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The Four Most Over/Underrated Teams in College Football in 2018

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in College Football

Aug 15, 2018 · 8:10 PM PDT

Texas Football
Expectations (and win totals odds) are high for the Texas Longhorns. Can Tom Herman deliver nine wins? Photo by Keith Johnston [CC License].
  • College football win totals odds are here, and boy are some of them wild
  • Three teams have win totals projections that differ from their win totals odds by more than a full win
  • We’ll tell you who they are, plus why Jimbo Fisher isn’t going to win eight games

College football win totals are here, and we’ve taken a dive into the odds sheet. Here are the four teams with the biggest difference between their win total over/under and their projected wins, and a brief explanation of how that creates value for bettors.

The Four Most Under/Overrated Teams in College Football

School Win Total Over/Under S&P+ Projected Wins Difference
Texas A&M 7.5 6.7 0.8
Texas 8.5 7.3 1.2
Nebraska 6.5 5.3 1.2
Ole Miss 6 7.3 1.3

The stat we use for win projections is Football Outsiders’ S&P+, which is a play-by-play efficiency stat that incorporates things like recruiting ranking and returning production to give a decent preseason projection. It can project each game on the schedule, and when you add up those win probabilities you get a projected wins number. It’s not a perfect stat, but a large gulf between its projection and betting odds suggests that something is up. Sometimes the stats are missing something, but sometimes the betting public is wrong.

Texas A&M has a rabid fanbase and a new coach

Regular Season Win Total Odds
Over 7.5 -105
Under 7.5 -125

Here’s a great way to consistently make money: bet against people with too much money and too much enthusiasm. Nobody fits that description better than Texas A&M, who just decided to give Jimbo Fisher all the money in the world. As one of the few active coaches with a national title, Jimbo Fisher is a marquee hire, but there’s a couple reasons to fade the Aggies here.

Firstly: this might be the toughest schedule in FBS. Clemson in week two. At Alabama. At Auburn. Ole Miss and LSU in November. Never mind that the Aggies travel to South Carolina and Mississippi, those are the easy ones on this schedule. How hard is it to find five losses in this schedule, in year one of a new project?

Secondly: Jimbo Fisher won six regular season games last year, with one of the most talented rosters in football and a far easier schedule. I’m not saying that Texas A&M fans are a cultish group of oil-rich looney tunes, but actually yeah. I am saying that.

You can bet against these people!

Texas has a slightly less rabid fanbase and a slightly less new coach, but more money

Regular Season Win Total Odds
Over 8.5 -140
Under 8.5 +110

I got you to bet the under on Texas A&M, so picture this: Texas A&M, but with more money and higher expectations. An easier schedule, certainly, but also a less talented roster and a higher win total projection.

Tom Herman came to Austin as a saviour, a return to the Mack Brown days of yore. And in a way, he delivered: the Longhorns really did field a wildly talented defense and a lackluster offense.* They really did play an exciting, down-to-the-wire game against USC. That’s more or less where the comparisons end. Sam Ehlinger was good (particularly good for a true freshman), but not good enough to overcome an underwhelming offensive line and run game. S&P+ has Texas as a 7.3 win team, giving Texas the second highest difference between projected wins and win total over/under. Again, it’s Texas A&M with more money.

They even lost their most important player: Michael Dickson. I’m not kidding: Texas ranked first overall in punt efficiency, and Dickson won that Missouri game for the Longhorns all by himself.

*If it helps, think of them as an SEC school that got lost.

Nebraska has the fanciest new coach in college football

Regular Season Win Total Odds
Over 6.5 -105
Under 6.5 -125

Trickling down the money and enthusiasm train, Nebraska is in their first year under Scott Frost and expecting big things. Scott Frost led UCF to an undefeated season and a lowercase-n lowercase-c national championship, so he should be able to get at least seven wins at Nebraska, right?

Don’t tell Nebraska people, but Scott Frost had more to work with at UCF. Frost is choosing between a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, and a walk-on junior at quarterback. The S&P+ projections have Nebraska with 5.3 projected wins, meaning the Cornhusker’s difference between projected wins and win total over/under is the same as the Longhorns.

This schedule is not hard to find six losses on. It includes four of the toughest games the conference has to offer:

  • at Michigan
  • at Wisconsin
  • at Ohio State
  • Finally, at Iowa

They’re also playing Michigan State at home and probably won’t be the favorite at Northwestern. Hell, even Purdue is pretty good now. It’s not difficult to imagine that this team might be overrated by the betting market, and that it might need a little longer to get going than its fans would like.

Ole Miss has problems, but not on offense

Regular Season Win Total Odds
Over 6 -110
Under 6 -120

Now, I understand why bettors might be anxious about Ole Miss. They’re under serious sanctions, they just lost their star quarterback, and they’ve really got nothing to play for. Why would they try to qualify for a bowl they’re banned from playing in?

Because Matt Luke doesn’t want to get fired, is why, and a lot of these players have NFL ambitions. Also: Jordan Ta’amu throwing the ball to one of the best receiving corps in the country. The statistical projections can’t see that Ole Miss is under sanctions, but it can see that this is one of the best offenses in the country.

The defense isn’t going to be great, they’ve just lost too much talent and production to the draft. If they’re lucky, though, some of the players who spent 2017 injured could spend 2018 on the field, and 2017’s most disappointing defense could morph into something serviceable.*

The schedule breaks down favorably for Ole Miss. Barring disaster, they should beat Southern Illinois, Kent State, and UL-Monroe. Texas Tech at home isn’t a gimme but they’ll be favored by about a touchdown. From there, it’s just about finding two more wins for the push. At Arkansas? South Carolina at home? At Vanderbilt, with a real size and talent advantage? The Egg Bowl is obviously going to be tough, but what are rivalry games for if not spiteful, useless wins?

Then look at the games in which Ole Miss will be a real underdog. You think Texas A&M can’t lose a dumb game? Auburn can’t blow a road game? LSU can’t disappoint? Even Alabama lost to Ole Miss two years in a row!

*With a fun offense and a question mark defense, it helps to think about Ole Miss as a Big 12 program that got lost.






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