Handicapping 2017 Win Totals
May 23, 2017


CG Technology sent out its opening numbers for 2017 college football season win totals last Thursday. Alabama and Ohio State had the highest numbers at 10.5 (-150 ‘over’) and 10 (-125 ‘over’), respectively. Six teams had totals of 9.5 at varying odds, including Oklahoma (-145 ‘over’), FSU (-130 ‘over’), Penn State (-125 ‘under’), Wisconsin (-125 ‘over’), USC (-135 ‘over’) and Washington (flat, -115 either way).

Alabama has won at least 11 regular-season games – thus cashing a season win total of 10.5 – for six consecutive years, including a 12-0 mark in 2016. Remember, season win totals are graded by regular-season contests only, so conference-championship games and bowls don’t apply to these wagers.

The Crimson Tide returns six starters on each side of the ball, including 60 percent of its starters on the offensive line, QB Jalen Hurts, WR Calvin Ridley and RBs Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. The question mark on offense is new coordinator Brian Daboll, who replaces Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, who bolted for new jobs at Florida Atlantic and with the Atlanta Falcons. Daboll joins Nick Saban from Bill Belichick’s staff in New England.

Alabama plays Tennessee (at home) and Vanderbilt (in Nashville) from the SEC East, while its non-conference slate includes FSU (in Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Dome) and home games vs. Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer.

Ohio State has won at least 11 regular-season games in all five years of Urban Meyer’s tenure. The Buckeyes bring back eight starters on offense and seven on defense from an 11-2 squad that was pounded by Clemson (31-0) in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Meyer’s team went +15 in turnover margin in 2016. J.T. Barrett threw for 2,555 yards with a 24/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Barrett is back for his senior campaign and has a sophomore RB in Mike Weber, who rushed for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman.

The Buckeyes play non-conference contests at home against Oklahoma, Army and UNLV. They have to go on the road to take on Big Ten West foes Nebraska and Iowa, but get Illinois at The ‘Shoe.

Oklahoma finished 2016 with 10 consecutive victories, including a 35-19 win over Auburn at the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners have won at least 10 regular-season games in four of the last five years. They return nine starters on offense and six on defense.

OU hosts UTEP and Tulane in non-conference play. Between those contests, Bob Stoops’s team will be in revenge mode when it travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes, who smashed the Sooners by a 45-24 count in Norman last season.

OU’s Baker Mayfield is back as a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but he’ll be without star skill players Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and DeDe Westbrook. Mayfield currently has the second-shortest Heisman odds (+750) at Sportsbook.ag.

Florida State was eliminated from the CFP picture on Oct. 1 last year when UNC won a 37-35 decision on a walk-off field goal from 54 yards out to hand the Seminoles their second defeat. They had previously been destroyed 63-20 by Lamar Jackson and Co. at Louisville.

Jimbo Fisher’s squad returns five starters on offense and nine on defense. The ‘D’ wasn’t as salty as usual in ’16. In fact, this unit finished ninth in the ACC in scoring defense and lost DeMarcus Walker, the departed DE who recorded 16 sacks. FSU’s 33-32 win over Michigan at the Orange Bowl salvaged the season and gave the ‘Noles a 10-win year.

FSU has non-conference home contests vs. ULM and Delaware State, but it opens the year in Atlanta vs. Alabama and closes the regular season at Florida. In ACC play, the ‘Noles have to play at Clemson on Nov. 11 and heads to Boston College on a short week for a potential cold-weather Friday night game the week after facing Louisville in revenge mode at home.

I was surprised James Franklin struggled in his first two season at Penn State, especially after the shocking and astounding success he enjoyed at Vanderbilt. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions turned the corner in ’16 by winning the Big Ten and compiling an 11-3 record.

PSU won nine in a row after a 2-2 start, beating Wisconsin 38-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Nittany Lions lost a pair of heartbreakers, falling 42-39 at Pittsburgh and 52-49 vs. Southern Cal in one of the greatest games in Rose Bowl history.

Franklin’s program appears poised for another big year with 10 starters back on offense and six on defense. There are a pair of All-American candidates in quarterback Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley.

PSU’s non-conference slate consists of three home games vs. Akron, Pitt and Georgia State. The games against Big Ten West foes are at Iowa, at Northwestern and vs. Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have to travel to Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back weeks. They get their open date after playing at Northwestern, getting two weeks to prep for a home game vs. Michigan.

Just like Franklin at PSU, I thought Chris Petersen would get it going at Washington sooner. But like Franklin once again, Petersen and the Huskies turned the corner last season. In fact, they went undefeated to qualify for the CFP, only to get beaten 24-7 by Alabama at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta.

Washington returns seven starters on offense and six on defense. The Huskies have a lethal offensive trio with QB Jake Browning (43/9 TD-INT ratio), RB Myles Gaskin (1,373 rushing yards) and WR Dante Pettis (15 TD catches).

Washington hosts Fresno State and Montana in non-conference play after playing at Rutgers in the season opener. UW gets four of its last five Pac-12 games at home, but it has to play at Stanford on a short week (11/10). The Huskies get their open date prior to the closing five-game stretch.

Paul Chryst did a helluva job navigating a brutal schedule last year, leading Wisconsin to the Big West title. The Badgers finished 11-3 with all three of its defeats coming in one-possession games, including an overtime loss to Ohio State when they led for most of regulation.

Wisconsin brings back nine starters on offense and eight on defense. Although RB Corey Clement is gone, all five starters on the offensive line return to block for sophomore RB Bradrick Shaw and Pitt transfer Chris James.

The Badgers finished seventh in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring defense last season. This unit returns a pair of linebackers who are All-American candidates, T.J. Edwards and Jack Cichy.

Instead of facing LSU in non-conference play, the Badgers go to Provo to take on BYU. They host Utah State and Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad. Chryst’s team doesn’t have to play PSU or Ohio State from the East Division, and its game against Michigan is at Camp Randall.

After starting the season 1-3, Southern Cal ripped off nine straight wins. Seven of those nine victories came by 13 points or more. The Trojans might have the nation’s best QB in Sam Darnold, who had a 31/9 TD-INT ratio in ’16. They return four starters on offense and six on defense.

USC’s non-conference schedule includes home games vs. Western Michigan and Texas, in addition to a mid-season trip to South Bend to meet Notre Dame. The Trojans don’t have an open date, wrapping up the regular season at home vs. UCLA on Nov. 18. They have to go to Pullman to face an excellent Washington State team on a short week after playing at California the previous week.

Six teams have season win totals of nine, including Clemson, Oklahoma State, Michigan and Virginia Tech. Those four schools have flat odds (-115 either way), while LSU and Louisville are both shaded to the ‘over’ with -120 prices.

After going 14-1 and winning the national title, Clemson returns five starters on offense and seven on defense. The Tigers must replace QB Deshaun Watson and that job will go to junior Kelly Bryant or true freshman Hunter Johnson.

Dabo Swinney’s team has won at least 10 regular-season games in four of the last five years. The Tigers get Auburn and FSU at home, but they have to play at Louisville, at Virginia Tech and at South Carolina.

Louisville has Heisman winner Lamar Jackson back, but the offense returns only four starters. The defense brings back seven starters, including the entire secondary. The Cardinals open the year against Purdue in Indianapolis against former QB and assistant coach Jeff Brohm. They’ll be in revenge mode at Kentucky in the regular-season finale.

LSU closed ’16 in style by slamming U of L, 29-9, after drilling Texas A&M 54-39 in College Station to close the regular season. Ed Orgeron was retained after a decent run as the interim head coach. His first full season with the Tigers will feature a roster that returns only nine total starters (five offense, four defense), but they have two of the nation’s top players in RB Derrius Guice and BUCK Arden Key.

Key had 12 sacks last season, while Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 TDs despite sharing the rushing load with fourth overall NFL Draft pick Leonard Fournette. LSU opens up against BYU in Houston and has a tricky home game against Troy the week before going to The Swamp for a revenge spot against Florida. The Tigers must play at Alabama and their other SEC East game is at Tennessee.

Michigan brings back only one starter on defense and five on offense. QB Wilton Speight (18/7 TD-INT) is among those, but he lost nearly all of his skill players. Jim Harbaugh’s team opens up against Florida at Jerry World in Arlington. The Wolverines play back-to-back road games twice (at Indiana and at PSU in mid-October), including trips to College Park and Camp Randall before closing the regular season at home vs. Ohio State.

Oklahoma State went 10-3 last season, winning eight of its last nine games with a 38-8 win over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy’s offense is loaded at the skill positions with QB Mason Rudolph (4,091 passing yards, 28/4 TD-INT ratio in ’16), RB Justice Hill (1,142 rushing yards) and WRs James Washington and Jalen McCleskey. The Cowboys return seven starters on offense and five on defense. They play at South Alabama and at Pittsburgh in non-conference action.

Virginia Tech finished Justin Fuente’s first year in style, rallying from a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 at the Belk Bowl. The Hokies, who finished with a 10-4 record, gave Clemson fits at the ACC Championship Game, falling 42-35 when a last-gasp drive was stopped in Tiger territory. They open against West Virginia in Landover, MY., and also play at East Carolina in a non-conference affair.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Florida might be without star WR and special-teams ace Antonio Callaway for its opener against Michigan. Callaway was cited for possession of marijuana on May 14 in Gainesville. The school has yet to announce any disciplinary action against Callaway, who is the only player in UF football history to score TDs in five different ways – rushing, passing, receiving, kickoff return and punt return. Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com had Callaway as the No. 11 overall pick in his first 2018 NFL mock draft.

-- USC’s Sam Darnold is the +450 ‘chalk’ to win the Heisman at Sportsbook.ag. As noted earlier, OU’s Mayfield has the second-shortest odds, while U of L’s Lamar Jackson and OSU’s J.T. Barrett share the third-shortest odds (+850).

-- FSU’s Jimbo Fisher confirmed recently that starting safety Trey Marshall will have to sit out the first half of the season opener vs. Alabama in Atlanta. The two-quarter suspension stems from a targeting penalty in the second half of the Orange Bowl win over Michigan. 5Dimes.eu has the Crimson Tide favored by seven points over the ‘Noles.

-- Former South Carolina QB Brandon McIlwain has landed at California. McIlwain, who was a four-star recruit who got most of the snaps for the Gamecocks in their first five games, will sit out 2017 and then have three years of eligibility for the Golden Bears.

-- East Carolina has landed three grad transfers who can play right away in ’17, including QB Thomas Sirk (Duke), DL Gaelin Elmore (Minnesota) and RB Tyshon Dye (Clemson).

Listed below are all of the early 2017 Win Totals released by CG Technology in alphabetical order.

Alabama 10.5
Arizona 5.5
Arkansas 7
Auburn 8
Clemson 9
Colorado 7.5
Duke 5.5
Florida 8
Florida State 9.5
Georgia 8
Georgia Tech 6.5
Indiana 5.5
Iowa 6.5
Kansas State 7.5
Kentucky 6
Louisville 9
LSU 9
Miami, Fl. 8.5
Michigan 9
Michigan State 6.5
Mississippi State 5.5
Missouri 6.5
Nebraska 6
North Carolina 7
North Carolina State 7.5
Northwestern 7
Ohio State 10
Oklahoma 9.5
Oklahoma State 9
Oregon 8
Penn State 9.5
Pittsburgh 7.5
South Carolina 5.5
Stanford 8.5
TCU 7
Tennessee 7.5
Texas 7.5
Texas A&M 7
Texas Tech 6
UCLA 6
USC 9.5
Utah 6.5
Virginia Tech 9
Washington 9.5
Washington State 7.5
West Virginia 7
Wisconsin 9.5

Odds Subject to Change - Does not include Vig