Believe it or not, we’re only three months away from the start of the 2023 college football season. And earlier this month, oddsmakers started to trickle out preseason win totals for teams across the country.
Win totals serve as a pretty useful barometer for the expectations for teams in the upcoming season. The win total figures also tend to shift as we get closer to kickoff in late August as more and more bettors assemble their power ratings and projections.
Personally, I’m pretty early in my offseason preparation but there were quite a few numbers that caught my eye. I’ve even put some bets in. A few of those are no longer widely available as the market has shifted, so I won’t give those out here.
There are plenty of others I’m considering, but I’d like to do more research before locking in. Later in the offseason, I’ll solidify my favorite plays like I’ve done in years past. For now, we’ll consider this an early look at the market.
(All odds via BetMGM)
Win total bets I’ve made
This feels like getting Clemson at a bit of a discount. The Tigers have won at least 10 regular season games in 10 of the last 12 seasons. That includes last year, which was a down season by the lofty standards set under Dabo Swinney. Entering 2023, Clemson finally has a new offensive coordinator with Garrett Riley coming in from TCU. Compared to the slop Clemson put out there the last two seasons, I’m expecting some significant improvements. And from a scheduling perspective, Clemson gets Florida State and Notre Dame both at home. Those are the two toughest games on the schedule, so Clemson could very well be favored in all 12 of its games. That seems like a good reason to play over 9.5.
After under-achieving massive preseason expectations in 2021, Iowa State went 4-8 last year and missed a bowl game for the first time since 2016, Matt Campbell’s debut season in Ames. Along the way, ISU lost six games by seven points or fewer and dealt with an array of injuries while breaking in a bunch of first-time starters. The schedule isn’t easy, but this feels like a really good time to buy low on the Cyclones to get back to a bowl.
Oregon State has steadily improved under Jonathan Smith and now has some pretty high expectations headed into 2023. It’s an unfamiliar spot for a program more accustomed to the underdog role and I did not hesitate to jump on the under 8.5 wins for the Beavers. OSU won nine regular season games last year and took advantage of playing the worst teams in the Pac-12 — Stanford, Colorado, Cal and Arizona State. The non-conference slate is pretty easy in 2023 and the Beavers avoid USC, but I’d consider seven of their nine conference games to be toss-ups (I think both Arizona and Cal can be bowl teams). I’m not a big believer in this defense, nor do I expect quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to all of a sudden play like a star just because he transferred out of Clemson.
Luke Fickell is a wonderful coach, but I don’t understand the offseason hype with Wisconsin. Fickell hired Phil Longo from North Carolina to be his offensive coordinator, and that’s a massive philosophical change on offense. With Paul Chryst as head coach, the Badgers used a run-heavy system and barely threw the ball downfield. Longo comes from the Air Raid tree. The Badgers added a lot of players in the transfer portal, but are they really equipped to overhaul the offense to the point that they will win 10 games? That’s what you need to win this bet. I don’t see it. At all.
Win total bets I’m considering
Florida State under 9.5 (+135)
This opened at 10 in some markets and I played the under at -110. With LSU, Clemson and a few tricky road games on the schedule, being able to get my money back with a 10-2 season seems like a good deal to me. That number doesn’t appear to be available anymore, but I’d still strongly consider taking FSU under 9.5 at the plus-money value that’s available at BetMGM. The Seminoles haven’t won 10 regular season games since 2015, but are coming off a strong 2022 campaign. FSU went 9-3 in the regular season and then beat a mediocre Oklahoma team in the bowl game to get to 10 wins. Entering 2023, FSU is receiving national championship hype. I like to look at hyped teams that may be getting overvalued and go the other way. FSU falls into that category.
Iowa continues to win games despite having a horrific offense. The Hawkeyes were able to add upgrades throughout the offensive depth chart, though nepotism poster boy Brian Ferentz remains in place as offensive coordinator. Iowa is always excellent on defense and special teams and doesn’t have to face Ohio State or Michigan from the Big Ten East. Other than the White Out at Penn State, Iowa can win any game on its schedule. I’m pretty close to locking this one in, but laying -165 is pretty steep.
I trust Dave Doeren to continually put out a strong defensive unit. The problem for NC State last year was the offense fell off a cliff after the injury to Devin Leary. Leary transferred out and Brennan Armstrong is now in place at quarterback, and Armstrong is reuniting with offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Anae was a strong hire from Doeren and had a prolific offense at Virginia with Armstrong as his quarterback. I love the fit and I believe in the consistency of this program to have another winning season.
North Carolina under 8.5 (-115)
I suspect this number is up at 8.5 because of the star power of quarterback Drake Maye. But UNC’s defense was horrific last year and Mack Brown teams tend to lose games they’re expected to win. The schedule is tough with South Carolina, App State and Minnesota in the non-con and trips to Pitt, Clemson and NC State in ACC play. I need to dive in more on the transfer additions on defense before I lock this one in.
Syracuse went from 6-0 to 7-6 last year. The Orange lost innovative offensive coordinator Robert Anae to NC State, star running back Sean Tucker to the NFL and three starters on both the offensive line and in the secondary. In conference play, Syracuse goes to North Carolina and Florida State, hosts Clemson and gave up a home game to play Pitt at Yankee Stadium. There’s also a road trip to Purdue. I have a hard time finding seven wins on this schedule.
Perhaps all of the talent Texas A&M has assembled can finally gel together, especially on offense. Jimbo Fisher will apparently be handing the reins to Bobby Petrino and having Conner Weigman and Evan Stewart as building blocks is a good place to start. An 8-4 record doesn’t feel crazy.
Win total bets I’m avoiding
Alabama is really low in returning production and has a serious question mark at quarterback. The skepticism of this Alabama team is understandable, but I’m not ready to join that party. I don’t see myself taking a position on the Tide this year.
I’ve got serious questions about quarterback and offensive tackle, but doubting Ohio State doesn’t feel like a wise decision. Even if the offense isn’t as prolific as we’re used to, Jim Knowles’ defense could be significantly better in his second year running the unit.
I was hoping I’d be able to get Oklahoma over 8.5 wins with the Sooners coming off such a disappointing debut season for coach Brent Venables. Instead, it’s up at 9.5 at BetMGM. Coming off a season with so many close losses, I think Oklahoma has the talent to be a legitimate Big 12 title contender but I don’t like the value here at all.
I suspect TCU will attract heavy action on the over after reaching the national championship game last season. I won’t be part of that. The Horned Frogs overachieved in every conceivable metric last year, won six games by one possession and have so many key players to replace. I’m going to pass.
I actually am on board with the Texas hype this year. Still, there’s too much parity in the Big 12 to feel comfortable here. I believe Quinn Ewers will be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12, but I have questions about the defense and there’s a road trip to Alabama in Week 2. Going 10-2 will be a tough task.
I was on the USC under 9.5 wins last year, but that clearly did not work out. Caleb Williams and the offense were incredible and the defense was awful, but USC found a way to win games thanks to the nation’s best turnover margin. The defense — from a personnel perspective, at least — should be better, but it’s hard not to wonder if that turnover luck may flip in the other direction. There are also games against Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, Oregon and UCLA on the schedule in about a one-month span. I’m staying away.