The 2017 college football season is rapidly approaching, which means it's time to examine the over/under win totals for each and every FBS team. For those who have read these in the past, basically I take a look at the returning starters and the schedule and put an educated guess on if I like the over or the under. I'll have opinions on every team, but some will be stronger than others.
First, we start out with Conference USA, which has one of the best stories of the season with the return of UAB football. We'll see how the Blazers do after some time off. Other than that, it's the usual suspects who will be competing for a berth in the conference title game.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of the South Point sports book
Conference USA East Division
(Over 4 +115...Under 4 -135)
Money is streaming in on the under as the 49ers could have another long year ahead of them. The non-conference slate features road tilts at Eastern Michigan and Kansas State followed by home games against North Carolina A&T and Georgia State. The defense could be worse than last year's group with Larry Ogunjobi gone up front. Hasaan Klugh and Robert Washington will be fun to watch out of the backfield. I see three potential wins (UAB, NC A&T, GSU) with some chances for a fourth. Still, it's more likely they get three wins than five so I lean to the under.
(Over 4.5 -110...Under 4.5 -110)
Lane Kiffin is the head coach and he's brought intrigue to usually boring FAU. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has some pieces to work with in Devin Singletary and Buddy Howell in the backfield. The problem for the Owls will be on defense where they were one of the worst in the country in 2016. FAU plays Navy, Wisconsin, Bethune-Cookman and Buffalo out of conference. This originally opened up at 4 and the public bet the total up due to Kiffin. I like the over for FAU.
(Over 4.5 EVEN...Under 4.5 -120)
Intriguing hire number two in the conference is Butch Davis coming back to Miami to coach the Panthers. They've got a ton of players returning, but is that enough? Alex McGough had just 13 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions in 2016, but he does have wide receiver Thomas Owens back. The defense allowed nearly 35 points per game so improvement is needed there. Road games at UCF, Indiana and Rice are an imposing start, but FIU does have three of four at home to close things out. No real feel here as I liked this team last year and was let down big time.
(Over 5 -115...Under 5 -105)
Doc Holliday's bunch was terrible last year as Marshall struggled to get its offense going while the defense was consistently gashed because it was on the field a ton. QB Chase Litton returns and he has Ryan Yurachek with him at TE. The team hopes that their kicking game is better after missing six of 10 field goal attempts. There are opportunities for early wins with home contests against MAC members Miami (Ohio) and Kent State. From October on, the Herd alternate home and road games. Five is a good number so no opinion.
(Over 7 -110...Under 7 -110)
QB Brent Stockstill is back and so are some of his top wide receivers led by Richie James. The offensive line will need some time to gel with three new starters. The hiring of former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer as defensive coordinator will be huge for a unit that returns eight of its nine top tacklers. Shafer will face his former team in the Carrier Dome in Week 2. Middle Tennessee gets Vanderbilt at home to open up the season. A lot will rest on the tilt with Western Kentucky on the road on Nov. 18. I like the over for the Blue Raiders.
(Over 6.5 -115...Under 6.5 -105)
ODU had a historic year in 2016 with 10 wins and a bowl appearance. The Monarchs will have to hope that running backs Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox can make up for the fact that they will take a step back at quarterback from David Washington. Similarly, wide receiver Jonathan Duhart will have to fill the huge shoes left by Zach Pascal. Defensively there was massive improvement and returning starters in the right spots. The schedule gets an upgrade though with North Carolina and Virginia Tech headlining the non-conference slate. ODU also plays at Middle Tennessee. I can see six or seven wins here so no true opinion.
(Over 9.5 EVEN...Under 9.5 -120)
Mike Sanford takes over for former head coach Willie Taggart and he inherits an offense led by Mike White, who threw 37 touchdowns last year to just seven interceptions. Wide receivers Nicholas Norris and Taywan Taylor are gone so he'll have to develop some chemistry with Nacarius Fant and Lucky Jackson among others. Derik Overstreet is one of five returning guys on defense. It's a very home-friendly start to the slate that finishes with three of the final four on the road. I like Middle Tennessee more than WKU, but 10 wins could definitely happen if the defense comes around.
Conference USA West Division
(Over 8.5 -110...Under 8.5 -110)
Wide receivers Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson are gone, but they will be replaced by transfers Teddy Veal and Adrian Hardy. J'Mar Smith is going to bring a lot to the signal caller position. Defensively, the back end is replacing a lot so the front four is going to have to get pressure on the QB. Mississippi State comes to Ruston in week two as part of an interesting non-conference slate that also features South Carolina. Lean to the over as I'm a fan of Skip Holtz. I'd like it more if the Bulldogs can steal one of their SEC contests.
(Over 4.5 -120...Under 4.5 EVEN)
Coordinator Graham Harrell's spread offense had its moments in 2016. QB Mason Fine went through some growing pains as a freshman, but Jeffery Wilson provided a lot at running back. The offensive line has to get better if the Mean Green hope to keep the momentum going. Defensively, they showed improvement although it went from allowing over 40 points to over 30 points. North Texas gets Army and Lamar at home as well as SMU and Iowa on the road. This number opened up at 4 and it moved to 4.5. I agree with the move and think five wins is a distinct possibility making the over the play.
(Over 3.5 -120...Under 3.5 EVEN)
The skill position outlook early on is bleak with so much to replace. Fortunately for the Owls, all five starters are back on the offensive line. Defensively, this team is a mess. They allowed more than 500 yards per game and return seven starters. The team's first true home game isn't until Sept. 23 when Rice hosts FIU. Prior to that, the Owls play Stanford in Australia and at UTEP and Houston. I like the under here with the EVEN price. This team is just not good enough for four wins.
(Over 7 -120...Under 7 EVEN)
If this team can get good quarterback play, then the offense will flourish. Playmakers Ito Smith, Allenzae Staggers, Isiah Jones and Julian Allen all return. Just four starters return from a defense that was 10th in FBS against the pass last year. The Golden Eagles get a chance to put a stamp on the season early with a opening win over Kentucky. Bettors didn't like the 7.5 number so it got moved down to 7 wins. I think the over is in play here because of an offense that should score once they figure out QB.
(Over 2.5 -130...Under 2.5 +110)
Welcome back UAB! Bill Clark is a fantastic head coach who managed to get six wins back in 2014 with a mediocre squad. Linebacker Shaq Jones played on that team and is back for more in his senior year. The offense doesn't have a ton of weapons starting at quarterback. I think at this price you have to look at the under. The Blazers have four road games over a five-week stretch as well as back-to-back home games against Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee.
(Over 2.5 +120...Under 2.5 -140)
Running back Aaron Jones was essentially the whole offense last year and he's gone. When the Miners asked Ryan Metz to throw the ball, he did a decent job with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. There are a lot of holes on defense as well as special teams where they have to break in a new kicker. UTEP plays at Oklahoma and Army as part of a non-conference slate that does include a home tilt with Arizona. I don't hate the over although it could come down to the last game of the year at UAB. Pass on this one.
(Over 6.5 -120...Under 6.5 EVEN)
Frank Wilson brought a bowl to San Antonio in 2016. He looks to build off of that by leaning on a defense that returns seven starters. The unit made vast improvements and has the right players to run the 4-2-5 alignment. Offensively you've got QB Dalton Sturm to go with wide receivers Kerry Thomas Jr. and Josh Stewart. It doesn't get much bigger for UTSA than to host Houston in week one. After that, the Roadrunners travel to Waco to face Baylor. I like the over and I think Wilson gets UTSA to another bowl in his second season.
— 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.