Week 0 of the 2019 college football season may already be in the rear-view mirror, but the chaos of it all really gets going on Thursday night with Week 1. For five straight days, there’s at least one game to watch. From there, we get four glorious months of college football back in our lives. Our team of expert handicappers from SportsLine will be with you all year long providing picks to individual games, but with the season about to begin, let’s take stock of some of our best bets.
Today, we’re looking at win totals and five teams I feel the strongest about in taking either the over or the under. For a more detailed look into how Las Vegas handicappers come up with win totals, SportsLine’s Kenny Whitea year ago. Many handicappers start from scratch and examine parts of the team, from the two-deep to returning starters. Then, they give each player a rating based on stats, tape and other background research with each team then assigned an average rating. Coaching and any transitions also affect how a team is rated.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five best win total picks ahead of this season.
UCF over 9: I get that the Knights will be without star quarterback McKenzie Milton. And to be sure, there is a win value placed on his abilities. That being said, you mean to tell me that a program that has lost one whole game in the past two years is now suddenly going to drop four in one season? There’s still plenty of talent on the fiel,d and quarterback Brandon Wimbush has a winning pedigree. UCF may not be as dominant as the past two years, but this is still an AAC title-contending team.
Michigan under 10.5: This is simple mathematics. The possibilities for a successful season in this scenario are either 12-0 or 11-1. However, there’s the matter of Michigan solving its Ohio State problem — something it hasn’t done since 2011 — and there’s little margin for error schedule-wise. Michigan gets a tough Big Ten East division, crossover games against Iowa and at Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. If Michigan can’t beat Ohio State, it only takes one loss among those to hit the under. And Michigan has never won more than 10 games under Jim Harbaugh.
Utah State over 6.5: If you don’t know who Jordan Love is yet, you should get to know him. This is a tremendous year for Group of Five quarterbacks (Houston’s D’Eriq King and North Texas‘ Mason Fine among them) and Love is right up there with the best of them. The road schedule is brutal — at Wake Forest, at San Diego State, at LSU, at Air Force and at Fresno State — but that means most of the winnable games are at home. And I’d be sooner willing to bet that the Aggies don’t go for a whopping 0-for on the road.
West Virginia under 5: I’m not one to normally one to point to last season’s results to indicate future success/failure … but … West Virginia won eight games in 2018 with its best roster in, what, a decade? And now so many of those key players are gone. I have a suspicion this won’t just be a rebuilding year for the ‘Eers, it might be a full-on pop out the cartridge and blow on it season for first-year coach Neal Brown. If West Virginia can’t beat James Madison in the opener — and don’t put it past the Dukes to straight-up win in Morgantown — it might have one win come November.
Bowling Green under 3: Kicking a team when they’re down isn’t fun, but the Falcons have been awful since coach Dino Babers left for Syracuse. Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much rosier in Scot Loeffler’s first season with Brian VanGorder trying to shore up a defense that allowed … checks notes …40 points per game last year. Add in that quarterback Jarret Doege transferred (to West Virginia, no less) and this feels like a bad season in the making. Bowling Green can probably get past Morgan State in the opener, but are there two more wins anywhere on the schedule?
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