The AAC isn't an exciting conference, but a winning bet on the AAC pays just the same as a bet on the SEC. There are so many questions with this league, however, and I prefer to stay above the fray.
Cincinnati to win the AAC (+440): I considered playing the over on nine wins (+115), but like this wager a bit better. Why? Value. This wager is inflated because of the hype that Louisville is receiving. If Cincinnati has a shot to win the conference going into its final game of the year (hosting Louisville) this will be an easy bet to hedge.
The oddsmakers did a good job with this conference.
Florida State's 10 wins (-115/-115) seems exactly right, as does Clemson's 9.5 (-115/-115). Maryland is too risky to wager at 6.5 (-135/+105) due to the new parts. I expect a big bounce-back for Maryland on offense, but I do worry that the players on the lines will be inadequate for a big year, and uncertainty about West Virginia and UConn made it too tough.
I am down on the Syracuse Orange this year, but unfortunately, so are the oddsmakers, as they have the Orange at 4.5 (-175 / +135) after going 7-5 a year ago. Almost every loss for the Orange was a very important player, but 4.5 is simply too low. I give Syracuse about a 30 percent chance of being 4-8 or worse, and that number would have to be at roughly 45 percent just to break even, much less take a profit.
Pitt over six wins (-110): I expect Pitt to have a strong, veteran defense, and an offense that improves in the second year under Paul Chryst. To win this wager, Pitt needs win its automatics (New Mexico and Old Dominion), and go 5-5 or better against the slate of Florida State, at Duke, Virginia, at Virginia Tech, at Navy, at Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina, at Syracuse, and Miami. The Panthers figure to be favored in at least three of those games, and will not be massive underdogs in too many.
NC State over seven wins (+105): This pick is all about the schedule and the confidence I have in new coach Dave Doeren. Richmond and Central Michigan are almost locks, and NC State should be favored in seven other games, as road trips to Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College are far from daunting. If the Wolfpack slip up twice, this is a push. If they slip up only once -- or twice and pull an upset of Clemson or North Carolina (both at home) -- this is a winner.
Miami over nine wins (+195): See below.
Virginia Tech under nine wins (-150): Virginia Tech does not get the benefit of the doubt from me any longer. Logan Thomas was lost last year, despite an extremely experienced receiving corps bailing him out. That group is now gone. The defense should be quite good, but I have little confidence that the offense improves much at all.
Ten wins means a 3-1 or better record against a slate of at Georgia Tech (on Thursday night on short rest against the Flexbone attack), North Carolina (which plays an offensive style that has befuddled defensive coordinator Bud Foster in the past), Pitt, and at Miami (for a second year in a row thanks to the scheduling gods). Going .500 won't cut it unless the Hokies manage to beat Alabama. Oh, and no slip-ups in road trips to East Carolina, Boston College, or Virginia.
This next one is a learning opportunity:
Miami under nine wins (-165): This is the value of using multiple places to place wagers. The prices on wagers often vary greatly, and in this case, betting both sides produces zero chance of a loss. Some call this a scalp. In this case, one line is available at The Greek, and the other at 5 Dimes.
Duke under 5.5 (-150): The Blue Devils have a guaranteed win against NC Central, and ... nope, that's it. Every other game on the schedule, including a trip to Memphis and a home game against Troy is potentially losable. Duke has questions at quarterback, receiver, and in the secondary, though both lines should be improved. Can the defense improve enough to offset a probable backslide from the offense? This wager says no.
The Big Ten offers a surprising amount of attractive wagers this year. As a theme, I am betting against breakout years for the doormats and on the top teams performing well. This surprised me, as I am usually a contrarian. The schedule-makers did not do the lesser squads many favors this year.
I have absolutely no lean on Ohio State or Penn State. As discussed in the podcast, the Ohio State line seems dead on. I am not comfortable backing or fading Penn State, as it feels like a wager that is overly dependent on injury luck. I did consider playing over on Iowa and under on Minnesota and Notre Dame. However, many of these wagers are related, and I already have enough action down in this conference.
Nebraska over 9.5 wins (-110): Nebraska should have an awesome offense and a defense that is somewhere around average if the defensive interior can hold up. Oh, and the schedule is horrible. This is a wager that the Cornhuskers go 4-2 or better against UCLA, Northwestern, at Michigan, Michigan State, at Penn State (late in the year), and Iowa.
Michigan State over 8.5 wins (-165): This is a team made to play Mark Dantonio football. The offensive line is unlikely to be as banged up as it was in 2012, quarterback Andrew Maxwell should improve with experience from awful to average, and the defense should again be nasty. No Ohio State or Wisconsin on the schedule. The Spartans can go 2-3 against the slate of at Notre Dame, at Iowa, Michigan, at Nebraska, and at Northwestern and still cash the ticket. The rest of the schedule is terrible.
Wisconsin over nine wins (-110): Seamless: that's the word that I'd use to describe the transition Wisconsin will make in 2013 with the departure of Bret Bielema and the hiring of Gary Andersen. Wisconsin is made to run Andersen's system, and the defense should be nasty, forcing a lot of long passing downs. The toughest games are at Arizona State and at Ohio State. The timing of the Penn State game is important, as the Nittany Lions could be ravaged by injuries by the last week of the season. Other road games at Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota are very winnable.
Michigan under 8.5 wins (-105): I like Devin Gardner, but I don't have confidence that this squad can go 4-3 or better in its seven toughest games: at UConn, at Penn State, at Michigan State, Nebraska, at Northwestern, at Iowa, and Ohio State. Michigan appears to be light on playmakers, and there is no guarantee that a pass rush will emerge. Losing Jake Ryan hurts, too.
Purdue under 5.5 wins (-300): Purdue's roster is really lacking, and the schedule is not conducive to making a bowl. At all. The Boilermakers host Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska. It would be much better for Purdue if it could play those teams on the road, take its beating, and draw some winnable home games. The only two games in which Purdue is guaranteed to be favored are at home against Illinois State and Illinois.
Illinois under 3.5 wins (-110): This defense projects to be truly awful, and I don't expect the offense's possible improvement to make up for it. And Illinois projects to suffer from the same sort of home/road issue as Purdue. Illinois projects to be favored in home games against Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio). And that's it Home games against Washington, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern do not present much of an opportunity for an upset. If Illinois drew home games against Purdue and Indiana, I wouldn't bet this, but alas, those are road contests.
Northwestern under 8.5 wins (-200): The Wildcats have four games in which they'll be very large favorites: Western Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, and at Illinois. In going through the remaining eight games -- at Cal, Syracuse, Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Iowa, at Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State -- it's much, much easier to find four losses than it is to find five wins. A 9-3 or better record against this schedule would be a major accomplishment for a team that has good, but not great, talent and little depth. If injuries mount, this ticket could cash before November.
The Big 12 is a tough conference this year without a lot of obvious separation. And the oddsmakers are hedging like crazy and taking very few opinions.
Texas has the talent and the experience, but it is tough to trust a team coached by Mack Brown not to underachieve. For gambling purposes, the Longhorns are a no-play, because of the high likelihood of a 10-2 finish, and the price Vegas charges to come off the ten number in either direction. Oklahoma State lost its starting left tackle to an ACL injury late Monday evening, and the price on the Cowboys 9.5 total is pretty steep. Oklahoma has a good bit of talent, but also a ton of questions entering the year. Similarly, TCU has a lot of talent and experience, but a very difficult.
I struggled to find much value in this conference, and it will likely be a league to bet situationally in 2013.
Iowa State under 5.5 wins (-225): I really like Paul Rhoads as a coach, and I think Iowa State is improving as a program, and when this wager loses I'll look back and think about why I went against Rhoads. But I really do not think this team will make a bowl in 2013. Iowa State will only be a big favorite against Northern Iowa and Kansas. The rest of the games will feature the Cyclones as toss-ups or clear underdogs. I don't think the Cyclones will be able to force enough passing situations because of the issues with the defensive front. And I am not convinced that the offense makes a major leap.
I do like Arizona State, and to an extent Oregon State, but I don't find value in their season numbers. The same goes for Arizona and UCLA, on whom I am down overall. I found value at both extremes.
Oregon over 11 wins (+125): I think Oregon's most likely result is 11-1, which would be a push. However, I believe that 12-0 is about three times more likely to happen than 10-2, which presents value. I love the quarterback, all of the skill position players, the defensive line, and the secondary. And I anticipate a linebacker stepping up. The schedule is very friendly.
Stanford over 9.5 wins (+105): Stanford's schedule is tougher than Oregon's, by a bit, but I really like the direction of the program. Another strong run game should keep Stanford out of bad down-and-distance situations, which helps to limit turnovers. The defense should again be salty.
Washington State under 4.5 wins (-125): I do think Mike Leach will have Washington State as a team that will eventually contend for bowls, but it is going to take a long while to rebuild the offensive line. I see Washington State as a favorite in only two games.
Colorado under 3.5 wins (-155): I really like the new coaching hire, but I have a very hard time seeing Colorado win four or more games. They'll be an underdog against every FBS team they face, and Washington State is on the schedule. This is not my favorite wager, because there are some signs trending up for the Buffs, but the value is too much to pass up.
I found the numbers to be pretty fair in the SEC. Alabama's obscene total offers very little value, and the Johnny Football situation at Texas A&M has caused casinos to pull down their win total and the conference betting odds overall.
LSU over 8.5 wins (-125): This is a wager that LSU will have a winning record against vs. TCU, at Georgia, at Mississippi State, Florida, at Ole Miss, at Alabama, and Texas A&M, and not slip up at home against Auburn or Arkansas in Death Valley. LSU still has as much or more talent than any team not named Alabama, and I believe it will overachieve relative to some expectations this year.
Mississippi State under 5.5 wins (-130): Mississippi State has the least talent in the SEC West and a difficult schedule. To return to a bowl, the Bulldogs must sweep Troy, Bowling Green, and Kentucky; win two of three of at Arkansas, at Auburn, and Ole Miss; or pull a major upset vs. Oklahoma State, LSU, at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, or Alabama. I'm betting the bowl streak ends this year.
Vanderbilt under 7 wins (-125): This isn't betting Vanderbilt over five wins. The line is now seven, and that's a big difference. Vanderbilt has questions along the defensive line, at running back, and at receiver with the loss of Chris Boyd to suspension. The secondary is excellent, and could set up the offense with easy field position, but I give this team a significantly better chance of finishing 6-6 or worse than 8-4 or better.
Auburn under 7 wins (-145): Auburn has more talent than the other under teams on the list, and I really like the coaching hires, but the schedule is not friendly. Alabama is a wasted home game -- it would be better for Auburn to take its pounding on the road, and in turn receive a winnable conference home game. An opening home slate of Washington State, Arkansas State, and Mississippi State suggests 3-0, but 2-1 is just as likely. I have Auburn favored in five games, but to get to seven, they'll need to win all five and pull two upsets.
Kentucky under 4.5 (-155): The Wildcats have one guaranteed win on the schedule: Alabama State. Like Auburn, they waste a home contest against Alabama and must travel to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, teams over which they'd have a non-remote chance of winning were the games at home. They'll be favored over Western Kentucky and Miami (Ohio) as well, but will need to pull two more upsets to go over the number. I do believe Mark Stoops will eventually do well at Kentucky, thanks to his recruiting in Ohio, but I do not believe this roster is ready to come within a game of a bowl.
Arkansas State over 7.5 wins (+115): Gus Malzahn is an excellent coach, and the Sun Belt is a tricky league, but I feel that his loss is being overstated. I give Arkansas State about a 60 percent chance to go 8-4 or better, which creates value at plus money.
Lines from the following casinos: 5Dimes, Pinnacle Sports, Bovada, The Greek