The preseason coaches’ poll is out and Vegas has over/under win totals for all 25 teams featured, so we decided to make some picks.
#1: Alabama: Over 10.5
Over. A two-loss Alabama? Do me a favor: look at Alabama’s schedule and find two losses. Okay, Florida State’s a toss up. Then what? I don’t think Ole Miss is going to find the magic that won them two games in a row. LSU in its first full year under Ed Orgeron? Texas A&M, right around the time the Aggies start falling apart every year? This is a tough schedule, but Alabama’s a tough team.
#2: Ohio State: Under 10.5
Under. Ohio State is really good but struggles to get going early in the season, plays Oklahoma in Week 2, and is good for at least one loss against Penn State or Michigan. Maybe this is the year the Buckeyes turn into the death machine they’re designed to be. Or, maybe this is the year after they got shut out of the Fiesta Bowl.
#3: Florida State: Over 9.5
These odds are about dead on. I’ll take the over, only because I think this defensive front can steal from Houston’s playbook and pressure Lamar Jackson into mortality. I also think this is a playoff team that has the best safety in the country in Derwin James. It’s a team that could very well beat Alabama in Week 1. Not to mention, they boast one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football.
#4: USC: Over 9.5
You look at this schedule and it’s really hard to find three teams that can beat USC. Their toughest competition will be Stanford, who rolled the Trojans in the pre-Darnold portion of 2016, a very green Texas team, and a Notre Dame squad fresh off a 4-8 season. They should overmatch everyone else comfortably. I watched the Rose Bowl, give me the over.
#5: Clemson: Under 9.5
Maybe the toughest team to predict because they lost a very unique and very central player in Deshaun Watson. Maybe they can replace him. Maybe Hunter Johnson or Kelly Bryant or someone can get the machine running again, or maybe not. You’ll probably know by the end of the Auburn game. I’m really high on Watson, which means I think they’ll lose some of these tight games with Florida State, Louisville, and Auburn. I’m going with under.
#6: Penn State: Over 9.5
This team is super fun, and proved in the Rose Bowl they can hang with the best squads in the country. Penn State will also see the return of their star quarterback and perhaps the best running back in the country. I only see this team losing to Ohio State and Michigan in the Big 10, and even those games I’m not so sure of. I agree with over.
#7: Washington: Over 10
A year after making the playoff and giving Alabama a bit of a fright in the Peach Bowl, Washington’s set to make another run. They return the bulk of their production pretty much everywhere on the field, have good depth and lose very few stars for a playoff team. Everyone is making a huge deal out of Washington’s secondary and the loss of Budda Baker, and while that will certainly hurt, it’s not enough to write off the Huskies. This schedule isn’t a sure thing, playing Stanford in a road game is tough for any team, but missing USC and playing UCLA, Oregon and Utah at home definitely helps.
#8: Oklahoma: Over 9.5
Oklahoma’s looking like a ten-win team even without Bob Stoops at the helm. That Week 2 matchup against Ohio State surely favors the Sooners as Ohio State sometimes has trouble getting up to speed early in the season. Even if they lose that game, and their state rivalry game with OSU, it’s tough to find their third loss on this schedule. Texas? Baylor? Nahhhh. Over.
#9: Michigan: Over 9
Michigan is projected to lose their games with Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, but I don’t think they’ll manage all three. This team is too close to the greener pastures of playoff contention, and in their third year under an incredibly successful renaissance, I think they’ll make that next step. Over.
#10: Wisconsin: Over 9.5
Wisconsin has all the makings of a succesful Wisconsin team. Big people everywhere, a favorable Big 10 West schedule, and a stifling defense. Maybe they’ll lose to Michigan, but their out-of-conference schedule includes FAU, Utah State and BYU. They’re the closest thing to a lock in the Big 10 West so I’m going with over.
#11: Oklahoma State: Under 9
I’m going to bet the under on Oklahoma State, as much as it breaks my heart. It’s a fun, explosive offense, quarterbacked by a guy who loves nothing more than to throw the deep ball, but the defense would need to improve for this team to win ten games. The problem is OSU has a revolving door in both the secondary and front seven. Very regrettable under.
#12: LSU: Under 9
This is a tough schedule to win ten games against. LSU plays Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi State on the road, and gets through all their easier games before September is over. From there, it will be a grind through the SEC, and I’m not sure LSU will be able to escape with ten wins. Also an under.
#13: Auburn: Under 8.5
Auburn’s biggest problem recently has been finding quarterbacks that work with Gus Malzahn’s offense. Sean White was good but struggled with the RPO stuff that Malzahn made famous. He was also frequently injured. Jeremy Johnson carried a lot of hype but didn’t pan out. Now Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham is behind centre and, at least judging by the spring game, looks good. Stidham’s got the arm strength, running ability, and experience with carnival offenses to get the Tigers’ rolling again. However, a schedule that features SEC West competition as well as Clemson and LSU on the road doesn’t do you any favors. I don’t feel bad signing Auburn up for four losses.
#14: Stanford: Under 8.5
Stanford is pretty much dead-on a 8.5 win team. They’re an underdog against USC, almost a coinflip against Washington, and play a possibly resurgent Notre Dame to finish the season. They’re a heavy favorite against Rice in the opener, but there’s no other locks on this schedule. They could absolutely lose to Utah, Washington State, and even Oregon. I’ll have the under, because I remember the whole “bodyclocks” fiasco.
#15: Georgia: Under 8.5
Unndeeerrrrrr. Ya’ll fired Mark Richt for too many nine and ten win seasons and replaced him with a Saban assistant so that his star running back and stud recruits could lose five games. Careful what you wish for, I guess. Of course, this roster could make me look very stupid: There’s enough talent here to win ten games and the SEC East, but that’s been true for a while. I’m going to pick the under, because I’ve never lost money betting against Saban assistants.
#16: Florida: Over 8
SEC East champion Florida has pretty much everything it need to win nine games. Its got one of the best defenses in the country, an improving offense, a highly-touted coach in his third year, a supremely talented transfer quarterback, and all the goodwill in the world. The Gators also burned through four starting QB’s in two years and play a schedule that features LSU, Florida State, and Michigan. The over looks good to me, but if I could bet on them to win exactly eight, I would.
#17: Louisville: Under 9.5
I love Louisville, which is to say that I adore Lamar Jackson, but here’s why I think this is a nine win team: They were exposed at the end of last season when Houston, LSU, and even Kentucky figured out how to deal with the offense, and they play Clemson, Florida State, and NC State. Each of those teams have all the toys in the toybox to blow up this offensive line and pressure Jackson, who loses his favorite targets and some of the novelty that helped him score 51 touchdowns last year. Under.
#18: Miami: Under 9
Miami’s only going to be a clear underdog in one of its games — against Florida State in Week 3. Facing everyone else, they’re at least a slight favorite, although you could make arguments about Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. If, and it’s a big one, the Hurricanes can find someone capable of replacing Brad Kaaya, this will be a skilled offense and a top-20 defense playing a relatively favorable schedule in a winnable division. If they can’t, they’ll get eaten alive by their top three opponents and will struggle to keep up with fancy offensive teams like Georgia Tech and even Syracuse. I think the latter is more likely. Under.
#19: Kansas State: Under 8
In Bill Snyder’s 114th year as head coach, Kansas State looks ready to win precisely seven games. Chalk up Texas and the two Oklahoma teams as clear losses, then think long and hard about TCU, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, and even Iowa State. Tell me you can’t find five losses there. You could even lose to #20 West Virginia, if they live up to the hype! Under.
#20: West Virginia: Under 7
They’re not going to live up to the hype. They’re almost starting from scratch in the secondary, doing the same thing on the defensive line, replacing very valuable players on the offensive line, and don’t have a huge amount to be excited about otherwise. I like Will Grier too, don’t get me wrong (and who doesn’t love Ligandrol?), but outside the big names, West Virginia is very thin. Also, check out this schedule: Imagine waking up one morning in October and realizing that the next eight weeks of your life include both Oklahoma teams and the entire state of Texas with no clear win on the horizon. No thanks.
#21: South Florida: Under 10
College football did right by parachuting Charlie Strong into a very favorable position at South Florida. This offense is among the best in the country and the defense is, well, we won’t ask too many questions of the defense. Ten wins is a little rich for my blood though: there’s a few too many tossups on this schedule and I still don’t want to play Ed Oliver and Houston. Particularly not if people are calling my quarterback “Lamar Jackson-lite.” Under.
#22: Virginia Tech: Under 9
In his first year as head coach, Justin Fuente did a great job making sure that he never sees reasonable expectations again. Now the Hokies are looking at a schedule that features Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech and a handful of improving ACC teams wondering where they’re going to find ten wins again. I’m going to bet the under, because I have trouble betting on teams that haven’t found a quarterback yet.
#23: Texas: Over 7.5
I’m not the world’s most confident Longhorns fan, I don’t even like Salt Lick barbecue sauce, and I’m comfortable calling this an eight win team. Tom Herman’s a great coach, particularly at turning stud recruits into serious defensive prowess, and I have infinite faith in Shane Buechele’s ability to throw the ball. The schedule is pretty favorable, if you call USC a loss and the Red River Rivalry anyone’s game. There’s a few tossups here, but I was happy with the direction Texas was moving before they hired the hottest G5 coach in the country. Over.
#24: Tennessee: Under 7.5
I’d feel more comfortable with the over if Tennessee didn’t lose Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, their offensive coordinator, all your favorite defensive ends, any idea of what to do at defensive tackle, two of your top guys in the secondary and the Vanderbilt game. I’ll call this a seven win team, repeat Champions of Life, and second in the SEC East. Again.
#25: Utah: Under 6.5
I love Utah and hate this schedule. They’re going to play every PAC-12 team you think of when I say that the PAC-12 is back, and their only easy game is a result of calling the wrong North Dakota team. I want this team so desperately to be successful but unfortunately someone has to struggle in the PAC-12. Under.