Well, we’re here. It is August 16, meaning that we are now exactly 14 days and two calendar weeks from the start of college football season. Man, where does the time go? Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday confetti was falling on Trent Richardson’s freakishly big biceps in the Superdome (Why I’m thinking about Trent Richardson’s biceps right now, is of course another story all together)?
Regardless, with the season so close, it’s time for me to break out one of my favorite annual columns, on college football’s over/under win totals.
Now for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, over/under win totals are Vegas’ way of taking a few extra bucks out of your pocket before the start of the season. That’s because rather than just betting on whether a team will win, lose or cover the spread, you’re instead betting on how many games they’ll actually win over the course of the entire regular season. For example, if a team is picked to win 9.5 regular season games, you’re wagering on whether they’ll go over or under that win total. It’s really that simple.
For me, over/under win totals serve a completely different purpose. I’m not much of a gambler, if only because I don’t have the cash (simply put, I’m going to need to start saving up just to be broke). At the same time, by looking at over/under win totals you kind of get a feel for good Vegas feels a team actually is. If a number seems too good to be true, it usually is. If a number seems too low, there’s often a reason behind it.
Now before we get started, I do want to make one quick editorial note: Please don’t get all butt hurt if you don’t see your team on this list. It doesn’t mean I don’t like your team, it doesn’t mean I hate your coach, in general, it actually doesn’t mean much of anything.
Truthfully what it does generally mean is that I think Vegas hit the number perfectly. So for example, the over/under win total on Michigan is nine wins and frankly looking at them, I think they’re about a nine win team. Therefore, there’s no real reason for me to comment on the Maize and Blue.
Get it? Got it? Good.
Let’s get to the 2012 college football over/under win totals!
Tennessee OVER 7 Wins:
Admittedly, this is Tennessee, and if we’ve learned one thing during Derek Dooley’s time at the school it’s that losses aren’t all that hard to come by. This is the same program which celebrated an overtime win against Vandy like they’d just won the Super Bowl, and lost for the first time in 26 years to Kentucky in the same calendar season. Sorry to bring back the memories, Tennessee fans.
Still, when it comes to the 2012 Vols, I’m like one of those overwhelmed housewives in a cheesy Lifetime movie: Simply put, I just…can’t…quit…Derek Dooley. Maybe it’s the orange pants. Maybe it’s the perfect comb over. I don’t know. But if there was a literal Tennessee bandwagon I could jump on right now, I’d do it. No questions asked.
Now, do I believe that the Vols will go 10-2 and win the SEC East? Probably not. But can they be a solid nine win team and surprise a few people along the way? That seems feasible to me.
Granted, it won’t always be pretty. But assuming Justin Hunter is back and healthy, and assuming Tyler Bray is focused on throwing footballs instead of beer cans, this team will score points. Lots of them. And while they’ll still give up plenty of points on the other side of the ball, I suspect it will be fewer than most people think. Say what you want about Dooley, but he’s never had this much talent returning in a single season since taking over on Rocky Top. Not even close actually.
Give me Tennessee at eight or nine wins, and the OVER on this bet.
Ohio State UNDER 9 Wins:
Any time I see someone hyping up Ohio State as a Top 15 club or potential 10-win team, I can’t help but think one thing: Did anyone besides me ACTUALLY WATCH THESE GUYS PLAY LAST YEAR???
Sorry to go all caps on you there, but I cannot emphasize this point enough. Ohio State was bad last year. Like, really, really bad. Like “Roseanne-singing-the-National-Anthem I’ve-Got-To-Change-The-Channel-Immediately” bad.
Now, will this team be better under Urban Meyer? Of course. But this is still his first year, he’s still devoid of any truly elite playmakers (although I’m hearing good things about Carlos Hyde) and Braxton Miller is still a major work in progress. Miller will get there eventually. But this is also the same guy who completed a grand total of 56 percent of his passes last year.
Oh, and one more thing: Don’t let USC fool you, winning a lot of games when you’re on probation with no chance of going to the postseason isn’t as easy as they made it look last year.
Actually if you remember, they didn’t really make it look as easy at all. For all the success the Trojans had in the final few weeks of 2011, they were still lucky to win a couple games early (go ahead and re-read the game reports from Minnesota, Utah and Notre Dame) and rode a couple mega-hot weekends from Matt Barkley to those 10 wins. Unfortunately for Ohio State, they don’t have Barkley and it’s hard to imagine them coming in with the week-in, week-out focus needed to reach the surprisingly lofty expectations most have for them.
Urban Meyer is a great coach. Urban Meyer will do great things at Ohio State.
Urban Meyer is also not a higher-being or miracle worker.
I’ve got Ohio State pegged at around eight wins.
LSU OVER 10 Wins:
For those of you worried about how Tyrann Mathieu’s departure will impact this team, take a step back, and walk with me down memory lane to a place I like to call “August 2011.”
As you may remember, it was at that point that LSU was dealing with some major off the field heat. Starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson was accused of some pretty heavy stuff at an on-campus bar fight and was suspended the first four games of the season. Receiver Russell Shepard got into some trouble and was suspended the first three games too (believe me, way back in 2011 losing Shepard was actually seen as a pretty big deal. Crazy in hindsight, I know).
Anyway, it was at that point that everyone began to doubt LSU. How would they handle a brutal non-conference schedule that included a neutral site game against Oregon and road trips to Mississippi State and West Virginia in the first month of the season? What would those poor, helpless Bayou Bengals do?
Oh that’s right, they’d kick ass and take names. That’s exactly what they did on their way to one of the greatest regular seasons in college football history.
My point? This is a program that will neither be made nor broken by one player.
And even without Mathieu, I see a zero percent chance of them losing more than two games.
Bet the Bayou Bengals. Big.
Florida UNDER 8 Wins:
The Gators are another “wait, did anyone actually watch this team last year” teams.
Because seriously, did anyone actually watch Florida last year?
(And by the way if your answer is an emphatic “no,” well frankly, I can’t blame you)
As for the 2012 edition, well yes the defense is great, but it is less dynamic without Ronald Powell, and until I see otherwise, the offense remains a grease fire with extra grease. Forget the fact that the quarterback situation is still as confusing to college football fans as multiplication tables are to the Kardashians. Forget the fact that I still don’t see one playmaker on this roster that could’ve played for Florida in Urban Meyer’s heyday. How about the fact that these upperclassmen will be dealing with their third new offensive coordinator and third new scheme in three years? Even if the defense plays out of their minds (which they likely will), will the offense put up enough points to actually win ball games?
Speaking of which, the schedule is much, much tougher than it looks on paper. It includes trips to A&M, Tennessee, Vandy and Florida State (all conceivably losable, including Vandy. Don’t forget, Florida only beat them by five at the Swamp last year) home games against South Carolina, LSU and Missouri as well as a Cocktail Party with Georgia.
Could we be looking at another 6-6 campaign in Gainesville? I’m thinking so.
Michigan State OVER 8.5 Wins:
As the old saying goes, “There are only three things guaranteed in life: Death, Taxes and Dantonio.”
Ok, so I definitely made that up, but at the same time, does anyone realize that Michigan State- Michigan freakin’ State University- has won 22 games over the last two years? Not to go all Allen Iverson practice-rant on you guys, but “We talking about Michigan State, man! Not Michigan. Not Ohio State. Michigan State! We talking about Michigan State!”
And with that, I’m wondering why we should expect anything less than another solid season from the Spartans in 2012.
Granted, the schedule is tougher than it has been in the past (including a tough opener against Boise) and Michigan State did lose Kirk Cousins at quarterback. At the same time, Dantonio has never been about anything other than pounding the ball between the tackles on offense and playing suffocating defense, and really, there’s little reason to think that Sparty won’t do both of those things this year. In the running game Le’Veon Bell returns with four of his offensive linemen in front of him, and defensively Michigan State may have the best unit in the entire league. William Gholston, Denicos Allen (man, I wish my name was “Denicos”) and Johnny Adams could all be all Big Ten performers.
Point being, even with the losses on offense, I see no reason to think this team won’t get to at least nine wins. And nine wins is enough to win you this bet.
Washington UNDER 7.5 Wins:
Do I like Steve Sarkisian? About as much as I like hot pizza and cold beer, actually.
At the same time, do I like this specific U-Dub team? Not nearly as much. The Huskies basically lost everyone of consequence off the 2011 offense, and on the other side of the ball, you all do remember last December’s Alamo Bowl, right? Simply put, there’s a reason Nick Holt is pushing paper at Arkansas right now rather than coaching in Seattle.
Also, on a completely unrelated note, have you seen Washington’s schedule? Small children are less scared of the monster’s living under their beds than U-Dub fans should be of what awaits them in the early part of the season. A Week 2 trip to LSU is bad enough, believe me. But to have to play Stanford, at Oregon and USC in back-to-back-to-back weeks? That could be considered cruel and unusual punishment in some states.
Sorry, Washington fans. This is looking like a 6-6 ball-club.
NC State OVER 7.5 Wins:
Look, I don’t have any more interest in rooting for Tom O’Brien than you do. But if you don’t think NC State is going to win at least eight games this year, you clearly haven’t been paying very close attention.
Oregon Over 10 Wins:
Two quick things on Oregon here:
1. If you’re worried about the quarterback battle in Eugene, don’t be. As my good buddy Michael Felder likes to point out, the Ducks are the only team in college football with a quarterback battle featuring two guys who should be starting. This ain’t Florida with two unproven sophomores. This ain’t Texas where Mack Brown is having more trouble picking a starter than a high school girl does her prom dress. This isn’t UCLA where one guy was simply “less bad” than his competition. In the end, I expect both Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota to play. And the team will be fine regardless of who ends up as the long-term starter.
2. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you all: Chip Kelly simply doesn’t lose games he’s not supposed to. No, seriously. In the last two years his teams have lost three times, with those losses coming respectively to a BCS champion (Auburn ’10), a BCS championship game runner-up (LSU ’11) and a team that entered the following season as the No. 1 team in the country (USC ’11).
Point being, if this team does lose a game this regular season it’ll come November 3 at the LA Coliseum. That’s it.
I have little reason to worry that the Ducks won’t get to 11 wins.
Here are a few other bets that I like, but I wouldn’t be confident enough to wager on:
Alabama OVER/UNDER 10 Wins:
Look, nobody loves what Nick Saban is doing at Alabama more than I do. I mean that.
At the same time, didn’t we go through the same “There’s no way they could possibly lose more than two games is there?” song and dance prior to the 2010 regular season? And didn’t the Tide finish 9-3?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t take the over here. I’m just saying to be very, very careful.
Texas OVER/UNDER 9 Wins:
I’m on the record as saying I’m a believer in Texas. I firmly think they’re going to be better than people realize and do enough to stay in the Big XII title hunt all season long.
Still, nine wins seems just about a perfect number for them. This seems like a classic stay-away.
Clemson OVER/UNDER 8.5 Wins:
Hmm. This number is fishier than the Pike Street Fish Market… a joke that I’m not entirely sure made any sense at all.
Still, if you’re looking to bet the over on Clemson here, what your wager will likely come down to is two things:
1. Can you trust a head coach who wears hoodless sweatshirts?
2. Can you trust Clemson to meet high expectations?
Yeah, I’m staying away here.
Louisville OVER/UNDER 9 Wins:
Oh that’s right, I CAN trust coaches who wear hoodless sweatshirts.
This should be a team which wins more than nine games. But in the Big East- where up is down, and football never turns out the way it’s supposed to- nothing is guaranteed.
Oklahoma OVER/UNDER 10 Wins:
I don’t see more than two losses on this schedule. Actually, to be blunt, I don’t even see two.
I also don’t trust Landry Jones to win me 11 games.
To quote George Costanza: “My two worlds are colliding!!!”
Auburn OVER/UNDER 7.5 Wins:
Every two years, the SEC scheduling Gods descend from the heavens and bless Gene Chizik’s crew with a home schedule as manageable as manageable gets (at least by SEC West standards). This is one of those years, as LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas A&M all have to come to the Plains.
At the same time, with games against Clemson (in Atlanta), at Mississippi State and LSU at home all on or before September 22, it isn’t infeasible to see this team with two or maybe three losses before the start of October.
I like the OVER here. I don’t love it.
Kansas State OVER/UNDER 8 Wins:
Quick question: If you were a football player, would you want to sit in a locker room with an angry Bill Synder after a tough loss? Now, would you want to do it five times in one season?
I’m guessing K-State hits the OVER here.
Arkansas OVER/UNDER 8.5 Wins:
Simply put, I love Tyler Wilson as much as one man can platonically love a 22-year-old college kid without it getting a little creepy.
Alright, who am I am kidding, it got creepy a long time ago.
At the same time, I wouldn’t trust John L. Smith to order me a turkey sandwich without mayo at the deli, let alone coach my football team. There’s a reason he was coaching at Weber State six months ago after all.
Basically, I can’t say this any more clearly: Stay away. Stay far, far away.
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