College Football 2018 Regular Season Win Plays
2018 CFB Recommended Regular Season Win Plays (Risking/To Win 1 unit each)
A reminder – Win Floor games are when a team is favored by >10 points, Win Ceiling when >10 underdog.
Coastal Carolina Over 4 (+105 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 1 – Win Ceiling: 10
From the floor and ceiling numbers you can see I project CCC to be in a lot of competitive games this year. @South Carolina and @Troy are the only 2 “sure” losses on the schedule. The winnable games (<7 point dog or better) for CCC are vs. UAB, vs Campbell, @ULL, vs ULM, @MASS, @GAST, vs APP, vs GASO and @SOAL. The home game vs ARST is a probably loss as an almost 8 point dog.
The running game does lose its top back, Abercrombie, but returns a lot of depth, and the extremely young offensive line of last year will still but young, but with experience, this year. The main concern on offense will be QB, as projected starter Anderson wasn’t nearly as good as Keane last year. Anderson wasn’t horrible, though, so I’m hoping the drop off isn’t worse than expected.
The CCC run defense wasn’t as bad as many think, while the pass defense was a bottom 20 unit coming in at 111st. My projections have CCC being 5% worse on run defense and 2% worse on pass defense this year.
In spite of the team’s potential short comings, the schedule is soft enough to take a shot at the Over here, though I do feel it’s one of the higher variance plays I’m making this season, truth be told. CCC gets HC Moglia back after he missed last year with a medical issue. Last year they won 3 games with a 1-3 record on one score games and had 2 losses by 8 points on top of that.
Louisiana Lafayette Under 4.5 (-120 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 1 – Win Ceiling: 7
Hudspeth is out as HC, and Billy Napier is in, along with new offensive and defensive coordinators. The ULL defense was a bottom 5 defense last year and with player turnover, a new coaching staff, and limited recruiting rates to be even slightly worse this season. The ULL offense returns most of its production, and I rate them to improve across the board. Right now Jordan Davis is the projected starter at QB, though Andre Nunez put up better numbers when on the field last year.
Vs Grambling is the only highly probable win on ULL’s schedule, with probable losses coming @MSST, @ALA (that game could leave them beat up for weeks, like what happened to Vanderbilt last year, lol), @APP, vs ARST, and @Troy. @ULM is more than likely a loss as well, as I project a 6.9 point ULM victory in that game. Barring a big upset in the just mentioned games, ULL will have to win all 5 of the remaining games on their schedule for an Under bet to lose.
Rice Over 3 (-150 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 2 – Win Ceiling 7
Shh, nobody tell the bookmakers that Rice plays 13 regular season games this season, lol. It is a coaching reset year for Rice, with Bailiff out and Mike Bloomgren in. It’s a nothing to lose scenario after Bailiff’s teams steadily regressed over the past 4 seasons. Betting Rice Unders have been some of my best pre-season plays these past couple of years – now it’s time for the rebound.
Rice gets pretty much everybody back at the offensive skill positions, though they may have to start the season with the QB who put up the worst passing stats last year, Jackson Tyner. Freshman QB Miklo Smalls was a bit of a revelation when he finally got to play, posting the clear best passing and rushing #s for the QBs, but he missed spring ball for personal reasons. All told, I’ve left Rice’s passing projections alone, just going with the combination of what they produced last year. The same goes for the running projections, as I think the one spot the Rice offense has turnover this year is on the offensive line. The Rice running game could better than projected this year, as it was already decent and new HC Bloomgren is a former OL coach and offensive coordinator at Stanford, a team obviously built around power running in his years there.
The Rice defense was not good last year, ranking 118th, and it might be generous to leave their projections flat, given the loss of some of their more talented defenders and a coaching change. Their pass defense was clearly their weakest unit, but on the plus side new DC Brian Smith spent the last two seasons as Michigan’s defensive backs coach. Here’s to hoping they’re at least no worse than last year’s 3rd worst in the FBS unit.
With a week zero game against Prairie View A&M and a later season game at home vs UTEP, I’m pretty comfortable with the 2 game win floor I’ve set. They only need to win 1 of the 4 close games (@HAW, vs UTSA, vs UAB, vs ODU) I project for them to freeroll on the Over 3, which seems like a good deal in spite of the -150 juice. There are even a couple more games on the schedule where an upset isn’t completely out of the picture, @USM and @FIU. I’ll admit that my projections make Rice look a little more competitive than they might end up being, but after going over their stats and projections several times I just don’t see where I can dock them anymore, unless it’s for the coaching turnover, a situation that usually leads to a little regression in the first year. As mentioned before, though, this seems like one of those scenarios where if anything the opposite of true, like what happened with Fresno and Cal last year.
Old Dominion Under 5.5 (-110 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 1 – Win Ceiling 9
The Monarchs should have a lot of close games – I project them to be in 7 games that will be decided by less than 5 points! Unfortunately for ODU I project them to lose all but one of them. Even if they win their fair share they’ll stay Under the 5.5.
17 year old QB Steven Williams will make strides this year, but he still “led” the 3rd worst passing game in the FBS last year. The offensive line will be more mature, but any gains they’ll contribute to the running game will be offset by the loss of the fantastic RB Ray Lawry, who averaged a full 1.4 yards more per carry than any other back on their squad last year.
Old Dominion was so/so against the run versus a fairly paltry schedule, ranking 115th vs the 106th toughest schedule of run defenses faced. Only twice all season did they hold a team under its usual ypc average. They return almost everyone on the defensive line, so I expect some improvement, but not enough to stop teams running the ball late in games, leading to many expected close losses for ODU.
UAB Under 7.5 (-135 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 2 – Win Ceiling 11
Here’s another squad that rates to be in there challenging for the win in every game except Texas A&M this year. The Blazers ran the ball pretty well last year, but only had one “best” qualifying game of pass offense vs 7 “worst” games. 6 of those “worst” games came against 82nd or worse rated pass defenses, too. UAB went 4-2 in one score games last season. Make that 3-3 and it’s 7 wins. The offense does return almost everyone, but I’m not sure QB Erdely has much more upside to explore in this, his senior season. Still, I’m giving both the run and pass offenses healthy projection bonuses, as a strong run game should give the passing game many favorable opportunities.
The UAB defense returns an average amount of production. The UAB pass defense was better than their run defense, but it’s worth mentioning that they faced the easiest schedule of pass offenses of any team last year.
I think it’ll be a bit of a reality check for the Blazers this year. They only recruit in the 120’s (247Sport), and they have too many deficiencies to be an 8 win team again.
ECU Under 3.5 (-140 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 0 – Win Ceiling 3
Here’s a Pirate Horse we can ride with on the Under train again. They’ve haven’t lost for us yet when booking this ticket.
The only thing that ECU was fairly good at last year was passing the ball, and now they have to turn to the inexperienced Reid Herring to lead the passing attack. He’s supposedly looked good in spring ball, but when you’re passing against the FBS’ worst pass defense of last year…
Speaking of defense, they’re not losing as much production as the offense, but they’re still losing more than average. In spite of that, as bad as their defense was last year, I’m charitably giving them projection bonuses bringing them up to pretty bad vs purely awful. A regression to the mean bonus, if you will.
ECU doesn’t even have a patsy FCS opponent to open the season with. They play North Carolina A&T, who Athlon ranks 20th in their preseason FCS ratings. The only other winnable games I see for ECU on the schedule are vs ODU (and with Unders on both teams, we’ll at least get the loss for one of the teams, if you look at it as a glass half full scenario, lol) and vs CONN. Beyond that, you’re looking at the Pirates pulling upsets @Tulane and @Cincinnati for the Under to lose. Everyone else should easily put them away.
Houston Over 8 (+135 5D)
Win Floor: 5 – Win Ceiling 12
I project Houston to lose only 2 games this season; @TTU and @MEM, both the same margin of 3.7 points. Clearly I’m banking on some things going right for Houston this year. On offense I’m counting on controversial OC hire Kendal Briles to deliver an offense at least a little bit better than last year. That shouldn’t be hard with QB D’Eriq King as the full time starter. The converted WR put up far better passing and running numbers than Houston’s other QBs last year. For comparison, his YPP average was a fair amount better than Greg Ward Jr’s career #s and D’Eriq’s ypc average was up there with Greg Ward Jr’s peak years. D. King is a true dual threat. I’m leaving Houston’s passing projections alone because they lost the two WR responsible for more than half the team’s receptions last year. The two WRs set to take their place this year did have much higher ypp averages, though, so there’s definitely some upside there. RB Duke Catalon never had near the best ypc average on the team, yet he always got the lion’s share of the carries. So yeah, no major loss, in my opinion.
On defense All-World Ed Oliver will be playing his final season of college football. Houston lost some key players at all positions, but they’ve brought in some transfers and had pretty good depth in the secondary to begin with.
Houston will have to lose all 5 games that I project them as less than 7 point favorites for the Over to lose, so I’ll take my chances on the +money price.
Notre Dame Over 9.5 (+115 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 9 – Win Ceiling: 12
Notre Dame was a statistically dominant team at everything but passing the ball last year. This year rates to be just the same. As such, I’ve left their passing projections alone, and docked their running projections 15%, which still puts it at a phenomenal 5.5 ypc. 15% might not be enough, though, given the loss of RB Adams early to the NFL, as well as two offensive linemen drafted as well. They still have a solid nucleus of a line, and running backs ready to take on a bigger load, so time will tell. If the run game ends up being even a little worse than I project, there’s still a good chance the passing game will improve to make up for it.
Defensively Notre Dame returns almost everybody in the secondary. They do lost several linebackers, but not their top team tackler, Te’von Coney. The defensive line seems to have an average amount of turnover. Last year’s DC, Mike Elko, has moved onto Texas A&M after last year’s successful season. The linebackers’ coach was promoted to DC, so it’s not going to be shake up on defense. All told, I haven’t made any alterations to Notre Dame’s defensive projections.
Notre Dame is a +1.5 point dog at home in the season opener vs Michigan. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that line flip past zero by game time, and Notre should be favored in the rest of their games.
Colorado Under 4.5 (+100 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 1 – Win Ceiling: 7
Colorado will only be favored in one conference game this year, against Oregon State. They have a relative toss up in week 1 against CSU, and should win in week 3 against New Hampshire, but it’s not a lock as New Hampshire is Athlon’s #3 ranked FCS team entering the season, and Bill Connelly has set the spread at 17.1. Outside of that there are a handful of games where Colorado could pull off an upset: vs UCLA, vs ASU, vs WSU and @CAL. It is in their favor to have 3 of those games at home.
On the plus side for the Buffs, QB Montez will be just a Junior this year, and he’s been a solid player since his Freshman year. Colorado does lose a lot of receivers, but the guys behind them all had higher ypp averages – maybe they benefitted from less focus by opposing defenses, or maybe they’re more explosive players. We’ll find out.
RB Lindsay is gone, but the Buffs thankfully are getting VT grad transfer Travon McMillian, which is fortunate, as Colorado got NOTHING from any back ups last season. Travon had a solid season for VT a couple of years ago, but dropped off last year as the VT run game struggled mightily.
Colorado had a pretty solid pass defense last year, ranking 53rd, but their run defense was an abysmal 127th vs the 82nd toughest sked of run offenses faced. The Buffs’ defensive fortunes may lie with the bevy of JC transfers they’ve brought in this year.
The PAC12 has too many average or better teams for Colorado to flirt with Bowl eligibility this year, barring a surprise improvement on many fronts from this team.
Georgia Over 10.5 (-105 5Dimes)
Win Floor: 10 – Win Ceiling: 12
It’s Georgia. They’re gonna’ be good. There aren’t even any real borderline games that just missed bringing Georgia’s win floor down. @LSU and vs AUB are the only two games in the statistical realm of not being big upsets, so Georgia, though favored in both, only has to split.
QB Jake Fromm was a Freshman last year…and averaged 9 yards per pass. Sure it helps when you have Georgia’s running game. Yes, Georgia’s running game lost the dynamic duo of Chubb and Michel, but D’Andre Swift averaged a healthy 7.63 ypc as well. The offensive line is still solid returning starters from center out to left tackle. I’ve applied a 5% deduction to their run projections. That might be a little lite? It still leaves them at a solid 5.6 ypc. I’ve conservatively even given the Georgia passing game a 2% deduction, even with Fromm and 3 of the top 4 receivers returning (minus last year’s #1 receiver, Wims) as well as both tight ends that featured at all in the passing game (not much).
The Georgia defense did lose the tremendous Roquan Smith to the NFL, as well as an assortment of linebackers and members of the secondary. In all they lost about 31% of their tackles from last year, by my calculations. So they still have a lot of guys returning, and guess what? They had the best recruiting class in college football this year. Still, I’ve given the Bulldogs some deductions to their defense that still leaves them well above average across the board.
I like Georgia to make the playoff this year again as well, and 5Dimes had an enticing +170 on that proposition last time I checked earlier this week.