setting the win total at 10.5.
Much has been made of Louisville’s first and final voyage in the American Athletic Conference, and deservingly so. Unless something drastically changes, the Cardinals will be favored in every game they play.
The last game of the season at Cincinnati appears to be Charlie’s Strong biggest test going in. Outside of the Bearcats, Louisville will also have to deal with Rutgers, Central Florida, South Florida, Connecticut and Kentucky. These are in fact the highlights of the schedule, not just random teams scattered throughout.
10 defenders will be back, including defensive end Marcus Smith, linebacker Preston Brown and safety Hakeem Smith. It’s not the most intimidating group in the country, but it will likely perform beyond expectations. And then, of course, there’s Bridgewater, who took dramatic strides as a sophomore and is poised to improve further. He is who you're betting on here.
Going undefeated—regardless of the schedule—is extremely difficult. Unlike Alabama or Ohio State, both of which have win totals of 11.5, Louisville can lose a game and still go over. Take it and run with it.
Florida Under 9.5 Wins (-160)
Despite their offensively challenged makeup, Will Muschamp and the Gators performed well beyond expectations with an 11-win season in 2012. Adding to this pat on the back, Florida did this while playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
The scenario for 2013 feels similar, and the schedule might be more daunting this time around. Early and late out-of-conference games against Miami and Florida State could prove to be the difference when it comes to the the win total, although the conference schedule presents problems throughout.
Florida will play road games at LSU, Missouri and South Carolina. A yearly date with Georgia on neutral ground is also on tap in early November.
Although Will Muschamp backed up his incredible season with a recruiting class loaded with future defensive stars, former defensive standouts Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Jonathan Bostic (along with others) will be difficult to replace—at least right away. Jeff Driskel should be improved at quarterback, but this offense still has so many questions.
A 10-win season would be a tremendous followup for the Gators, although given the schedule it seems like a tall task. The under is favored at 5Dimes, and it's difficult to go against despite last year's success.
Arizona State Over 9.5 Wins (+175)
Call this my "wise guy" play, although with the buzz building I’m likely not alone.
9.5 wins for Arizona State certainly sounds like a significant jump, but it is not unconquerable. Vegas has the under at a robust, valueless (-245), which is why I’m heading the other way where there is some tremendous value to be had.
The schedule isn’t easy, and the month of September will likely decide if the over is still breathing. ASU will get Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. The Sun Devils also play Oregon State and UCLA toward the end of the year.
The second season under Todd Graham should be good news for the offense, which returns Taylor Kelly at quarterback. Also returning is running back Marion Grice, who quietly totaled 19 touchdowns a year ago. The defense, which was top three in sacks and tackles for loss in 2012, returns defensive tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford, who combined for 24.5 sacks in 2012.
I’d feel much more comfortable if the number was 9, but at (+175) I’m willing to take a stab. The team has Pac-12 Championship ability, and 10 regular-season wins isn’t out of the equation.
Boise State Under 10.5 Wins (-160)
The sportsbooks still have confidence in Boise State, as they should. After all, over the past six years no other team has covered the spread quite like Chris Petersen’s group. Still, a win total of 10.5 seems aggressive. Although the under is favored at (-160), it’s worth playing.
The opening game at Washington will be critical for this number. It’s a game I believe Washington will win as it opens up a new stadium, which sets the scenario for the rest of the season. One more loss for Boise State and the under comes in.
The room for error is minuscule, especially for a team returning only nine starters.
Joe Southwick should be more comfortable at quarterback, but one of the nation’s best pass defenses needs to be completely rebuilt. Only four starters return from a unit that was dominant at times last season.
Although the schedule won't be mistaken for an SEC slate, it is not without challenging, losable games. Boise will play road games at Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State, a team it lost to a year ago.
Even if Boise State gets by Washington, 11 wins isn’t guaranteed. I’ll follow the Vegas juggernauts here, although betting against Chris Petersen isn't exactly comforting.