Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Degenerates Guide to the 2014 Season: Win Total Over Plays

In this edition of the Degenerates Guide, I will give you five teams that I think are poised to hit the 'over' on their projected win totals. I will include the team, the win total they must go 'over', and the price you must pay to take them. Without further adieu, here are my five top picks.

Arizona over 6.5 wins @ -175
While the price on this wager is a little high (you would need to bet 175 dollars in order to win 100), projecting Arizona to get to seven regular season wins does not require a large leap of faith. Rich Rod's first two Wildcats teams have finished with identical 7-5 regular season records. in both campaigns, they are 6-0 in non-conference play, and they should easily match that in 2014. Arizona's three non-conference opponents are all mid-majors. The Wildcats host both UNLV and Nevada, and hit the road to face Texas-San Antonio. In conference play, the Wildcats enjoy five home games, with Cal, Southern Cal, Colorado, Washington, and Arizona State all travelling to Tucson. Cal and Colorado should be easy victories, and even a pessimist could expect one win against the trio of Southern Cal, Washington, and Arizona State. If that comes to fruition, the Wildcats would need to win just one of their league road games to hit the over. In their quartet of road games, the Wildcats travel to Oregon, Washington State, UCLA, and Utah. Oregon and UCLA are probably out of the question, but I think the Wildcats can split in their trips to Pullman and Salt Lake City respectively. The Wildcats were not especially lucky or unlucky last season, but were pretty deserving of their 4-5 Pac-12 record. The only concern I have is they will be breaking in a new starting quarterback for the second consecutive season. However, whomever Rich Rod chooses to be his guy will have three non-conference tuneups to get acclimated to the rugged Pac-12.

Florida over 7.5 @ -130
Ah Florida. What can be said about your 2013 season that hasn't already been said? Fewest wins since 1979, first bowlless campaign since 1990, a loss to Georgia Southern when they were still a IAA team (two of your guys even blocked each other), and the worst loss to your in-state rival since 1988. Lost in all the hoopla though is this fact: Florida still fielded the best defense in the SEC last season, permitting conference foes just over five yards per play. Hell, even using the playbook of Amos Alonzo Stagg, they almost won at South Carolina. Remember, they almost won the SEC two seasons ago with the defense and running game formula. The Gators will lose one non-conference game (at Florida State) and one conference game (at Alabama), but in between, their only other true road games are Vanderbilt and Tennessee. I might even take a flyer on the Gators to win the SEC East.

Indiana over 5.5 @ +110
Can Kevin Wilson finally get his Hoosiers over the hump? The Hoosiers have improved in the win column each season under Wilson, going from one, to four, to five wins. Their conference win total has also improved, going from zero, to two, to three wins. If Indiana can get to three Big 10 wins this season, they will probably go bowling for the first time since 2007. Wilson had the Hoosiers humming on offense last season, as the team ranked third in the conference in yards per play (behind Ohio State and Wisconsin). However, the defense was another issue, as the team ranked dead last in permitting over seven yards per play. The offense returns eight starters, including the dynamic quarterback duo of Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. The defense returns nine starters, and cannot possibly be any worse than they were last season. The Hoosiers face a pair of tough road games in non-conference play, travelling to Bowling Green and Missouri. The Hoosiers waxed a solid Bowling Green team in Bloomington last season, but a road game at a MAC power will not be an easy win. The Missouri game is a likely loss, and the other non-conference clashes at home against Indiana State and North Texas are likely wins. In conference play, the Hoosiers host Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State, and Purdue. If the Hoosiers can split those games, bowl eligibility should hinge on them winning one of their league road games against Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, or Ohio State. Michigan and Ohio State are probably lost causes, and Iowa will be a challenge, but conference neophyte Rutgers presents a great shot at a road scalp. Perhaps the best news for Indiana fans is that Wisconsin is not on the schedule. The Badgers have beaten the Hoosiers by 63, 52, 48, and 48 points the past four seasons.

Nebraska over 8 @ even
Bo Pelini has probably hit the proverbial ceiling at Nebraska, but you know how many times he has lost more than four games in Lincoln? Never. And let's not forget, despite their disappointing play last season, the Huskers actually won nine games, including five in the Big 10, despite an in-conference turnover margin of -16. That's right, on average, in every Big 10 game, the Huskers spotted their opponent two turnovers and still won more than they lost. Suffice it to say, they won't be -16 in Big 10 play this season. The schedule is not too imposing either. There is a tricky non-conference road game at Fresno State and a home clash with Miami (first game since the 2001 Rose Bowl), but 3-1 should be the floor outside the league. In conference play, the Huskers travel to both Michigan State and Wisconsin, but avoid both Ohio State and Michigan. At worst, Nebraska should push, and if the Huskers beat Miami at home, there should be nothing stopping you from doubling your money.

Utah over 4.5 @ -175
Like Arizona, you have to pay a steep price to get the Utes, but I think they are worth it. Despite their 2-7 mark in the Pac-12 last season, the Utes should have won about two more conference games based on their Adjusted Pythagorean Record. Like Nebraska, the Utes also had a poor turnover margin in Pac-12 play (-12) and can expect that mark to get a little better this season. The Utes will probably only manage two non-conference wins, as they have to travel to Michigan in their third game, meaning they will need to win one third of their Pac-12 contests to cash in. It certainly will not be easy, but with Washington State and Colorado on the schedule, the Utes need only find another conference win in their remaining seven games.

Well, these are my five picks to cash in on the 'over'. In the next post, we'll examine the five teams I think are solid 'under' plays.

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