The life cycle of a college football offseason is a road rife with potholes, ditches, and areas where cell reception goes blank. Signing Day and spring practice keep junkies within shouting distance of the sport, but its hard to really feel like college football is nearing until two things happen:
- Phil Steele’s magazine goes to press (it has!)
- Vegas unveils its win projections for the upcoming season.
Spoiler alert, both of those things have now happened. We’re less than a month away from media days, then fall practice, as the countdown to September 2nd hits 79 days as of this posting.
Win projections are a whole lot of fun because, with a very simple number between 0.5 and 11.5, one can see how the people who get paid to make money handicapping sports see the season breaking down. The full list is here.
With the caveat that the lines are put out to generate a heavy amount of bets on the wrong side, let’s take a peek under the hood and see what I would do (were I willing to make representations about my status as a betting man). The ACC is handicapped as follows:
- Boston College: O/U 4 wins— To get to 4, in Chestnut Hill usually requires three OOC wins plus N.C. State. They do get the Wolfpack at home, but travel to Northern Illinois to open the season, get Notre Dame and Central Michigan (not an easy out) at home and a weird late-November neutral-site game with UConn. They do draw Virginia from the Coastal, but play them on the road. Hate to push right out of the gates, but PUSH.
- Clemson: O/U 9.5 wins— Finding three losses for the champs is certainly feasible with Auburn, at Louisville, and at Virginia Tech before the calendar flips to October. I...just don’t buy it with their defense, offensive line, and returning skill guys helping carry whomever wins the QB job. OVER
- Florida State: O/U 9.5 wins— I think FSU is a playoff team this year, so OVER. However, a week one loss to Alabama is probably likely, Home dates with Miami, State, and Louisville are all at least a little tricky, and then they play Clemson on the road. Drop two to the CFP finalists and one of the three home games, and I’m steering you wrong. Eh. Still, over.
- Louisville: O/U 9.5 wins— I think Lamar Jackson is better than pundits will indicate, given the way he finished the season. I think the team around him is worse than people think. The offensive line who allowed Jackson to be sacked 47 times LOSES three starters, and Devante Fields and others depart the defense. UNDER
- N.C. State: O/U 6.5 wins— Respectful of what the Wolfpack team should be this year, I begrudgingly take the OVER, because the under would be too hilarious to consume on cable television (or your streaming device). Seriously though, they bring back everybody from a team that looked scary at times.
- Syracuse: O/U 4 wins— 4.5 would’ve given me pause, but 4 wins for second-year coach Dino Babers seems a little disrespectful. Central Connecticut State (pump that keystroke count), Middle Tennessee, and Central Michigan SHOULD be three home wins right off the bat! Steal two of three at home from
Big East rivalserr, Pitt and Boston College, and honorary Big East member Wake. OVER
- Wake Forest: O/U 5.5 wins— If Syracuse is going 5-7, so is Wake. They play at App State on Sept. 23, which should be informative to this pick’s accuracy. UNDER
- Duke: O/U 4.5 wins— Yeesh, I don’t like this at all. They open with three non-cons (NCCU, Northwestern, Baylor) at home, where 2-1 puts them two ACC wins and a trip to Army away from the OVER. They’re probably going bowling this year.
- Georgia Tech: O/U 6 wins— Whatever I say, I’ll be wrong. PUSH
- Miami: O/U 9 wins— Hmm. They haven’t won 9 in the regular season in a decade. They replaced their entire secondary and the only quarterback I could pick out of a lineup from said decade. They’re the trendy pick for the Coastal because its June. UNDER
- North Carolina: O/U 7 wins— I don’t wanna touch this. Get back to me after the Cal game. Heart says over, head even kinda does, but I’m not publishing that in case you take these picks to your favorite sportsbook.
- Pitt: O/U 6.5 wins— The #PutPittIn hashtag still bangs hard on the Shutdown Fullcast, but the Panthers replace a ton, including suddenly-a-wunderkind-OC Matt Canada. They draw Penn State and Oklahoma State OOC, but Syracuse and N.C. State from the Atlantic. Basically, I have them at 5 wins, 3 losses, and 4 toss-ups, so....OVER.
- Virginia: O/U 5.5 wins— Another year, another sure loss on the West Coast in weird OOC scheduling, this time to Boise State. Virginia is the team in the ACC I can’t see any upward mobility for, currently. UNDER, with a bullet.
- Virginia Tech: O/U 8.5 wins— Sigh, OVER because I can’t point to anything besides Clemson as a likely loss. Even that one’s at home. Their road ACC games are: BC, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia. That’s...not intimidating from an opposing crowd perspective.
Some overall thoughts on the list as a whole:
Vegas has win totals for the divisions at 48.5 for the Atlantic, 47 for the Coastal. That’s...not statistically significant. What’s curious, though, is that the three highest win totals come from the Atlantic. Must be nice to get BC, Syracuse, and Wake every year.
The Coastal, as always, is more balanced, albeit less so than usual by their numbers. Vegas is generally pretty good at hedging against the Coastal’s madness.
The Big Ten has three teams at 10+ wins (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin), and four at 3.5 or less (Illinois, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue). Please, come at me B1G fans and tell me how tough your league is.
Kansas at 2.5 is very attractive. Somehow, they play Central Michigan too, almost as if they left the MAC and didn’t tell anyone. In addition to the Chippewas, they get SE Missouri and Ohio in September, so the over here is strong for an improving Jayhawks team.
The SEC, besides Alabama, is a jumbled mess. Wash, rinse, repeat. The rest of the league is between 5 and 9 wins.
Carolina’s non-conference opponents:
- Cal, O/U 3.5 (hope that’s accurate)
- Old Dominion, O/U 6.5 (they won 9 in the regular season last year)
- Notre Dame, O/U 7.5 (I lean towards the over)
- Western Carolina, not on the board, but hopefully they are gravy on top of Carolina long being past the over.