With a weekend to look at those win totals, it’s time to ask, which are the best bets? While most of the big-name programs (Alabama, Ohio State, USC) are too close to call, there are some great wagers from some other schools that are a bit more off the radar.
Here are the nine best over/under bets for the 2017 season:
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Miami Hurricanes (OVER 8 ½ wins)
After going 9-4 in 2016, Year One of the Mark Richt era was an unequivocal success. And there are reasons to believe that things could be just as good, if not better, in Year Two. In total, 14 starters return, which is second-most in the ACC Coastal.
But the real reason for optimism is the schedule. The Hurricanes have a brutal matchup with Florida State in Week 3 but after that, they could be favored in every remaining game. Miami doesn’t have to play either Clemson or Louisville (both could be ranked in the Top 15 in the preseason), and will face Virginia Tech (its stiffest competition in the Coastal) at home. Notre Dame could be tough later in the year, but the Irish went just 4-8 last season and it's a home game for Miami.
It’s hard to find four losses on this schedule. This feels like arguably the safest bet on the board.
Tennessee Volunteers (UNDER 7 ½ wins)
The Vols barely eclipsed the eight-win total last regular season, and even then, needed virtually everything to go right to get there. That included an overtime victory over Appalachian State in Week 1, a miracle against Georgia and a favorable schedule that included home games against Alabama and Florida.
This year, things flip and the Vols now have to play both Alabama and Florida on the road, in addition to an improved Georgia team at home. They also face a dangerous Georgia Tech club in Week 1 and have a killer SEC West cross-over game against LSU. Even the easier games on the schedule really aren’t that easy; the Vols lost to both South Carolina and Vanderbilt last year.
Don't forget that Tennessee lost a boatload of talent off last year’s team, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs, its most explosive offensive playmaker in Alvin Kamara and NFL draftees Derek Barnett, Cameron Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin off the defense. It seems virtually impossible that Tennessee will get back to eight wins in the regular season to win this bet.
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Utah Utes (OVER 6 ½)
This one is simply a history play. Are you really betting that Kyle Whittingham, one of the most underrated coaches in college football, finishes .500 or worse this season? It seems unlikely considering he’s won at least nine games each of the last three years. Plus, the Utes have a manageable schedule that includes three winnable out-of-conference games (at BYU, San Jose State and North Dakota) and four of their final six games at home.
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Oregon Ducks (UNDER 8 wins)
This might be the most absurd bet on the board. While virtually everyone can agree that Willie Taggart has been impressive so far at Oregon (where he has already ramped up the Ducks’ recruiting efforts), this is a team that went just 4-8 last year. It would be considered a major improvement to get to 6-6, so it would take a miracle to get the nine wins needed to win this bet.
It was an unforgettable season last year in Boulder, where the Buffaloes won 10 games and a Pac-12 South title and there’s reason to believe that things can be just as good in 2017. Virtually the entire offense is returning and CU has a relatively easy schedule by Pac-12 standards.
The Buffaloes get their two toughest opponents (USC and Washington) at home and have favorable cross-over games with Pac-12 North doormats Cal and Oregon State. Both should be easy wins. The out-of-conference schedule features Colorado State, Texas State and Northern Colorado – not exactly a murderer’s row of college football powers.
As far as personnel goes, the only major hole is at quarterback, with Sefo Luifau gone, but back-up Steven Montez filled in admirably for him last year. Montez started three games while Luifau was injured (winning two) and played in nine games overall. He will be one of the most experienced first-year starters in the sport this season.
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North Carolina (UNDER 7 wins)
Seven wins feels like a major stretch for the Tar Heels. They only won eight games last year – and that was with Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. It also included a stunning upset of Florida State, which no one saw coming.
Fast-forward to 2017, where Trubisky is gone, as well as leading rusher Elijah Hood and top receivers Bug Howard, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer, and the schedule stays just as tough. There are home games against Louisville, Notre Dame and Miami and road tilts at NC State and Georgia Tech. That’s a brutal run for a young team with so many holes to fill on offense.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (OVER 6 wins)
Few coaches in recent memory got more production out of less talent than Mike Riley did at Oregon State. And with a young but talented team, this feels like the year he’ll surpass expectations in Lincoln.
After the loss of quarterback Tommy Armstrong, transfer Tanner Lee looks like a more than capable replacement. This young team should be helped by playing five of their first seven games at home. The road schedule is manageable, with winnable games against Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota. Nebraska probably won't hit the nine-win mark they reached last year, but seven seems more than realistic.
The Tigers would need to win at least two more victories than least season to hit the seven-win mark this year. And it won’t be easy when you factor in that virtually the entire SEC East should be improved this year.
Only Tennessee is expected to take a step back, and when you add in a tough cross-divisional game against Auburn, seven wins just doesn’t feel realistic.
Wisconsin Badgers (OVER 9 ½ wins)
Last year the Badgers’ schedule was as loaded as imaginable, with an opener against LSU and a four-game stretch where they faced three Top-10 teams, in Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. Despite it, the Badgers still went on to win the Big Ten West.
This year, the schedule eases up significantly. There are no super-tough out-of-conference games and the Badgers won’t play either Ohio State or Penn State. Wisconsin also has one of the most experienced teams in the league, with 17 starters returning, including quarterback Alex Hornibrook, top receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli.
That should be enough to hit the 10-win threshold, making this one of the best over/under win total bets you can make for this fall.