College Football: 5 Win Totals to Target for the 2019 Season
Since the inception of the College Football Playoff, only five different schools have appeared in the first five championship bouts. And in the last four years alone, the Alabama Crimson Tide have faced off against the Clemson Tigers three times and faced the Georgia Bulldogs in the other. In other words, things have been quite predictable.
If the experts are right, we aren't likely to see a new finalist in 2019. Over at FanDuel Sportsbook, Clemson (+200), Alabama (+225) and Georgia (+850) constitute the top three teams by betting odds, and Ohio State (+1200) is a distant fourth.
That being said, if you are looking to get in on the action but avoid going against the powerhouse chalk, team win totals are the way to go. FanDuel has them broken down across 11 conferences, meaning there is no shortage on options, but we're here to zero in on five of the best bets to either go over or under their projected win totals.
Let's take a look at five teams to bring back some future cash this college football season.
Western Michigan Over 7.5 (-102)
The power conferences are great, and they are -- understandably so -- the primary focus of most bettors. However, as college DFS players know, there is no shortage of action in the MAC.
The 2019 MACtion campaign is going to be as exciting as ever. Last year's conference champion, the Buffalo Bulls, are expected to drop from 10 to 6 wins after losing a number of players to graduation and the like. Meanwhile, Toledo (8.0), Ohio (7.5) and Northern Illinois (7.0) are all at or above seven.
But don't forget about Western Michigan.
The Broncos started off last year with two straight losses and finished the year 7-6 with a loss in the Potato Bowl. What that doesn't capture, though, is an injury that sidelined starting quarterback Jon Wassink for the final four games of the season; they lost three of those four. The senior signal caller will be back to head an offense with seven returning starters, including 1,200-yard rusher LeVante Bellamy and the team's top two pass-catchers from a year ago.
The defense is even more promising, bringing back 10 on that side of the ball. According to Football Outsiders, that unit fell outside the top 100 in S&P+ yet finished top-20 in both line yards allowed per carry (2.22) and sack rate (8.6%), which has them first in returning production, per ESPN's Bill Connelly.
WMU will have to square off with Michigan State early on, but a win or hard-fought loss could propel them against lower-level squads like Monmouth and Georgia State, as well as in-conference foes Ball State and Bowling Green.
The Broncos are a near-lock to reach the eight-win plateau for the first time in the post-Fleck era. You might even want to roll the dice on them to win the conference at their spicy odds (+750).
Penn State Under 8.5 (+140)
Offensively, they lost quarterback Trace McSorley as well as backup Tommy Stevens (who jetted for Mississippi State), meaning they will likely rely on a redshirt sophomore in Sean Clifford, who has only seven career pass attempts to his name. The Nittany Lions will also be without now-Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders along with reliable receivers DeAndre Thompkins and Juwan Johnson. They will be forced to rely heavily on sophomore KJ Hamler as the team's top offensive weapon.
Last year, Hamler accounted for 798 scrimmage yards and six scores from his wideout spot. H-back Pat Freirmuth ranks second among returning players with 368 scrimmage yards. All that to say that Penn State is 116th in Connelly's returning offensive production, ahead of only Purdue and Ohio State among Big Ten opponents.
They are expected to be more stout defensively, with six returning starters, but transfers have left them lacking depth in the secondary. Coming in 110th in returning defensive production, it will be a tall task for them to repeat last year's nine wins while lacking experience at such key positions.
Utah Over 9.0 (-130)
Over the last 14 years, the Utah Utes have been about as steady as they come under coach Kyle Whittingham. In 8 of his 14 full seasons at the helm, they've notched nine-plus wins with four of those coming in the past five years. In 2018, their 9.2 Second-Order Wins surpassed their actual total of nine, and they average 8.5 wins during Whittingham's tenure. If you ask most people, this is no average Utah team, either.
This year, they are tied at +300 (with Oregon) to win the Pac-12 and rightfully so. Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley, after falling to injury last year, is poised to improve on last year's numbers (2,092 total yards and 16 scores), while fellow senior Zack Moss seeks his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. They have experienced receivers on the outside, which should present a balanced attack for opposing defenses.
All total, Utah returns 15 total starters, and while the defense isn't as highly-rated based on returning production, that should be bolstered by Penn State transfer and linebacker Manny Bowen, who will look to hold down the fort for a defense that ranked 19th overall and 11th against the run in 2018.
UAB Under 7.0 (+120)
Since returning from a three-year hiatus from college football, the UAB Blazers have sure proven themselves a feel-good story. Over the last two seasons, they have won 19 games, including last year's bowl win over Northern Illinois.
But as much as you want to root for them, they have an uphill battle this year. They return 14 of 22 starters, yet they will be without a handful of receivers, as well as a few linemen on both sides of the ball. Of their projected defensive starters, five are underclassmen, three of which take to the secondary.
The Blazers put together a top-50 defense last year, but they sit 130th in total returning production, and they're one of only two teams (Fresno State is the other) ranked in the bottom 10 on both offense and defense.
They have an easy schedule, but they are not as strong as they have been the last two years. With an impossible matchup against Tennessee on top of road tilts at Southern Mississippi and North Texas (both of whom have 7.5-win totals), it's a gift to be getting plus odds on the under here.
LSU Over 9.0 (+100)
It's hard to be underrated following a 10-win season, let alone one that ended in a Fiesta Bowl win, but that is just the nature of today's SEC, isn't it?
On FanDuel Sportsbook, eight SEC teams are owners of win totals at or north of 7.5, and four are expected to win nine or more, including these LSU Tigers. The purple and gold will be under the leadership of senior quarterback Joe Burrow, who impressed with nearly 2,900 yards and 16 scores (to 5 interceptions) through the air a year ago. He also ran for seven as LSU's offense for once held up its end of the deal, finishing the year 30th in Offensive S&P+.
We know that the defense is as tough as they come year in and year out, and this one should be no different. Despite their 49th-ranked defense by returning production, the Tigers' two best reinforcements -- five-stars Marcel Brooks and Derek Stingley Jr. -- will slide in at linebacker and defensive back, respectively.
As for the offense, it is 12th in returning production, as Burrow and company will be operating behind a line with four upperclassmen. He will again rely on leading receiver Justin Jefferson, and with running back Nick Brossette onto the next level, Clyde Edwards-Helaire should shoulder the load after rushing for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns last fall.
The Tigers are favored in an early clash with Texas, and with home matchups versus Florida and Auburn they should be favored throughout, at least until a November date with the Tide in Tuscaloosa (+14.5). Either way, 10 wins are well within the cards for the Bayou Bengals.