I’ve written about the lines that I felt were too low and the ones that felt too high (which you can read about here and here), now I give you three teams that, quick frankly, I’m staying away from.
My criteria for this category is to highlight teams who either a.) I don’t have a good feel about one way or the other or b.) the Vegas line feels right on resulting in a push.
- Coastal Carolina (O/U 9)
Let’s talk about last year’s sweetheart.
First the good news, they are REALLY fun to watch Their style of offense is almost an evolution of the up-tempo, no-huddle offenses that have taken over college football over the past few years. A smarter football mind than I will have to describe it. But it’s effective and they are good.
Now, the not-so-good news. They had a +13 turnover margin last year. Asking them to duplicate that level of success on defense seems unlikely.
Their schedule is not overly daunting, with their most difficult games against Kansas, at Buffalo and at Appalachian St. And when Kansas is on your list of most challenging games, your schedule sets up pretty, pretty well. They also avoid co-conference favorite Louisiana (a team I actually like better), so they have that going for them. I know they return a lot of talent, including quarterback Grayson McCall and 10 starters on defense, but they are now the hunter, not the hunted. It’s a different mindset. Nine wins feels about right.
- Liberty (O/U 9)
Between Coastal Carolina and Liberty, this is not intended to be Group of 5 slander. Far from it, actually. When it comes to entertaining football, I love a good Group of 5 game. But much like Coastal Carolina, they aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year. The good thing for Liberty though, is it may not matter with that schedule. At first glance, their most challenging game is at Ole Miss, however:
1. Until Ole Miss finds a defense, there is no game that is a gimme for them no matter how good their offense is, and:
2. Hugh Freeze might have a little extra motivation to win this one.
Now, having said that, they have several cupcakes on their schedule (Campbell, Old Dominion, UMass and Syracuse, which might actually qualify as a cupcake at this point) but they also have tricky games against fellow Group of 5 heavyweights UAB (in Birmingham), Louisiana (who I mentioned being pretty high on in the Coastal Carolina section) and Army (at home). Going to Troy may prove to be no easy task either. While Liberty will have the best player on the field in almost every game they play (quarterback Malik Willis), they have to get used to being the favorite and not the fun underdog. Nine wins feels like a lot to ask, on the other hand, there are no games they will without a doubt lose. I would just stay away from betting Liberty.
3. Auburn (O/U 7)
I have always had a hard time getting a read on this team. When I expect them to be down, they are really good. When my expectations are high, they disappoint. Maybe that’s a Gus Malzahn thing, but I don’t know.
To be honest, I’m not sold on the Bo Nix-Bryan Harsin combination at all. Harsin was successful enough at Boise St., but I’m not sure how much that is saying given the Boise St. brand is pretty strong at this point. (Besides, they didn’t even win the conference last year. So the bar was actually lowered under his watch.) And Bo Nix might be the most disappointing quarterback in recent memory.
Their non-conference schedule sets up pretty well, as only an interesting game in Happy Valley against a similar feeling Penn St. poses a challenge. (The rest of the games are home against cupcakes Akron, Alabama State and Georgia State.) But then the real challenge begins.
The first two conference games are at LSU and home against Georgia, followed by a road game against Arkansas. It would behoove them to not lose that game. Following a bye week, they close against Ole Miss at home, at Texas A&M, home against Mississippi State, at South Carolina and host the Iron Bowl against Alabama.
I think Tank Bigsby is the best running back in the SEC and love Smoke Monday not just because he has the best name in all of college football, but you find me 7 wins. Quite frankly, the Under is probably easy money, but if you trust Nix and Harsin to develop immediate quarterback-coach chemistry then you have more faith in them than I do. COULD it happen? Sure. But I wouldn’t bet on it. (See what I did there?)
So there is my three-part preview on the college football season. I really only profiled nine teams, and there are a ton more that I have a feel one way or another on. If you want to know how I feel about a certain team’s line, drop me a line on Twitter (@justincripe). I intend on putting my money where my mouth is and I’m a sucker for a good parlay. So if you do the same and win big…my Venmo is open.