Sunday, August 15, 2021

Strangers in the Field: VI

I didn't get in a Vegas trip last summer due to the pandemic and while things have recently taken a turn for the worse, I got one in about a month ago. Hopefully, at least a few of these bets won't be voided. Enjoy. 

College Football Plays

Over/Under Win Totals

Air Force over 6.5 wins -125 ($50 to win $40)
Troy Calhoun enters his fifteenth season at the flight school having won fewer than seven regular season games five times in his tenure, including last season when the team played just six games. The Falcons still managed a .500 record in that abbreviated campaign and even posted the second best Net YPP in the division (if the Mountain West had used divisions last season which they did not). The Falcons have a manageable non-conference slate outside of their mandatory service academy dates with Army and Navy, so as long as they can manage a .500 record in Mountain West play, they should be able to win seven games. 

Ball State under 7.5 wins -120 ($50 to win $41.65)
Ball State closed 2020 strong, winning their final seven games and finishing in the AP top 25 for the first time in school history. However, despite winning the MAC title, the Cardinals were underwater in Net YPP. I think regression is waiting on Ball State this season and with a non-conference slate that features three challenging games (at Penn State, at Wyoming, and home versus Army), the Cardinals may need to qualify for the MAC Championship Game to go over this total. 

Buffalo under 7.5 wins -145 ($50 to win $34.50)
Buffalo was the best team in the MAC last season, and if Lance Leipold had not taken the Kansas job in the spring, they would probably be a good bet to return to the MAC Championship Game. However, Leipold departed late in the offseason and I think his departure will have a significant negative impact on the Bulls. 

Navy over 3.5 wins -105 ($50 to win $47.60)
Ken Niumatalolo has been head coach at Navy for thirteen seasons. Two of those seasons have resulted in losing campaigns. In both instances, his teams bounced back and won at least eight games the next season. The non-conference schedule is daunting in 2021, with Marshall and Notre Dame joining the standard dates with Air Force and Army. However, Marshall might be poised for a decline off last season's closing performance and there are some opportunities for wins in AAC play (pretty much any game outside of Cincinnati and UCF). I'll go with history and count on Navy bouncing back. 

San Diego State over 6.5 wins -120 ($50 to win $41.65)
I'm not saying this is going to happen, but there is a non-zero probability San Diego State starts the season 9-0 before hosting Nevada in mid-November. Check the schedule. I'm not saying its likely to happen, but the Aztecs could potentially win all four of their non-conference games which would include two victories against Pac-12 teams. The Aztecs will likely be favored when they travel to Tucson to take on Arizona and while they will be a home underdog to Utah, that is a sandwich game as the Utes will be coming off the Holy War with BYU and will open conference play the next week against Washington State. Again, not saying it will happen, but the schedule sets up nicely for San Diego State. 

TCU over 7.5 wins -125 ($50 to win $40)
TCU is 18-17 over the past three seasons (12-15 in Big 12 play). However, they closed last season strong by winning five of six and finally have an experienced quarterback. Max Duggan has started for parts of the past two seasons and should be able to put the TCU offense into the upper half of the Big 12. Pair that with what is always one of the best defenses in the conference and that should be enough to get TCU to eight wins. 

Over/Under Conference Win Totals
The South Point mixed things up a bit and put out conference only win totals. 

Coastal Carolina under 7.5 Sun Belt wins -135 ($100 to win $74.05)
One loss is all it takes to cash this ticket. The Chanticleers enjoyed an amazing season last year under Jamey Chadwell, but the wunderkind was just 8-16 in his previous two seasons leading the team. I think the Chants slip up at least once in Sun Belt play (hopefully on their visit to Boone). 

East Carolina over 2.5 AAC wins -135 ($100 to win $74.05)
East Carolina has not finished with a winning conference record since 2014, but I think they get close in Mike Houston's third season. The Pirates actually finished 3-5 in AAC play last season and they host the two weakest teams in the conference (South Florida and Temple) in 2021. If they win both of those, they just have to find one additional win in their other six league games and I think they can do just that. 

Florida International over 2.5 CUSA wins +100 ($40 to win $40).
After qualifying for bowls in their first three seasons under Butch Davis, the Panthers endured a hard luck 0-5 campaign in 2020. The Panthers dropped their first two games by a combined five points and then wheezed to the finish line. In a more normal season, I think the Panthers bounce back to mediocrity. They were 14-10 in CUSA play from 2017-2019. 

Indiana under 5 Big 10 wins -110 ($40 to win $36.35)
In a storybook season, Indiana nearly won the Big 10 last season despite being underwater in Net YPP. In seven conference games, the Hoosiers were +10 in turnover margin. That fantastic margin is unlikely to be repeated in 2021. To lose this bet, Indiana would have to go 6-3 in Big 10 play with a schedule that features trips to Iowa, Michigan, and Penn State as well as a home date with Ohio State. And that is assuming they win road trips to Maryland and Purdue as well as take care of business at home against Minnesota. I don't see any way Indiana wins six times in Big 10 play. 

Marshall under 7 CUSA wins -140 ($100 to win $71.45)
To lose this bet, Marshall has to run the table in Conference USA. While the league is down, Marshall fired their long time head coach (Doc Holliday) after a successful season. In addition, quarterback Grant Wells had some great surface numbers last season, but games against Eastern Kentucky (FCS) and Massachusetts (one of the worst FBS teams) significantly skewed his overall totals. I expect Marshall to finish closer to .500 in CUSA play than unbeaten. 

Middle Tennessee State over 2.5 CUSA wins -110 ($100 to win $90.90)
In the vein of Air Force and Navy, we have another long-tenured coach (Rick Stockstill is entering season number sixteen in Murfreesboro) coming off a disappointing season. For the Blue Raiders, this marks two disappointing seasons in a row (7-14 overall the past two years), but I think the Blue Raiders will return to at least mediocrity. They don't even have to finish .500 to go over this win total. 

Mississippi State over 2.5 SEC wins +100 ($40 to win $40)
I think Mississippi State will see their offense improve in the second year of the Air Raid. The conference schedule is also not as difficult as it could have been considering the Bulldogs play in the SEC West. Their crossover games come against Kentucky and Vanderbilt so if the Bulldogs can get both of those, they just need to find a single division win. That potential win would most likely come against Arkansas, Auburn, or in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. 

Navy over 1.5 AAC wins -145 ($100 to win $68.95)
I already touched on why I think Navy will improve in 2021, and since this bet only includes conference games, their tough non-conference schedule doesn't even come into play. 

Ohio over 4.5 MAC wins +100 ($40 to win $40)
I felt better about this bet until Frank Solich retired. However, his replacement has been with the program just as long, entering his seventeenth season. Tim Albin has not been a head coach since the 90's when he led Northwestern Oklahoma State to an NAIA crown. Despite the change at the top, I think the program is in good hands and excluding 2020, the Bobcats have won at least five conference games each season since 2015. 

Wyoming over 4.5 Mountain West wins ($40 to win $26.65)
The Cowboys should have one of the best defenses in the Mountain West and in Craig Bohl's eighth season, could finally win an elusive Mountain West title. Since 2016, the Cowboys have lost seventeen conference games. Eleven of them have come by one score. Wyoming is very close to putting it all together and having a special season. 

College Conference Futures

Appalachian State to win Sun Belt +350 ($10 to win $35)
Since joining FBS, the Mountaineers are the best program in the Sun Belt and they get Coastal Carolina at home in 2021. 

Ohio to win the MAC +600 ($10 to win $60)
I had hoped the Bobcats would send Frank Solich off into the sunset with his first MAC title, but I still think they have a great chance to at least get to the conference title game. 

NFL Playoffs Yes/No 

Atlanta Falcons YES +250 ($10 to win $25)
At some point the Falcons have to win the close ones right? Plus, there are seven playoff teams per conference now and Drew Brees just retired.

Baltimore Ravens YES -320 ($200 to win $62.50)
I don't stand to gain a lot if the Ravens make the playoffs, but it just seems like too much would have to go wrong for this team to miss the playoffs entirely.

Los Angeles Rams NO +160 ($10 to win $16)
Is Matthew Stafford that much of an upgrade over Jared Goff? I remain skeptical. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NO +450 ($10 to win $45)
At some point Tom Brady has to stop being good right? I know the roster around him is great, but I'll take a flyer on the Bucs struggling in their quest to repeat.

NFL Over/Under Win Totals

Atlanta Falcons over 7.5 wins -120 ($30 to win $25)
Since I think they might make the playoffs, I figure they should be able to finish within an eyelash of .500. 

Los Angeles Rams under 10.5 wins -130 ($20 to win $15.40)
Again, I don't know that Stafford is that much of an upgrade and the NFC West is tough. 

Washington Football Team under 8.5 wins -125 ($20 to win $16)
Defense is less consistent year to year than offense and this team was heavily tilted to that side of the ball in 2020. The offense should improve with the additional of Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I think the defense will regress just as much. And remember, this team finished with a losing record last season. 

NFL Division Futures

New York Giants to win NFC East +400 ($10 to win $40)
Someone has to win the division and while the Cowboys and Washington are the favorites, I think the Giants are a real darkhorse in the race.

Seattle Seahawks to win NFC West +325 ($10 to win $32.50)
Seattle still has the best quarterback in the division. 

Reckless Parlays

College Football ($10 to win $750 -- all must be correct)

Army +2.5 Georgia State
Army is a great play as an underdog, especially against a fellow Group of Five team.

Kansas State +1.5 Stanford @ Arlington
Early kick and a great underdog coach.

Rice +20.5 Arkansas
For as much as Arkansas improved last season, they have one FBS victory by more than 20 points since the start of the 2017 season. 

Navy +3 Marshall
Marshall has a new coach and must go on the road against a veteran triple option team. 

Georgia +4 Clemson @ Charlotte
I think Georgia will win the national title in 2021. 

Northern Illinois +17 Georgia Tech
I am skeptical Georgia Tech makes much of a leap in Geoff Collins' third season.

Southern Miss -1.5 South Alabama 
Two gentlemen make their head coaching debuts. I like the Golden Eagles to get revenge on the Jaguars for ruining their 2020 season.

NFL ($10 to win $60 -- all must be correct)

Atlanta -4 Philadelphia 
Nothing like over-leveraging myself on the Falcons.

New York Giants pick Denver
Denver travels to the east coast with a good defense and questions a quarterback. 

Chicago Bears +7 Los Angeles Rams
Both these teams made the playoffs last season, but only one is getting any offseason love.

There you have it. Hopefully we can make some money. Come January, I'll post a follow up detailing how we did. In the meantime, look for some college football picks against the spread coming in about two weeks. Thanks for reading.