The sportsbooks have released their lines for season win totals betting, and we are here to give you bad advice on how to pick them.
A few words about this: win totals bets only include a team’s scheduled games, so they don’t include conference championships or bowl games. Also, since this column is actually titled Bad Gambling Advice, you should not wager actual money based on these selections. Because you will probably lose. Also, some of the win totals used in this post reflect line moves since the linked article was published.
Alabama: OVER 10.5 wins
Let’s get the easiest one off the board. In the last nine seasons, Alabama has won 11 or more regular season games eight times. The only time they didn’t was all the way back in 2010, when they went 9-3. For most teams, 10.5 wins would be a lot, but this is actually one of the safest bets on the board.
Arkansas: OVER 7 wins
The Razorbacks have three sure wins on the non-conference schedule (Florida A&M, New Mexico State, and Coastal Carolina), and they should beat Mississippi State and Missouri at home. That gets you to five wins; can the Razorbacks squeeze three wins out of road trips to Ole Miss and South Carolina, home games against Auburn and TCU, and a neutral-site game against Texas A&M? I think the most likely record is 7-5, right on the dot, but if forced to pick, I’d say they’re more likely an 8-4 team than a 6-6 one against this schedule.
Auburn: UNDER 8.5 wins
Auburn has road trips to Clemson and LSU on the schedule, and (of course) the Iron Bowl at the end of the season. If they lose all three of those, they’d have to win all of their remaining games — including tricky road trips to Arkansas and Texas A&M -- to beat this number. The logical pick is the under, so of course this means Auburn will go 12-0.
Florida: OVER 8 wins
We are, of course, at the point in the offseason when everyone is trying to talk themselves out of Florida. But regardless of the quarterback situation, the reality is that the Gators play just three true road games all season, and those are at Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina. Yes, the Gators do open the season with a neutral-site game against Michigan, and of course there’s Florida State — but even if you’re not a believer, it’s really easy to see the Gators backing into a 9-3 season.
Georgia: UNDER 8.5 wins
The Bulldogs should win all six of their home games (keyword: should.) But with five road games — at Notre Dame, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Georgia Tech -- and the WLOCP on the schedule, Georgia has a lot of landmines that could torpedo its hopes in the East. What’s more, I’m just not sure I trust Kirby Smart to win nine or ten games just yet.
Kentucky: UNDER 7 wins
A lot of people are on the Kentucky bandwagon. I’m not quite there yet. Florida, Tennessee, and Louisville all come to Lexington, true — but I’m actually undecided on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Those seem like winnable home games, but Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida in forever and has one win over Tennessee in the last 30 years or so. There’s also a tricky road trip to Southern Miss in the season opener and the Wildcats play at South Carolina, Vandy, and Mississippi State in SEC play. Basically, I’ve learned not to trust Kentucky. Because when you do, they break your heart.
LSU: OVER 9 wins
There’s not a ton of margin of error thanks to the Florida game being moved to Gainesville, giving the Tigers five road games in SEC play. On the other hand, LSU should sweep its non-conference schedule (vs. BYU in Houston, Chattanooga, Syracuse, and Troy), the three SEC home games are winnable (Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M), and they should be favored in road games at Ole Miss and Mississippi State. There’s nine wins right there, and getting a tenth win on the road at Florida or Tennessee is doable. Personally, I think 9-3 is the most likely outcome, but I see 10-2 being more likely than 8-4.
Mississippi State: UNDER 5.5 wins
Mississippi State’s SEC schedule includes road games at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Arkansas, and visits from LSU and Alabama. There’s also a tricky road game at Louisiana Tech and a visit from BYU out of conference. I’m a believer in Dan Mullen and Nick Fitzgerald, but it’s actually difficult to see how this team gets to six or seven wins.
Missouri: UNDER 6.5 wins
One reason I like Vegas lines: unlike, say, the SEC media poll, these guys have something to lose if they’re wrong (namely, money.) Missouri is picked seventh in the East in the SEC media poll, but Vegas seems to think the Tigers are better than that. Still, I can see five wins on the schedule — home games against Missouri State, South Carolina, Purdue, and Idaho, and a road trip to UConn — but finding a sixth, obvious win is difficult — much less a seventh. Road trips to Kentucky and Vandy? Those won’t be easy. Home games against Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn? I don’t like those, either. Weirdly, if you flipped that, I could see 7-5 easily — but it’s hard to see Missouri doing better than 6-6 against this schedule.
Ole Miss: OVER 5.5 wins
Yes, distractions. But the possibility of a disaster seems to be already priced in, which makes the over a good value pick: a team with this talent level, facing this schedule, should win 7 or 8 games under normal circumstances. Obviously, these aren’t normal circumstances, but a bet on the under is basically a bet on Ole Miss playing well below its actual talent level. Which is, of course, very possible, but I’d rather take the value in a deflated total.
South Carolina: UNDER 5.5 wins
I’ll admit: I’m not a believer in the Gamecocks. They got into a bowl game last year, but they also were outscored by 5.7 ppg. They’ll probably be an underdog in at least seven games: road games at Missouri, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Georgia, a neutral-site game against NC State, and home games against Florida and Clemson. Hell, home games against Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas, and Vandy aren’t gimmes. I like Jake Bentley, but regression to the mean is going to be a bitch a year after the Gamecocks won five FBS games by a total of 27 points.
Tennessee: OVER 7.5 wins
It kills me to say this, but I feel like Tennessee is massively undervalued going into this season. The Vols signed top 10 classes in 2014 and 2015, and the last two recruiting classes have ranked “only” 14th and 17th. In other words, there’s talent here. Yes, Butch Jones is the coach, and yes, they play at Florida and Alabama — but the other two road games in conference play (Kentucky and Missouri) are winnable. Yes, there are questions at quarterback — but Tennessee’s recruited well enough that it’s a good bet any holes on the two-deep will be filled. I see this as an 8-4 or 9-3 team.
Texas A&M: OVER 7 wins
Come on. Don’t make this too easy. You and I both know Texas A&M is going 8-4 and exactly 8-4.
Vanderbilt: OVER 6 wins
The weird part is that looking at Vanderbilt’s schedule, it would seem just about anything between 3-9 and 9-3 is very possible. Vanderbilt has to replace some pieces on defense, but the offense returns basically everyone and I trust Derek Mason to field a strong defense. And this year, Kentucky and Missouri come to Nashville. Of course I really think this team will go exactly 6-6, but my Vanderbilt fan card will be revoked if I pick the under.