The college football season is approaching, so that means it’s time to get ready with some win totals. SI Gambling will be rolling out our favorite over and under bet for each power conference using current win totals available at New Jersey sportsbooks (FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill). We start with the Pac-12, where the real parties are at on Saturday night.
Oregon State: 2 (Over -110, Under -110 at FanDuel)
Oregon State began the Jonathan Smith era by surrendering a whopping 77 points to Ohio State, and the Beavers closed out the season with in-state rival Oregon dropping 55 on them. And there was a whole lot of ugly in between. Outside of a 48-25 home win over Southern Utah, Oregon State allowed at least 34 points in every other game.
Besides finishing second-to-last in scoring defense (45.7 PPG), it was 129th in total defense (536.8 YPG), tied for 119th in sacks (15) and were the only team in the country to not force 10 turnovers. Put all of that together, and you have the worst power conference defense in S&P+ history, and by a good amount.
Yet, despite being dragged down by a defense that literally could not stop anyone, the Beavers still won 2 games last year. Yet, FanDuel has Oregon State’s win total at 2, with the juice on the over at -110. While I don’t think you’ll see the Beavers compete for a bowl bid by any means this season, this is a team that can definitely improve upon last year’s record.
Basically everyone returns on defense, as Oregon State is sixth in the country in percentage of tackles returning, per Phil Steele. The Beavers add two four-star linebacker transfers (Nebraska’s Avery Roberts and Oklahoma’s Addison Gumbs). JUCO DL transfer Jordan Whittley, freshman inside linebacker Omar Speights and redshirt sophomore safety David Morris, who missed most of 2018 due to injury, are three other key additions that should bolster the defense.
It would be a tough task to repeat 2018’s abysmal performance on that side of the ball, and the influx of new talent at the very least will help a defense that was killed by its lackluster depth last season.
Now onto the positive news: The offense is decent! Oregon State finished with the fifth-highest IsoPPP (explosiveness) in the conference last season, including having a higher mark than Oregon and Washington State.
Jermar Jefferson set an Oregon State freshman record with 1,380 rushing yards, while sporting a 5.8 YPC and racking up 12 touchdowns. Artavis Pierce is a quality backup, having averaged 7.6 YPC on 54 totes last season. Isaiah Hodgins has a potential NFL future at wideout, and the 6’4” pass-catcher posted a 59-876-5 line last season. Trevon Bradford is a solid No. 2, and that duo is largely responsible for Oregon State finishing fifth in the Pac-12 in passing offense.
Quarterback will be a battle between sixth-year senior Jake Luton and four-star transfer Tristan Gebbia. Luton has the upper hand, as he completed 62.5% of his throws to go along with 10 touchdown passes and four interceptions in eight games last season. His 7.4 YPA isn’t too shabby either.
The left side of the offensive line (Blake Brandel and Gus Lavaka) returns with plenty of experience under its belt. Oregon State also added center Nathan Eldridge off the transfer market from Arizona, where he was a 2017 Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection and a preseason Rimington Trophy Watch List nominee.
Oregon State will probably be favored in only one game this season, a home affair against Cal Poly. But a Week 2 road contest at Hawaii is certainly winnable, as are a few other games in a downtrodden Pac-12. Assuming the Beavers take care of business vs. Cal Poly (they’ll be a double-digit favorite in that one), just one more win is needed the rest of the way just to push this win total.
I personally think this win total should up by half a win with high juice priced to the over, because I think two wins is the absolute floor for this team. Remember, even with a historically awful defense last season, Oregon State still finished with two wins. With a solid offense and more bodies on defense while residing in a subpar conference, I expect the Beavers to get to at least three wins here.
PICK: OVER 2 (-110)
Washington: 10 (Over +120, Under -140 at William Hill)
The Huskies were historically good at limiting big gains last season. They surrendered just one offensive play that went for 40+ yards in 14 games—the last time a team gave up only one 40-plus-yard play in an entire season was USF in 2011 in 12 games.
In fact, the only huge play Washington’s defense gave up in 2018 was a 69-yard run (OH COME ON) to North Dakota tailback John Santiago in a 45-3 win. That’s it. Every other team in the country gave up at least three 40-yard passes, while the Huskies’ stingy secondary allowed ZERO.
Now for the bad news: Washington has to replace nearly all of those key players on that unit. Just nickel-turned-safety Myles Bryant remains, with one of the best corners in the country in Byron Murphy and one of the top safeties in the country in Taylor Rapp out the door. Its defensive quarterback and tackle machine, Ben Burr-Kirven, also is gone. So is its top pass rusher, Greg Gaines. In all, nine starters will need to be replaced.
That’s not to say that cupboard is barren in Seattle; the Huskies have lots of young talent. But even with all of that star power on defense last season, Washington still couldn’t crack double-digit wins. Even three out of its nine regular-season victories in 2018 came by seven points or less. And now the odds are suggesting that Washington could improve upon its win total despite undergoing a complete personnel overhaul on defense?
On offense, most Washington fans couldn’t wait for the Jake Browning era to end under center. Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin, who holds the program records for most rushing yards and touchdowns, both have graduated. Two very talented players, former Georgia gunslinger Jacob Eason and speedster Salvon Ahmed, are slated to start at quarterback and running back respectively. But each comes with questions.
Eason had a promising freshman year in Athens. But an injury in Georgia’s season opener his sophomore year opened the door for Jake Fromm, who never relinquished the position. Eason opted to transfer back to his home state, and sat out all of last season.
But are we overrating Eason because of his five-star pedigree and incredible arm strength? Georgia’s 2016 offense ranked 96th in explosiveness, 82nd in efficiency and 120th in finishing drives in Eason’s only full season as the signal-caller. In 2017 with Fromm at the helm, those numbers jumped up to 11th in explosiveness, 22nd in efficiency and sixth in finishing drives.
Ahmed, meanwhile, has run for 996 yards on 165 carries in his first two seasons (6.04 YPC). But that was as a change-of-pace back for Gaskin, who racked up at least 222 carries in each of his four seasons at Washington. Can Ahmed handle the increased load required to be a featured back?
At wideout, the Huskies have plenty of experience. Aaron Fuller, Ty Jones and Andre Baccellia all return after having combined for 144 receptions last season. But none of them are true gamebreakers. The best bet there is tight end Hunter Bryant. He’s a great athlete who averaged an eye-popping 21.6 yards per catch last season. He’s had trouble staying healthy, though, missing a combined 13 games over his first two campaigns.
Washington’s offensive line is right up there with Oregon’s for best in the conference, with plenty of experience returning at all five spots, headlined by left tackle Trey Adams and center Nick Harris. But as good as this line can be, ultimately, the entire offense will rise or fall based on Eason’s play under center.
Am I willing to bank on a quarterback who has thrown seven passes in live game action over the past two years? No thanks, especially when the Huskies would need to finish 11-1 for this win total to lose. Granted, Chris Petersen is a magician and they do have a manageable schedule. Yet potential trickier-than-expected road games against BYU and Stanford along with marquee home contests against Oregon, Utah, Washington State and USC should give way to at least three losses with all the questions surrounding this group.
Ultimately, I’m completely fine laying the high juice here because I find it extremely unlikely that the Huskies finish with 11 wins. If a sportsbook like William Hill is offering a win total of 10, I think the under price should be much higher than -140. FanDuel and DraftKings both have this win total set at 9.5, and the under there is definitely worth a play as well.
PICK: UNDER 10 (-140)