In the last post, I gave you my top five 'over' win total plays for the 2014 college football season. In this post, we'll take a look at the five teams that I think are due to go 'under' their respective preseason win totals.
Duke under 8.5 @ -150
Last season was a historic one for Duke. The Blue Devils won ten games for the first time in school history, finished the season ranked for the first time since 1961, and nearly sent Johnny Manziel out a loser in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. But alas, Duke enjoyed some extreme good fortune in their run to the ACC Championship Game, going 4-1 in close games during the regular season, while posting a middling yard per play differential (-.01) in conference games. The Blue Devils will probably win all four of their non-conference games in 2014 (Elon, @ Troy, Kansas, and Tulane), but they would still need to win five conference games to beat this number. Drawing Syracuse (more on them later) and Wake Forest from the Atlantic Division is a nice start, but the Blue Devils could be underdogs in all six of their Coastal Division games. Assuming they win the other six contests, asking them to split their Coastal Division matchups is asking a little too much.
Syracuse under 5.5 @ +120
Syracuse went bowling and finished with a winning record last season (their third bowl in four years), despite losing three games by a combined 147 points. The Orange didn't do anything particularly well, and actually finished more than two wins clear of their Adjusted Pythagorean Record. Combine those lackluster peripherals with an imposing schedule, and the Orange are a good bet to finish with a losing record. In non-conference action, they play Villanova, at Central Michigan, Maryland, and versus Notre Dame in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Orange can be expected to beat Villanova, but Central Michigan on the road will be a test. Assuming they beat both the Wildcats and the Chippewas, the Orange will likely be underdogs against the Terrapins and Irish. If the Orange manage a 2-2 non-conference mark, they would need four conference wins to cash in for the 'over'. The Orange have the misfortune of hosting both Louisville and Florida State in conference play. Even assuming they pull an upset of one of those teams, the Orange would still need to split their remaining six games (NC State, Duke, @ Wake Forest, @ Clemson, @ Pitt, and @ Boston College). I can't imagine them doing that. Plus, you more than double your money if the Orange come up short. What's not to like?
Tennessee under 5.5 @ +120
The Volunteers have now endured four consecutive losing seasons! Maybe firing The Great Pumpkin wasn't such a bright idea? Tennessee has a brutal schedule in 2014, so the streak could reach a half-decade. Outside the SEC, the Volunteers face solid mid-major squads in Utah State and Arkansas State at home, before travelling to Oklahoma and hosting Chattanooga. The Oklahoma game is likely a lost cause, and Chattanooga is a sure win. I don't expect the Vols to actually lose to Arkansas State, but Utah State could give Tennessee all they want over the season's first weekend. If the Vols lose to the Aggies, you can go ahead and cash this ticket because they would need four conference wins to go 'over' the total. Drawing Alabama (at home) and Ole Miss (on the road) out of the SEC West is not the prescription for getting back to the postseason. Tennessee has a decent shot at getting to six wins in 2014, but I would say its a 50/50 proposition at best, and based on the payout for this bet, Vegas has it pegged closer to 55% the Vols hit the 'over'.
UCLA under 9.5 @ even
Do you know the last time UCLA won ten games in the regular season? Cade McNown was quarterbacking the team (and using ill-gotten handicap stickers). Don't buy into the Bruin hype. Yes, the Bruins could win their third Pac-12 South title in four years, but their yard per play differential was not befitting an elite team last season (+.17 in Pac-12 play). Keep in mind, Oregon and Stanford are still on the schedule. Those two teams held the UCLA offense, led by 'Heisman darkhorse Brett Hundley', to 24 total points last year. Granted, the Bruins get to host both teams this season, but even if they manage another 6-3 conference record, they will not make it over this win total. That is not even considering their non-conference dates at Virginia and versus Texas in Arlington. The Bruins are a huge favorite against the Cavs, but traveling cross-country for a Noon kickoff could produce a strange result. In addition, while the Bruins will probably be favored over Texas, the Longhorns are still a dangerous team. Getting this win total at even money is like stealing.
Washington State under 5.5 @ +105
Washington State managed to play in their first bowl game in a decade last season, but the Cougars were far from a good team. Just because you have a high volume of passes does not mean you have a great passing offense. The Cougars finished ninth in the Pac-12 in yards per play despite being conducted by Air Raid impresario Mike Leach. Assuming they beat Rutgers on opening night, the Cougars should sweep their three non-conference games. However, once the harrowing Pac-12 season begins, the Cougars could potentially be favored in just one game (home versus Cal). The Cougars lost big last season (all five of their league losses came by at least ten points with an average margin of defeat of nearly 27 points) and unless they engineer some stark improvement, getting to six wins will prove too difficult.
Outside of these five teams, there are a two others I saw that I could almost advise you to take.
South Carolina under 9.5 @ -125
I think Gamecock fans and the nation in general will realize just how much Connor Shaw meant to the team. For my money, he's the best quarterback in South Carolina history (Todd Ellis be damned). Would it really be that big of a shock if the Gamecocks lost two SEC games and then lost at Clemson?
Oklahoma under 10.5 @ -115
The Sooners are getting a lot of hype heading into the 2014 season thanks to one phenomenal performance. Granted, it did happen against Alabama, but over the course of nine Big 12 games, Oklahoma scored exactly as many offensive touchdowns as they allowed! Those are not numbers befitting a national title contender. Still, with all their big games coming at home, they may not lose twice in 2014.