We’ve been playing Buy/Sell/Hold with a lot of topics this off-season because it’s a relatively easy framework with which to analyze college football players and teams. But in most of the cases, like how will new ACC coaches fare and who will win Notre Dame’s starting quarterback job, there’s nothing to actually buy or sell.
That changed last month, when the Golden Nugget released win totals for the 2016 college football season on which you can take the over or under for some of the biggest programs. If you live or travel to certain areas, you can place actual bets on these lines, so there actually is something to buy or sell.
Houston at nine wins: Hold
The Cougars could be legitimate contenders for a College Football Playoff berth despite their Group of Five status. However, part of what gives them a playoff shot also makes a three-loss season very possible. Tom Herman’s squad is challenging itself in its non-conference schedule with a Week 1 matchup against Oklahoma and a Nov. 17 date with Louisville. As the American Athletic Conference showed last season, it’s no joke either, so trips to Cincinnati, Navy and Memphis can’t be taken lightly.
Notre Dame at nine wins: Buy
Show me the three-plus losses on this schedule. With the possible exception of a Week 13 trip to USC, the Fighting Irish look right now like they’d be favored in every game this season. That’s not to say they’ll run the table; Notre Dame will be particularly vulnerable early in the season as it finds replacements on the offensive and defensive line and at linebacker. But even with an upset or two, the Irish should find their way to double-digit wins for the second straight season.
Ohio State at 8.5 wins: Buy
This feels like a huge overreaction to the Buckeyes’ losses this off-season. Yes, 12 Ohio State players did go in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, but Urban Meyer has the 2016 Buckeyes poised to reload. Ohio State does have a tough schedule, including a non-conference matchup at Oklahoma and Big Ten road trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. But Meyer has lost a total of four games in his four seasons in Columbus and just one regular season conference game. He won’t drop four this fall.
TCU at 8.5 wins: Buy
The Horned Frogs faced just about every setback imaginable last season and still managed to only lose two games. A constant onslaught of injuries left Gary Patterson’s defense in shambles, and the offense wasn’t in much better shape by the end of the season. Now the defense should be the strength of the team because all of last year’s injuries created an abundance of depth. And while key weapons Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson are gone on offense, coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie are back.
UCLA at nine wins: Sell
Josh Rosen could be sensational, but whom is he going to throw to? And who’s going to block for him? To answer the first question, UCLA is converting cornerback Ishmael Adams to receiver and hoping true freshman Theo Howard can make an instant impact. The second question remains unanswered, particularly after the Bruins’ offensive line, which has three new starters in its interior, struggled in pass protection during the spring.
USC at 7.5 wins: Hold
What is a team that will almost certainly make the preseason top 25 doing with a projected win total of 7.5? Take a look at the Trojans’ schedule to understand why. It’s absolutely brutal. They start with a neutral-site game against Alabama, followed by a home date with Utah State and trips to Stanford and Utah. Then USC closes out the year vs. Oregon, at Washington, at UCLA and vs. Notre Dame. The Pac-12 may struggle to get a team in the playoff again, but there are few gimmes, either. Top that off with the toughest non-conference schedule, and Clay Helton has his work cut out for him in his first full season as head coach.