These are the teams you need to put your money on
After breaking down each FBS conference and providing opinions on the win totals for all of those college football teams, it’s time to take a look at the best values. For this exercise, I am going to break my picks into two categories – “Best Values” and “Best Chance of Winning.”
Obviously I think all of these are going to win, but some of these plays are among my favorites because the price is too good not to take a shot. If I can give you an appealing play that also offers good value then you win more than you spent.
Below you will see my breakdown of wins, losses and toss-up games for each to help you see what I took into consideration. The numbers referenced below are of the South Point Casino and are subject to change.
2017 Win Totals: AAC I ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Conference USA I MAC I Mountain West I Pac-12 I SEC I Sun Belt
South Florida Bulls Over 10 +105
I think South Florida is going to a New Year’s Six bowl this year behind the offensive firepower of QB Quinton Flowers, RB D'Ernest Johnson and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The defense has some issues, but that side returns nine starters for new head coach Charlie Strong. The schedule is very easy in spots with the non-conference games being San Jose State, FCS member Stony Brook, Illinois and UMass. In AAC play, the Bulls get Temple and Houston both at home with the toughest road game appearing to be a trip to UCF. I don't usually like to take these wagers because it doesn't leave me room for injury, but at plus money, I'll take the chance that this team is real special and goes 11-1 or 12-0.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Under 5.5 +120
Losses: at Louisiana Tech, LSU, at Georgia, at Auburn, at Texas A&M, Alabama, at Arkansas
The road slate for the Bulldogs is very tough, including that non-conference game against Louisiana Tech in week two. Getting LSU and Alabama at home is usually a blessing, but I don't think there's enough talent here for Mississippi State to win either of those matchups. Nick Fitzgerald is a very good quarterback and Todd Grantham is a nice addition as defensive coordinator. The offensive line is a huge question mark. If this somehow moves to six, I like it even more, but the +125 price is juicy considering this team's questions.
Miami Hurricanes Under 9 EVEN
Losses: at Arkansas State, at Florida State, at North Carolina, Virginia Tech
People are backing the Hurricanes to win the ACC Coastal and I don't know if I can do it. There are a ton of banana peel games and you'll notice one of those in the loss column. Miami travels to Arkansas State a week before its biggest game of the season against in-state rival Florida State. The Red Wolves from the Sun Belt are not a bad team so the ‘Canes need to be on upset alert when they travel to Jonesboro. Miami has questions at quarterback and has yet to show it can when the big game. I think Virginia Tech is a better team and I’m calling for the Hokies to beat the Canes at home. At EVEN money, I'll back the under and hope they slip up in several tough games.
Best Chance of Winning
West Virginia Mountaineers Under 7 -125
Losses: Virginia Tech, at TCU, at Baylor, Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, at Oklahoma
The Big 12 is a tough place to rebuild, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Mountaineers will be replacing their top three linemen, a really good linebacker as well as five of their top six defensive backs. Yes, Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier is a solid place to start on offense and the run game figures to be a strength, but WVU figures to be in a fair number of shootouts and I’m not sure this team is capable of winning those types of games. Outside of Kansas, the Mountaineers don't have too many road games that are easy. To me, I think it's a rebuilding year for West Virginia.
North Texas Mean Green Over 4.5 -130
Losses: at SMU, at Iowa, at Southern Miss, at FAU, Old Dominion, at Louisiana Tech
The pieces are there for a continued upgrade of the Mean Green. Year two of head coach Seth Littrell and offensive Graham Harrell should see the offense get better with Mason Fine under center. He's got Jeffery Wilson to run the ball, but it’s the passing game that needs to stake a step forward. The defense has plenty of speed and the secondary should be strong. Outside of the Iowa game, North Texas shouldn't get blown out by anyone else. I think this team could go bowling for the second straight year.
Arkansas Razorbacks Over 6.5 -130
Losses: at Alabama, at LSU
This is clearly one of my favorites because I surpass the Vegas win total by 3.5 games. Even with a little bit less optimism, the Razorbacks still win eight in my mind. I like Austin Allen at quarterback and Devwah Whaley at running back. It stinks that Rawleigh Williams retired, but the offense is still in good hands. Yes, the defense isn't great, but I think Arkansas is capable of winning shootouts. The schedule is very doable with a home slate that should produce a lot of wins.
Florida Atlantic Owls Over 5 (-105) – I'll bet on new head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to do big things for the Owls in 2017
Colorado State Under 8 (-110) – Way too much optimism for a Rams team that has to play at Alabama and New Mexico as well as games against Colorado and Boise State.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.