Now is the perfect time to take an early look at these numbers and identify the teams to bet against this college football season.
Why I’m selling: It’s typically a smart bet to go against teams that overachieved the season before; Kentucky is a team that fits that description. The Wildcats have consistently been an average SEC East team in the weaker of the conference’s two divisions for most of the Mark Stoops era in Lexington. Last year was a great success for the Wildcats, as they went 9-3 in the regular season and beat Penn State in a bowl game.
But a big reason for Kentucky’s success was the production from running back Benny Snell Jr. and pass rusher Josh Allen, who are both now in the NFL. Another reason for their strong year was that they were overlooked by other SEC foes and thrived in the underdog role. Kentucky took out Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina last September before there was much attention on the football team in Lexington. That won’t be the case this season.
How to bet against them: Kentucky under 6.5 wins was one of my favorite win totals when the SuperBook released their opening numbers. The Wildcats will face the trio of Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina again this September and I like the situation for all three of those opponents in a revenge game. I will look to bet against Kentucky in all three of those games if the point spread is within reason. Bettors also might be interested in fading Kentucky against the number in a bad scheduling spot against Eastern Michigan in Week 2.
Why I’m selling: The last thing people remember about Northwestern was hanging around with Ohio State in Big Ten Championship Game and upsetting Utah in a bowl game last season. It was a great accomplishment for the program to win the Big Ten West and end the season on a high note. So some might wonder why the Wildcats have a win total of only 6 and they have the sixth longest odds of the seven Big Ten West teams to win the conference at 30/1.
What people don’t remember is Northwestern’s 0-3 non-conference record last season, including an embarrassing loss to Akron. They also went 5-1 in Big Ten games decided by one score, so regression could be looming for the Wildcats this season. The schedule is the key factor why the win total might seem depressed: Pat Fitzgerald’s team could be underdogs in six of their fist seven games, as they have trips to Stanford, Wisconsin and Nebraska plus home tilts against Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. If the losses pile up in the first two months, there might not be the same confidence the team had last year.
How to bet against them: Northwestern under 6 is a bet to consider, but I would look around and try to find under 6.5 either now or by the time the season starts. I’m also going to look to bet against Northwestern in some of their early season conference games. The one that sticks out is Week 4 against Michigan State, where the Spartans are a four-point favorite on the Games of the Year line. Michigan State is expected to improve this season and the crowd will be split in Evanston because of the amount of Spartans alumni that live in the Chicago area.
Why I’m selling: It was a special three-year stretch for Penn State with quarterback Trace McSorley under center. He helped rejuvenate the program when he took over in 2016 and was a clear upgrade over the Christian Hackenberg days. Head Coach James Franklin can thank McSorley for securing his job because there was some unrest in State College before Penn State pulled off a huge upset over Ohio State in 2016 before they won the Big Ten title.
Now McSorley is gone and questions surround this Penn State team after expected starter Tommy Stevens transferred after spring practice. The Nittany Lions also lost running back Miles Sanders, a key cog in filling the huge void left by Saquon Barkley, to the NFL. The schedule for Penn State is a typical challenging Big Ten East schedule with road games at Michigan State and Ohio State. They draw Purdue, Iowa and Minnesota from the West. Penn State will need to figure out their quarterback situation by October because they have a stretch of Purdue, at Iowa, Michigan and at Michigan State in that month.
How to bet against them: Penn State is still priced like a top Big Ten team so under 8.5 is a bet worth making as soon as you can. Penn State is part of several Games of the Year lines, so that’s another way to attack. If you are looking to fade them I would suggest taking Iowa at a pick’ em over Penn State on October 12. I would predict Iowa would be at least a field goal favorite in that contest before kickoff.
Why I’m selling: Just like Kentucky and Northwestern, I’m going to pick on another team that overachieved last year. Washington State rewarded all their bettors last season by winning 10 regular season games and going 10-2 against the spread in those regular season contests. It was Mike Leach’s finest coaching job, as he got the most out of grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew.
It appears Washington State will be relying on another grad transfer to run the offense in Gage Gubrud this season. I don’t doubt that Leach will coach up the former Eastern Washington quarterback, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll match the production of Minshew. For the schedule, the Cougars only have six home games and five of their nine conference games are on the road. That includes trips to Utah, Oregon and Washington, who are projected as the top three teams in the Pac-12.
How to bet against them: Last season, Washington State’s win total was 6. Now it’s up to 8 and a two-win improvement in expectation is a huge jump in a sport where win totals are only based on 12 games. Under 8 is a play for me. Utah and Oregon are tough places to play, and Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen has owned Leach when the two have faced for the Apple Cup. I would just need two more losses to win the bet, and I can see that happening with road games at Arizona State and California, or a home game against Stanford.