• Paul Compton

Best of the Rest: Power 5 Conferences Regular Season Win Plays

Best of the Rest: Power 5 Conferences Regular Season Win Plays

½ Unit: Auburn Over 8.5 Wins (Sat on +115 at 5D for a long time, but today is -115)

With Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham at QB Auburn’s offense looks ready to be a top 10 unit this season. The running game has been there, I had them ranked 10th last year. Sean White was a pretty good QB last year, mind you, and Auburn’s pass offense was still ranked 29th, but given the powerful running game that defenses had to try and stop any decent QB should have been able to put up decent numbers. With Seniors at the tackles and center positions, as well as having all of their running backs returning, Auburn’s running game can be even better this year, with Stidham’s arm also preventing defenses from cheating too much against the run.

Auburn does lose Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams from their defensive line, but they return the majority of their linebackers and secondary. Auburn’s defense ranked 9th best for me last year, 4th against the run and 20th against the pass. As such, their run defense stands to slip a little while their pass offense could improve by a small amount.

If Auburn’s offense does indeed improve a little bit while their defense stays about the same overall, Auburn really only has three potential losses on their schedule -- @ Clemson, @ LSU and vs. Alabama. If they don’t choke again vs Texas A&M and take care of Georgia at home they should breeze through the rest of their games. I like their win floor at 9 games, making an Over 8.5 bet with + juice good value.

½ Unit: LSU Over 9 Wins (-130 5D)

Did I mention I like a lot of teams in the SEC this year? There’s just no argument that the SEC isn’t the most stacked conference by a mile right now.

If LSU can learn how to score from the one yard against the likes of Florida this season than I see them taking 3 losses at the absolute worst. Their offense will be set with a fairly experience O-line with Mr. Guice running behind it. QB Etling isn’t a world beater, but hopefully another year of experience improves his performance. I had LSU as the #3 running team and #35 passing team last year.

LSU’s main concern this year is having lost their top two tackling D-linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. They haven’t been completely wiped out at any of those positions, but they’ve certainly lost a lot more returning tackles than most teams. But it’s LSU, and a lot of players with experience are returning, and their excellent recruiting numbers help them reload every year anyway. Still, I gave them deductions to their pass and defense projections, so my projections are ready for the defense to come down a little bit this year.

1/2 Unit: Penn State Over 9.5 wins (-110 5D)

PSU came on strong in the latter 2/3 of the season last year, and they return a lot of players, so optimism is high for the first time in quite some time in Happy Valley.

If PSU’s offensive line play can continue to improve the Nittany Lions can easily have the best offense in the Big 10 this year. I have no problem projecting them to have a better offense than Ohio State right now. PSU finished ahead of OSU last year as it is, ranking 11th and 19th, respectively. PSU’s success in the run game correlated highly with the strength of their opponent’s run defense, but it looks like their schedule of run defenses faced this year should be easier.

PSU didn’t face many good offenses last year, but their defense played pretty well. Michigan and Minnesota did gouge them for a lot of running yards in weeks #4 and #5, but the PSU run defense then played really well until the conference championship game against Wisconsin, which they won anyway. Their pass defense was pretty consistent all year long, holding teams to less than their usual yards per pass average in 10 of 13 games.

Assuming the game at Ohio State is a loss (I give PSU a 20% chance to win), there just aren’t many dangerous games on the schedule for PSU this year. I don’t think PITT will slip quite as much as people anticipate with their player losses this year, but PSU should definitely not lose that game, as well as the games against Akron, Georgia State, Rutgers and Nebraska. At Iowa should be a win, but it could only be by single digits. The game against Michigan for me is a near coin flip. Michigan State ain’t great so PSU should win even on the road there. Outside of that, I don’t think they’ll be in any real danger vs Indiana, at Northwestern or at Maryland. A 10-2 record at worst seems more than likely, barring bad injury luck.

1/2 Unit: Arkansas Under 7 Wins (-130 5D)

I’m banking on Arkansas losing their games Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and more than likely at Ole Miss’ and Texas A&M. Even if they manage to win 1 of those 2 tough road games, it will only take one more loss against TCU, @ South Carolina, vs Mississippi State and vs Missouri for the Under to be free-rolling. Seems more than likely, right? Mississippi’s backsliding could be potentially huge this year, though, it should be noted.

Arkansas’ defensive line is going to be really young this year, and their run defense was pretty bad last year as it was, ranking 91st. Their pass defense was a little better at 71st. Those kind of defensive numbers are not going to get it done in the SEC, not by a long shot.

QB Austin Allen and the passing game are an excellent unit, ranking 9th last year. Their running game was decent, at 59th. Arkansas is only returning 34% of their receptions this year – losing that kind of chemistry has been statistically detrimental to a teams’ passing numbers on average.

With Arkansas’s recruiting numbers only significantly ranking higher than Vanderbilt, Missouri in the SEC the past couple of years, I don’t see how reloading improves them versus the field this year. Kentucky has almost matched them the past couple of years, even. Mississippi plummeted to Arkansas’ level this past season, but were well ahead of them the year before.

The defensive mess at Arkansas is too great to clean up in one year, the passing game will be hard-pressed to improve upon last year’s numbers, and the recruiting just isn’t there to take a significant step forward this year. I like my projection of a 5-7 finish for Arkansas this year, 6-6 at best.

1/2 Unit: Nebraska Under 7 Wins (+110 5D)

This is a rebuilding year for Nebraska, especially on offense, where the loss of QB Armstrong is going to hurt both their passing and running game.

Nebraska shouldn’t be blown out in many games (just against OSU and PSU), which means their win ceiling is relatively high. I project them to lose 3 out of the 4 “less than a score decision” games, so this one is really just about the overall percentages, helped with getting +juice on the play.

1/2 Unit: California Berkeley Under 3.5 Wins (-110 5D)

It’s the rookie season for new HC Justin Wilcox, and he inherits a team at the bottom of the PAC 12. On offense Cal loses its’ top QB, RB and WR. To be fair, QB Webb didn’t put up great numbers last year, by my ratings, so I expect only a minimal drop off in passing projections for Cal this year. The running game should drop off just a little bit more.

Defensively I had Cal with the second worst defense in the conference last year, trailing only Oregon. On the plus side, the return a higher than average number of players this season on defensive. They actually weren’t terrible against the pass, so I’m leaving their pass defense projection as is, and I expect them to improve a decent amount against the run, which still does leave them with a well below average run defense.

Cal should get a win against their D1-AA opponent, but that really might be it. The good news for Cal is that they get their most winnable conference games at home, against Oregon State and Arizona. Still, I project them to lose both of those games by around 7 points because both of those teams match up well against Cal’s poor run defense. Other than that they have a home game against Mississippi, which I also think they’ll lose, as Mississippi’s sinking SEC ship should still be afloat enough to get the win here. Week #1 Cal is at North Carolina, a team who lost a ton of offensive production, but should still beat Cal by double digits. As you can see, Cal has a pretty tough schedule. They’re going to have to improve a lot more than a first year coached team usually does (and they usually go backwards a bit) to find 4+ wins this year.