- Possible sleepers to make some noise in their respective conference divisions headline our favorite win total bets, whereas two teams that went bowling last year find themselves in difficult position to repeat and make for good under bets.
The college football season is nigh, and thus it's a period of optimism for every rabid fan base eagerly awaiting Saturdays to become meaningful again. But for those who feel like rooting for one team isn't enough, college football win totals provide an entertaining solution to your problem. Every game is crucial when rooting for that over or under to cash, and SI's college football experts are here to help. Using current win totals from William Hill and South Point, here are our favorite win total bets for the Power 5 conferences to help get the juices flowing for opening kickoff and beyond.
Arkansas: Over 5.5 (-125)
The Hogs finished 4-8 last season in Bret Bielema’s final hurrah, so why can’t Chad Morris and his lightning-fast spread offense add at least two more Ws to the column? Veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis has proven he can elevate a defense, and he’s got plenty of room to do it in Fayetteville. Arkansas ranked an un-SEC-like 102nd nationally in total defense in 2017, allowing more than 438 yards per game. Even a slight improvement there would be welcomed and might lead to those two extra victories needed to score big. The schedule sets up about as well as any in the SEC West. The Hogs get zero Power 5 non-conference foes (Eastern Illinois, at Colorado State, North Texas, Tulsa) and host winnable SEC opponents in October (Vanderbilt, Ole Miss). LSU and Texas A&M’s win totals (7.5 each) are tempting, with the Tigers adding Ohio State QB Joe Burrow and the Aggies getting coach Jimbo Fisher, but we’ll take Morris and his Hogs to give us some dough. —Ross Dellenger
South Carolina: Over 7 (-150)
The Gamecocks won eight games last regular season without any big surprise wins or losses, and that was mostly done without slippery star wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who broke his leg in mid-September. Now Samuel is back alongside the three wideouts that stepped up in his place (Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and OrTre Smith), and quarterback Jake Bentley has the tools to make one of the most dramatic year-to-year leaps of any returning QB in the SEC. Florida is the nominal second-place finisher in the SEC East going off these win totals, but it takes less speculation to see the Gamecocks ending up there.
Other than the season-ending trip across the state to Clemson, South Carolina’s road schedule is about as good as you could ask for: Vanderbilt and Kentucky in September, Ole Miss and a Florida team nobody has a good read on in November. October features three winnable home games against Missouri, Texas A&M (after a bye week) and Tennessee. And if the Gamecocks knock off Georgia in Week 2—quickly becoming a trendy upset pick as August wears on—the conversation in Columbia would shift to a completely different set of goals than merely winning seven games. —Eric Single
Louisville: Under 7 (-125)
A year ago, with Lamar Jackson still at quarterback, the Cardinals finished with eight wins—and they lucked out by getting Purdue early and Florida State as the Seminoles spiraled midseason. Without Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Bobby Petrino needs to replace his former quarterback’s production—he was good for about 400 all-purpose yards per game—as well as all but two starters on defense. The schedule won’t be much help: Louisville opens against Alabama and has a sneaky-tough non-conference matchup with Western Kentucky in Week 3. In the ACC, it’ll almost certainly lose to Florida State and Clemson, and it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals getting out of ACC play better than .500. Plus, the rivalry game against Kentucky, which they’ve won six of the last seven years, won’t be a cakewalk. —Joan Niesen
Arizona: Over 7.5 (-150)
Arizona has the most electric signal-caller in the country in Khalil Tate, a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin who is practically a quarterback whisperer and, arguably most important for betting purposes, the easiest schedule in the Pac-12. The Wildcats avoid Washington and Stanford, and get to play USC and Oregon in Tucson. Tate and junior tailback J.J. Taylor will give defenses nightmares with their legs, and Tate should be more efficient with his arm under Sumlin’s tutelage. Arizona’s defense couldn’t stop anyone last season (115th in Football Outsiders’ defensive S&P+ rating), but it was an extremely young unit and now it returns nine starters for 2018. Three sophomore linebackers, Tony Field II, Colin Schooler and Kylan Wilborn, flashed immense potential when they were thrown into the fire as freshmen and figure to lead a much-improved defense. 7.5 is simply too low of a win total for a team that is a serious threat (and should be considered the favorite in my opinion) to win the Pac-12 South. —Max Meyer
Northwestern: Under 6 (+110)
This all comes down to whether quarterback Clayton Thorson will recover from the torn ACL he suffered in the Music City Bowl. If he does, Northwestern has a chance to win 8 games. If he doesn’t, they’ll struggle to win 5—the backup situation is that bad. The current favorite to start in Thorson’s place is T.J. Green, a former walk-on with absolutely no meaningful in-game experience. We won’t know much about Thorson’s rehab status until late in the summer, but opening day is almost exactly eight months after his injury. There is virtually no chance he suits up for the first month, when NU plays at Purdue before hosting Duke, Akron and Michigan.
We also haven’t mentioned the loss of talisman Justin Jackson, whom the Wildcats relied on to an almost comical extent over the past four seasons (1,142 carries for 5,440 yards and 41 touchdowns). Northwestern has overachieved over the past two seasons, and a regression to the mean is overdue in Evanston. And this is coming from a proud Northwestern graduate. —Daniel Rapaport
Kansas: Under 3 (-150)
Before we get into the Kansas Jayhawks and what the sportsbooks think of their 2018 chances, let’s revisit what the team has done this decade as far as win totals: 3, 2, 1, 3, 3, 0, 2, 1. For you mathematicians out there, that is a grand total of 15 victories in eight seasons.
Since the Jayhawks have lost 46 straight on the road, you can forget about betting them in any game away from Lawrence, although one of those games is against MAC upstart Central Michigan. The rest of the road gauntlet is Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma.
That leaves FCS Nicholls State and Rutgers at home as potential victories. Nicholls State only lost by 10 last season to Texas A&M and ended up winning eight games. And Rutgers is Rutgers, but expect to improve with 15 returning starters.
Losing stud defensive end Dorance Armstrong hurts. While the Jayhawks do return 10 starters, it's from a unit that ranked 117th in total defense and 128th out of 129 qualifying teams in scoring defense.
In Doug Meacham’s offense, someone needs to step up and take the reins at quarterback. If Kansas can even resemble anything of a functioning offense, it could stay in a few games. Khalil Herbert, who ran for almost 300 yards last year against West Virginia and leading receiver Steven Sims are the bright spots for a group that figures to struggle mightly again.
Bet on Kansas once: A guaranteed victory against Nicholls State. —Scooby Axson