College Football season is here.
We’ve had our chance to overreact to the two preseason polls and now it’s time to excited for the season opener.
The FBS season kicks off on August 28 with Nebraska and Illinois. It’s not going to be great football, but it’s still football.
Over the next two weeks, myself and Jon Jansen will be breaking down the CFB season from every angle possible.
I already have two tickets in play from July. I’m on the UCLA win total Over 7 and Iowa State running back Breece Hall to win the Heisman at +4000.
For full disclosure, I also sprinkled on Justyn Ross to win the Heisman at +10000. The Clemson wide receiver was cleared to practice earlier in the preseason and he is a Top 10 Heisman candidate if healthy for the whole season. I’m looking at that as a potential cash out opportunity, or I may let it ride depending on how he performs in the first month.
For now, my focus is on regular season win totals. The Alabamas and Oklahomas of the world are untouchable in this part of the betting world because of their lofty expectations.
After analyzing the board, I picked out a handful of win totals that I’m locking in on.
My criteria is very simple for breaking down these totals. Schedule, returning starters and strength of the conference are the biggest factors I used to find the best bets across the board.
Western Kentucky Over 5.5
Western Kentucky, yes Western Kentucky, has been one of the most talked about FBS sides when it comes to win totals.
The Hilltoppers employed a fascinating offseason strategy by landing most of the Houston Baptist offense in the transfer portal. WKU hired former Houston Baptist head coach Zach Kittley as its offensive coordinator.
The most important name here is Bailey Zappe, who put up 567 yards and four touchdowns against Texas Tech last season.
Kittley comes from the Air Raid coaching tree and Zappe is the latest star pupil.
Western Kentucky should start the season with a win over UT-Martin. You will get to see what the program is all about when it faces Indiana and Michigan State. (Maybe an upset special on October 2 versus Sparty???).
WKU should beat Charlotte and Middle Tennessee at home and wins are expected over Conference USA bottom feeders FIU and Old Dominion. One victory should come from the final three games against Rice, FAU and Marshall.
There is a strong path to six victories, and it could be more if the WKU offense clicks right away.
Michigan State Under 5.5
Let’s talk about WKU’s October 2 opponent.
I can’t remember the outlook on Michigan State football being so bleak prior to the start of a season.
Mark Dantonio’s departure left a mess for Mel Tucker and his staff to sift through. The job was even worse because of the pandemic-affected season.
The Spartans lack talent at quarterback, they play in an unforgiving division and have a brutal schedule.
There are not many guaranteed wins on the Spartans’ schedule outside of Youngstown State and Nebraska.
Sparty has to visit Rutgers, Indiana and Purdue and they finish with Ohio State and Penn State.
I simply can’t find a path to six wins for the Spartans.
Temple Over 2.5
Find a local angle they said.
Well, I found one and the outlook isn’t particularly great for Temple based on its projected win total.
The Owls are going to beat Akron and Wagner, so there are two wins by the end of September.
Georgia transfer D’Wan Mathis should eventually take over the quarterback position and he should keep the Owls competitive in some games.
There are not any spectacularly brutal stretches of the Temple schedule, and if the team improves over the season, a third win should be there against one of the weaker teams in the American Athletic Conference.
NC State Over 6.5
You have reached the portion of this piece where I wax poetic about breakout stars of the CFB season.
NC State quarterback Devin Leary was on his way to earning that title before he got hurt last season.
With Leary at the helm, NC State went 4-1 with some nice wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia.
NC State returned a good amount of its stars. Wide receiver Emeka Emezie is one to watch as Leary’s top target.
The Wolfpack still finished with eight wins and they are likely the second-best team in the ACC Atlantic Division behind Clemson.
NC State opens with four home games in its first five and it gets Clemson out of the way on September 25.
The Wolfpack should go 3-1 in their first four home games and they have favorable second-half home contests with Louisville and Syracuse. That means two road wins are needed to hit seven.
NC State should beat at least one of Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest and a Week 2 trip to Mississippi State presents a chance for a victory too.
Colorado Over 4.5 (-105)
Learn the name and learn it fast.
Broussard will be one of the breakout stars in the Pac-12. He started the truncated Pac-12 season with four straight 100-yard games last season. That run ended with 301 rushing yards against Arizona.
Broussard’s 2021 clash with Arizona comes at the end of one of the most favorable home stretches in the FBS. Colorado hosts four of its first six games. It plays Texas A&M on a neutral site and visits Arizona State in that span.
Northern Colorado, Minnesota, USC and Arizona are the true home opponents. Colorado will easily win two of those games and it should beat a Minnesota team that is living off the shine from two years ago.
Colorado also gets Oregon State at home to start November, which will be a welcome sight before the gauntlet of UCLA, Washington and Utah to close the regular season.
The Buffaloes can get to the UCLA game with five victories, which would take all the stress out of this win total.
Kentucky Over 7
So many people are going to be bullish on Kentucky.
The Wildcats have a competent quarterback in Penn State transfer Will Levis and sit in a wide-open part of the SEC East.
Georgia and Florida are at the top and Vanderbilt is at the bottom, but no one knows what to make of South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri.
It’s best to trust a consistent program in Kentucky under Mark Stoops than the other programs in transitional phases.
Like Colorado, Kentucky gets to start its season with an abundance of home games. UL Monroe, Missouri and Chattanooga are all very winnable games, as is the September 25 trip to South Carolina.
If Kentucky starts 4-0, it could be a tough foe for Florida and LSU, who come to Lexington in back-to-back weeks.
A closing stretch of Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Louisville is one of the most favorable in the FBS, so that means one more win has to come from Mississippi State or Tennessee, the latter of which comes to UK to start November.
If Kentucky benefits from its experienced offensive line and Levis provides some type of passing threat, third place in the SEC East is absolutely within reach.
Arkansas Over 4.5
Sam Pittman did not appear to be a good hire on the surface, but the former Georgia offensive line coach brought some promise to the Arkansas program last season.
The Razorbacks went 3-7 last season and had three one-possession losses to Auburn, LSU and Missouri.
If the Hogs take a step up with a full offseason to work under Pittman, five wins is absolutely attainable.
Arkansas plays Rice and Georgia Southern in two of its first three games and it gets Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri at home. The November cupcake weekend matchup with Arkansas Pine-Bluff should be a victory too.
If Arkansas takes care of its nonconference home games, it needs to win two SEC games. It had three SEC victories last season.
Pittsburgh Over 7
We know Pittsburgh likely isn’t going to win the ACC Coastal with North Carolina and Miami at the top of the division, but we also know the Panthers won’t suck.
Pat Narduzzi is one of the best defensive minds in the country and the Panthers will be in most contests because of that.
For better or worse, Kenny Pickett is back again at quarterback. At minimum, that provides offensive stability.
Pitt’s opening stretch is off the charts easy. UMass, Western Michigan and New Hampshire come to western Pennsylvania. There is a road trip to Tennessee in Week 2 that is very winnable.
If Pitt starts 4-0, it needs one win over a competitive ACC team to push the win total. Everyone in the ACC is beating Duke and Syracuse. The Panthers get Clemson, UNC and Miami at home this season, so an upset is possible.
Even if Pitt does not win any of those games, it still has a rebuilding Georgia Tech, an underperforming Virginia Tech and average Virginia on the conference slate to make a push for third in the ACC Coastal and a half-decent bowl game somewhere in the southeast.