In addition to spearheading SB Nation's college football recruiting coverage, I'm also the college football betting columnist. In this space, I'll discuss the big games of the week and offer some analysis on the hidden gems, too. And I'll track my record, win or lose.
It's extremely tough to come out in the black betting college football, a high-variance endeavor to begin with, without using a lot of techniques that don't make for a good column. From time to time, I might discuss an advanced technique or two, but you won't find them in the weekly column.
This week, I'll be discussing over/under win totals for the Pac-12. I have five plays, and I'll also discuss why I am not playing on or against the seven remaining teams. This is an interesting league, with many new head coaches.
A quick note on season-long wagers: When placing these, the casino holds your money for the next five months. These should not be made unless, according to your numbers, you have a substantial theoretical edge on the house. Do not play marginal wagers that last the season on a whim.
Without further ado, here are five wagers I like in the Pac-12.
Oregon Over 10.5 Wins (+110), Pinnacle Sports: The defending champions of the Pac-12 are being overlooked this season as the Trojans are the pick not only to win the conference, but also to win the national title by many.
And those pollsters might be right. It doesn't matter. Oregon doesn't need to win the Pac-12 for this bet to cash. All the Ducks need to do is win 11 games. I give Oregon a pretty good chance of doing just that.
The Ducks have a great schedule and will be favored by double-digits in all of their games except USC. Against the Trojans, Oregon will be an underdog of less than a touchdown.
Oregon does have to replace many known starters, but its recruiting has improved, and many of the lesser known (but important) players do return. And the cakewalk slate in the early season should give the Ducks plenty of time to break in their new starters. The teams that possess the defensive power and intelligence combo to stop Oregon's attack don't appear often on this slate.
USC Over 10.5 Wins (+108), Pinnacle Sports: There's a lot to like about this Southern California team. There's Matt Barkley, there's Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and there's new running back Silas Redd. And a tremendous secondary should be able to stop the many comeback attempts the Trojans will face.
And the difficulty and timing of the schedule work out as well. Southern Cal gets Stanford early as the Cardinal tries to replace Andrew Luck and a host of other important starters. A game at Utah could be very tricky on a Thursday night, but the Trojans have a bye the week before. USC does host Oregon in early November, but has relatively easy conference foes (Arizona and Arizona State) bookending the contest. UCLA is probably a year away, and Notre Dame must come to Los Angeles.
Not only will the Trojans be favored in every game, but they'll be favored by double-digits in each game other than Oregon! USC can drop that game and still cash this bet.
Utah Over 7.5 Wins (-180), 5Dimes: I really like this Utah team. Bringing Brian Johnson back as offensive coordinator to return the Utes to their identity as a spread-option team makes a lot of sense. The Utes return all of their main skill position contributors and interior offensive linemen. Both tackles must be replaced. Running a system that requires less pro-style pass protection when breaking in two new offensive tackles is a good plan.
Defensively, the Utes are stacked with an excellent defensive interior and veteran secondary.
The road slate at Utah State, at Arizona State, at UCLA, at Oregon State, at Washington and at Colorado isn't easy, but Utah will be favored or a short underdog in each. The only game in which Utah will be a double-digit underdog is the Thursday night contest against USC.
Utah should be favored in eight games. That's how many it needs to win to cash this wager. If it drops one, there are three games that offer a chance to pull an upset. This looks to be the third-best team in the Pac-12.
Washington Under 7.5 Wins (-170), 5Dimes: There are things to like about the Huskies. Quarterback Keith Price, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams all appear to be NFL talents. The defense returns a lot of key pieces as well, though it must replace its massive nose guard.
But digging deeper reveals that the Huskies have not been bringing in a high level of quality talent for very long. The depth on this team is either a significant downgrade in talent from the starters, or very young. The hype seems to be a year ahead of the Huskies. The program is on its way, but I don't see it being warranted just yet.
Washington will be an underdog of three touchdowns twice this year (at LSU and at Oregon), and an underdog of more than two touchdowns once (hosting USC). 0-3 is the most likely result in that three-game set.
Assuming Washington doesn't pull a big upset, it would need to go 8-1 in its remaining nine games to best the eight-win mark. I don't see that happening. 6-3 or 7-2 looks much more likely.
Home contests against Stanford and Utah are no cakewalk, nor are games at Arizona, Cal and rival Washington State.
I don't place wagers at (-170) odds lightly. I am playing under 7.5 because I believe the proper line should be U7.5 (-215). Next year, I'll probably play on the over.
Arizona State Over 5.5 Wins (+176), 5Dimes: The Sun Devils won't be favored in more than two or three contests this season. Occasionally, however, there is value in betting the over when a team is repeatedly a short underdog, because many bettors use a binary "win/loss" method of handicapping a team's schedule. A team that is an underdog of a field goal in all 12 of its games shouldn't be expected to go 0-12, but rather 5-7.
That's not to say that Arizona State will only be a three-point underdog in most of its games under new head coach Todd Graham. They'll be heavy underdogs at USC and vs. Oregon and underdogs of about a touchdown at rival Arizona.
The most attractive thing about this wager is the odds. I give Arizona State a puncher's chance of making a bowl with its strong running game and pass defense, which is more than enough to justify this wager.
Leans are plays for which I considered pulling the trigger, but the difference in the line and my projection did not represent enough value to justify a five-month outlay of cash.
Arizona Under 5.5 Wins (+100), 5Dimes: I do think Arizona has a solid chance of reaching five wins. It's getting to fix that looks tough. Oklahoma State and USC are both likely to be favored by double digits in Tuscon. Arizona does project as a touchdown favorite over rival Arizona State.
As SB Nation's Bill Connelley points out, Arizona has six very winnable home games in Toledo, South Carolina State, Oregon State, Washington, Colorado and Arizona State. The Wildcats figure to be favored in all. That's good, because they'll be underdogs in all four road games. Still, I'm not ready to trust this Arizona team.
Stanford Over 7 Wins (-210), 5Dimes: Stanford has to replace one of the best quarterbacks in the history of college football, two NFL draft picks along the offensive line, its best two receivers, its top tight end, and three starters in the secondary.
But that's OK, because A) Stanford recruited quite well over the last few years, and B) the schedule is kind.
Out of home games vs. San Jose State, Duke, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State, and road trips to Colorado, UCLA, Cal and Washington, Stanford should pick up seven or eight wins. A game at Notre Dame offers another chance, though the Cardinal will likely be an underdog. Two contests against USC and Oregon are unlikely to yield a win.
If this like were (-170), I'd consider playing it. It's too rich for my blood at (-210).
Washington State Under 5.5 Wins (-160), 5Dimes: If I could bet against the hype of Mike Leach taking Washington State to a bowl in his first season with the Cougars, I would. But not at (-160). This might be a play at -130. Mike Leach's presence has not resulted in any major talent upgrades on defense.
I did not find significant value in these four remaining lines.
Cal Over/Under 6.5 Wins (-110/-110)
Colorado Over/Under 3.5 Wins (-135/-105)
Oregon State Over/Under 4.5 Wins (-210/+160)
UCLA Over/Under 6 Wins (+130/-110)
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel: