College football odds: Miami, Penn State among best win total bets to make ahead of 2021 season

Written by on August 18, 2021

With the college football season kicking off in less than two weeks, it’s past time to start thinking about some wagering options for the 2021 campaign. While hammering the over on the season win total for your alma mater is one approach, it might not be the most financially savvy strategy for those actually looking to turn a profit.

To help fans identify some of the best win total bets in college football, the folks at SportsLine came up with recommendations based on thousands of regular season simulations. Letting the computers guide your money is a better option than relying on blind intuition and hatred of your school’s rivals.

So what are some of the best season win total bets in college football? The picks below take us all over the country, including into Group of Five territory and away from some of the more polarizing plays involving the sport’s top tier. But for those interested mainly in power conference action, there are some ACC and Big Ten plays to ponder as well. 

Below is the full list of the best win total bets to make based on SportsLine simulations by analyst Stephen Oh with team-by-team breakdowns provided by Jacob Fetner.

Top Unders

Akron under 2.5 wins (-160)

Projected Record: 1.7-10.3

Akron is a combined 1-17 over the last two seasons with the Zips’ lone win last season coming at home against a Bowling Green team that finished 0-5. Akron does play FCS Bryant at home, which should give them one win, but it’s very difficult to see them winning two other games. Our sims have Akron-Bowling Green as a 50-50 game, but this meeting is in Bowling Green this season. In Akron’s other 10 games, we have them winning in less than 10% of simulations. Getting QB Kato Nelson back could make them better, but I see them as a max two-win team this season. The MAC has a bunch of solid teams this year, but it’s clear that Akron and Bowling Green are at the bottom. Games at Auburn in Week 1 and at Ohio State in Week 2 won’t help build any confidence heading into conference play.

Appalachian State under 9 wins (-110)

Projected Record: 8.3-3.7

App State has had at least nine wins in every season since 2015, but I like this bet because I think if the under doesn’t hit there is a good chance that it pushes. Last season, Shawn Clark became App State’s third coach in three seasons and went 9-3 in his first season, but he had the benefit of a three-year starter at QB in Zac Thomas on his roster. The Mountaineers went 8-3 in the regular season and had single-digit victories over both Georgia Southern and Georgia State as well. This season, App State has road games at Miami, Louisiana and Georgia State, and they also have games against Coastal Carolina and Marshall on the schedule. App State returns a ton of production, but the loss of Thomas is big. Former Clemson and Duke QB Chase Brice looks like the possible starter this season, but his 10-15 TD-INT ratio is concerning. I think 8-4 or 9-3 is likely, but I don’t see them winning 10 games. The under is the safe bet here and a good value.

Arkansas under 5.5 wins (-115)

Projected Record: 5.2-6.8

Arkansas started to turn things around last season, but even though they looked much improved, they finished just 3-7. The Razorbacks have 4 wins or less in four consecutive seasons, so winning 6+ games would be quite the turnaround. The Razorbacks have three relatively easy nonconference games against Rice, Georgia Southern and Arkansas Pine-Bluff, but their other nine games come against SEC opponents and Texas. The Razorbacks do return most of their starters on both sides of the ball, however. They must replace QB Feleipe Franks, but KJ Jefferson looks like a more than adequate option. The entire OL returns and should be strong given that second-year coach Sam Pittman was a longtime OL coach. Even with all those pieces returning, a jump from three to six wins is hard to achieve, especially with a team that hasn’t had much success. Six games come against Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss, so they are likely going to have to beat Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri to reach six wins. I think 5-7 is the most likely outcome for this team and like the odds at -115.

California under 6 wins (-120)

Projected Record: 5.3-6.7

California has been one of the best defensive teams in the country since coach Justin Wilcox took over, but the offense has struggled to be consistently productive. The Golden Bears scored just 20 PPG last season and went 1-3. Cal went 8-5 in 2019, but five of those wins were by 10 points or less. This season, they have two tough nonconference games at home against Nevada and on the road at TCU to kick off the season. Cal also has conference road games at Washington, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA this season. Our sims have Cal being a five-win team, and I think that looks about correct when going through the schedule. Six wins and a push is very possible, but I don’t see this team going 7-5.

Georgia Tech under 5 wins (-110)

Projected Record: 3.8-8.2

Georgia Tech is coming off back-to-back three-win seasons, but they have some excitement surrounding the program with the young offensive talent on the team. QB Jeff Sims and RB Jahmyr Gibbs is a fun tandem in the backfield, but they have a lot of work cut out for them if they are going to win 5+ games. After starting off the season with games they should win against Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State, the Yellow Jackets play Clemson and then at UNC to kick off ACC play. They play conference road games at Clemson, Duke, Virginia, Miami and Notre Dame, and then finish the season with a game against Georgia. After starting 2-2 last season, GT went just 1-5 to close out the season. I could see them improving this year and winning four games, but I think they are at least a year away from putting up 5+ wins.

Maryland under 6.0 wins (-125)

Projected Record: 3.4-8.6

Maryland’s hype coming into the season centers around Taulia Tagovailoa being the QB, but his four-game sample size is small and had just one touchdown to six interceptions against actual good defenses in Northwestern and Indiana last season. The Terps’ leading returning rusher had just 86 yards last season, and they lost a ton of linemen to the transfer portal this offseason. In seven years between Maryland and New Mexico, coach Mike Locksley has a combined 8-43 record. I just don’t see how the oddsmakers have the line at six wins. While I think they could do better than the 3.4 wins our sims project, I just don’t see them winning more than five games.

Miami under 9.5 wins (-155)

Projected Record: 7.7-4.3

The Hurricanes went 8-3 last season and looked like a completely different team with D’Eriq King at QB, but this line seems too high for me. Miami started 8-1 last season before getting blown out at home against UNC and then losing in their bowl game to Oklahoma State, but it also had very close calls against NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech last season. The Hurricanes open this season against Alabama in Atlanta and then also play UNC on the road later in the season. Assuming they lose both of those games, there is a very small margin of error if they are going to go 10-2.

Penn State under 9 wins (-130)

Projected Record: 7.8-4.2

After starting last season 0-5, the Nittany Lions finished the season with four consecutive wins to go 4-5 in the shortened season. Penn State does have 11 wins in three of the last five seasons, but I think this is a maximum nine-win team, and that is if Sean Clifford plays like he did in 2019 rather than how he played in 2020. Penn State opens the season at Wisconsin and then has a nonconference game against Auburn in Week 3. The Nittany Lions also have road games at Iowa and at Ohio State, plus Ball State in Week 2 of the season is not going to be a cakewalk. I think this is an eight-to-nine-win team and the under is a safe bet.

Top Overs

BYU over 6.5 wins (-130)

Projected Record: 9-3

While BYU lost No. 2 overall draft pick QB Zach Wilson and will have a much more difficult schedule, I am surprised that the line is at just 6.5 wins. A big reason for the Cougars’ success last season was their strong defense which ranked 4th in the country at 15.3 OPPG, and their defense should be very strong this season led by a terrific LB group. The offense did lose Wilson and a handful of starting O-Linemen, but the Cougars return a ton of key skill-position players including RB Tyler Allgeier and three of their top-four leading receivers from last season. At QB, Jaren Hall looks to be the favorite to win the starting job, but they have solid depth behind him as well if he doesn’t work out. I think BYU looks like an eight-win team this season.

Arkansas State over 3.5 wins (-160)

Projected Record: 5.2-6.8

The last time Arkansas State had less than four wins was all the way back in 2004. Butch Jones takes over as coach, and while he didn’t have the success that Tennessee fans hoped he would have, he did lead the Vols to nine-win seasons in two of his last three seasons. He spent the last few seasons on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, which can only have helped him become a better coach. The Red Wolves added a handful of Power Five transfers this offseason and already have key pieces returning such as QB Layne Hatcher and RB Marcel Murray. I think this team should win four games this season.

Charlotte over 4.5 wins (-120)

Projected Record: 5.9-6.1

Charlotte had losing seasons in its first four seasons after making the leap to the FBS before Will Healy took over as coach and led them to seven wins in his first season. The 49ers went just 2-4 but played six road games as they dealt with COVID, so I’m willing to throw out the results. Charlotte returns eight starters on offense including fifth-year senior QB Chris Reynolds. The defense lost more pieces, but they added a handful of Power Five transfers which should help. Looking at their schedule, Charlotte has a relatively easy slate playing in the Sun Belt, and the two Power Five teams it plays, Duke and Illinois, are beatable. I think this is a five-to-six-win team.

Illinois over 3.5 wins (-145)

Projected Record: 4.7-7.3

Bret Bielema returns to the Big Ten where he had a ton of success with Wisconsin. Bielema’s time in the SEC was less successful, but he led Arkansas to three bowl games in five seasons. Arkansas has just seven wins combined in the three seasons since they fired Bielema. Illinois does have the pieces on its roster to have success, but whether or not they show up on Saturdays will be important. They have an experienced quarterback in Brandon Peters, a talented RB1 in Chase Brown and one of the most underrated OL groups in college football. The defense regressed a ton last season, but LB Jake Hansen and his 242 career tackles returns for his final season of eligibility. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all noticeably absent from the Illini’s schedule, while Northwestern, Rutgers, Charlotte, Maryland, UTSA and Nebraska are all winnable home games according to our sims. I think Bielema can put up four or five wins in his first season at Illinois.

SMU over 6.0 wins (-150)

Projected Record: 8.5-3.5

This is another line that I just don’t understand very much. The juice is on the over, but I’m surprised the line isn’t at seven wins. The Mustangs are 17-6 over the last two seasons. Shane Buechele is gone but SMU brings in Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai, who is the favorite to be named the starter. Mordecai competed for the starting job at Oklahoma before losing the battle to Spencer Rattler, but he could breakout at SMU like Buechele did after transferring in from Texas. The Mustangs are loaded with skill players around Buechele. RB Ulysses Bentley, WR Reggie Roberson, WR Danny Gray, WR Rashee Rice and another Oklahoma transfer, TE Grant Calcaterra, should make for an explosive offense. They start the season with three very winnable games against Abilene Christian, North Texas and Louisiana Tech before facing off against TCU. I think this is a seven-to-eight-win team, and I like the chances of a push if the over doesn’t hit.

Western Kentucky over 5.5 wins (-105)

Projected Record: 6.7-5.3

WKU struggled out of the gate last season but won three out of its last four games to close the season. The Hilltoppers managed to win five games last season despite ranking 115th in scoring out of 128 teams at just 19.0 PPG. Tyson Helton brought in offensive coordinator Zach Kittley over from Houston Baptist along with his QB, Bailey Zappe, who averaged 415 yards/game in four games last season. Kittley was an assistant at Texas Tech when Patrick Mahomes was the QB and should have a fun air raid attack at Western Kentucky. WKU also adopted a new tactic of having a recruiting class comprised of mostly transfers. I think that could pay off, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they finish at or near the top of the Conference USA. I love the over here.

Who will win every college football game, and which teams will sink your bankroll? Visit SportsLine now to get college football picks for every FBS game, all from the model that simulates every game 10,000 times and went 56-36 on top-rated picks last season.


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