The following are my favorite season prop picks for college football.
To be transparent, I have no history of betting personally. I put $100 down in Vegas this summer on Fournette Heisman, LSU over 9.5 regular season, LSU national championship, and Oregon over 8.5 regular season – and the only other regular spread picks I've made are for our bowl season picks. I gotta start somewhere, though, and for this year I'll be doing our weekly spread picks article.
(Picks are in bold)
LSU Regular Season Wins O/U 9.5 – OVER
I'm a broken record on this, but I really like LSU for the national championship this year. New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is one of the best defensive coaches I've seen, Leonard Fournette/Derrius Guice are an incredibly talented running back duo, quarterback Brandon Harris was better than given credit for while playing through a sports hernia in the second half of last year, and the wideout duo of Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are dangerous deep threats. A road matchup with Florida is a dangerous game, but LSU gets Mississippi and Alabama in Baton Rouge this year.
Michigan State Regular Season Wins O/U 8 – OVER (Total wins cites same O/U)
I like the skill set of quarterback Tyler O'Connor, and I think he'll be a good first-year starter as a senior. The Spartans running back rotation is as deep as any in the country, and they have a decent amount of returning offensive line experience despite losing three starters from last year. The pass catcher situation is admittedly uncertain, but Michigan State almost always has a strong defense, and they return plenty of players there. Perhaps most importantly, the fourth-toughest matchup for the Spartans is a road game against Penn State. That will be a tough game, but based on what we know now I'd have to pick the Spartans. Meanwhile, two of the three toughest matchups (Michigan and Ohio State) are home games for Michigan State.
Oregon Regular Season Wins O/U 8.5 – OVER (Total wins cites same O/U)
Like LSU over 9.5, this is a bet I made in Vegas in July. The reasoning with this one is simple: Oregon went 8-4 last year despite losing to Utah and Washington State while Vernon Adams was hurt. The Ducks defense was bad, granted, but I firmly believe they win both of those games if it weren't for the incredible ineffectiveness of Jeff Lockie in Adams' place. Oregon has three good quarterbacks this year, so even if another quarterback injury occurs, I don't think the Ducks finish with eight regular season wins. I only see three potential losses on this schedule, and obviously that still hits the over. For the record, those games are Washington, Arizona State, and Stanford – all at home. I therefore find 12-0 more likely than 8-4.
USC Regular Season Wins O/U 7.5 – UNDER
USC always has a ton of recruiting capital, but I'm not convinced they have good enough coaching at the top to withstand what looks like a very tough schedule. A loss against Alabama in Week 1 is nearly guaranteed, and two of the three games after that are physical road matches against Stanford and Utah, followed by a home matchup with what should be a fast and dangerous Arizona State offense. The Trojans get an easy mid-season schedule, but it ends with a four-game stretch against Oregon (home), Washington (away), UCLA (away) and Notre Dame (home). Coach Clay Helton's old-school (read: obsolete) approach to the game will lead to underachievement, I think, and you can't underachieve with a schedule this harsh. The Trojans offense fell apart once Orgeron took over last year.
Arizona State Total Wins O/U 6 – OVER
I think Arizona State's offense could prove one of the best in the country – I love the skill position talent and think quarterback Manny Wilkins could prove an ideal fit with his dual-threat abilities. The schedule is generally favorable – games against USC (road), UCLA (home), Oregon (road) and Washington (road) are especially tough, but I like their chances of getting to seven wins even if they lose all four of those games. After those four, the next toughest matches are probably Utah (home), Washington State (home) and Texas Tech (home). I just struggle to see them losing two of those games.
Syracuse Total Wins O/U 4 – OVER
Five wins isn't a high bar when an otherwise tough schedule includes Colgate, Connecticut and Wake Forest. Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech strike me as very likely losses, but I like Syracuse's chances of getting two more wins against the remaining lineup of South Florida (home), Boston College (road), North Carolina State (home) and Pittsburgh (road).
Virginia Tech Total Wins O/U 6 – OVER
Justin Fuente is an impressive coach, and Virginia Tech has more than enough talent for him to make an immediate impact with the Hokies. For a program of its prestige and inherited talent, seven wins is not a high bar for the Hokies to clear, especially with such a good coach in control.
Wisconsin Total Wins O/U 7.5 – UNDER
LSU, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa are guaranteed losses. I think Wisconsin also loses one or both of on the road against Northwestern and at home against Nebraska. I think Bart Houston will get benched during the fourth game of the season (Spartans), and backup Alex Hornibrook will be marginally better but more volatile. The defense will merely be average with Aranda no longer bringing overachievement to the unit.
Christian McCaffrey Regular Season Rushing TDs O/U 12.5 – OVER
Stanford's use of Remound Wright as a goal-line back (13 touchdowns on 82 carries) is why McCaffrey didn't win the Heisman. If only for marketing reasons, the Cardinal coaches won't let it happen again this year.
Auburn Make the Playoffs – NO
This is a -3000 but still, free money.
USC Make the Playoffs – NO
-1500 in this case, but same deal as Auburn.