The Best Season Win Plays for the G5 Conferences
Had to do this pretty hastily as I just saw the lines for the first time today and am leaving on vacation in the morning. No proof-reading, I apologize in advance, lol.
Best Bets for Regular Season Wins in the G5 Conferences
1 Unit: Boise State Over 8 (-125 5D)
I think Boise suffers from boredom a little bit later in their seasons. With the new playoff system they know they are more than likely not to be invited even with a perfect record. Sure, their win/loss record affects which Bowl they’ll be invited to, but, I kind of get the feeling that is just doesn’t matter that much to them, lol.
Last year Boise had a 10-2 regular season record, and I think the O/U line on their season wins was somewhere up around 10 or 10.5, if I’m not mistaken. This year it’s at 8? Why so much lower?
I think the Mountain West Conference was a little bit under-rated last year. SDSU was an easy Over season wins play, CSU improved a lot as the season wore on (before laying a defensive potato in the Bowl game against Idaho), and Wyoming ended up being much more dangerous than I think anyone would have envisioned (as evidenced by their upset of Boise in Laramie). So maybe the number is 8 because the oddsmakers think that the rest of the conference is finally catching up to Boise a little bit? I will agree with that, to some degree.
Is Boise backsliding as a program, or are they experiencing more turnover than usual this year? CSU has caught up to them in recruiting over the last couple of years, but they’re still a bit ahead of SDSU and everyone else is a good dip below that.
Offensively, the line will be a little bit weaker, they lose top WR Sperbeck and top RB McNichols. I’m counting on QB Rypien, returning for his second full season as a starter, to be the glue that holds this offense together. When you’re returning a QB who averaged Over 9 yards per pass I don’t know that you can consider it a rebuilding year offensively, even when you lose some of your top skill players.
Defensively, they are losing a higher than average number of players, being hit especially hard at the linebacker position, losing their clear top three tacklers. Their top DL has graduated, as well as their top DB. As such, I’m factoring in a 5% penalty to their pass defense projections, and a 7% penalty to their run defense projections. Their pass defense projects to be the stronger of the two units again this year. That makes their road games against SDSU and CSU, who are both excellent running teams, very tough games this year – pretty much coinflips where I favor Boise by the slimmest margins.
But let’s say worst case scenario Boise loses at SDSU and CSU, as well as the week #2 game at Washington State, and the week 6 game at BYU. They have literally their four toughest games on the road this year. That’s already four losses which is a push at worst with an Over 8 bet, lol. I just really can’t see them losing any other games on their schedule, and they will more than likely be double digit favorites in the 8 remaining games. Those games are vs. Troy, vs, New Mexico, vs. Virginia, vs. Wyoming, @ Utah State, vs Nevada, vs Air Force, and @ Fresno.
All told, it looks like I’m not projecting BSU to drop off as precipitously this season as the oddsmaking world at large. Even if the truth is somewhere in the middle, it’s going to upsets on a pretty big line as well as losing every closely projected game this season for the Over 8 to lose, in my opinion.
1 Unit: Middle Tennessee over 7 wins (-115 5D)
Here’s another team I like because my win floor for them is equal to the betting number. Here are the 7 games I project MTU to win by at least double digits: vs BGSU, vs FIU, @ UAB, vs Marshall, vs UTEP, @ Charlotte, and vs Old Dominion. The two weakest teams of that bunch are their only two road games – advantage MTU. After that I think MTU will be a live dog vs. Vanderbilt, a near coin flip @ Syracuse, a probable loss at Minnesota, should win at FAU but won’t be easy, and a probable loss at Western Kentucky.
MTU’s running game was really under-rated last year, and they do lose RB Mathers who averaged a whopping 6 .7 ypc on a massive 232 attempts. I’ve hit MTU with a 15% deduction to their run projections.
MTU’s passing game should be even better than last year, though, unless the running game fails to provide the balance necessary to keep opposing defenses honest. The Stockstill to James connection is one of the best in football, they hooked up for a very high 105 completions at 15.5 yards per catch. They also get solid possession receiver Ty Lee back. RB Mathers was a good outlet for passes, so hopefully they guys getting the bulk of the carries this year can fill that role as well.
MTU is okay defending the pass but they are going to be vulnerable against the run this year. They weren’t very good at stopping it last year, and they lost a lot of players from their defensive line. This won’t hurt them as badly in the games where MTU should be a comfortable favorite, but it will make their close games that much harder to win.
As long as the win floor holds, I think MTU picks up at least one and possibly two more wins with their schedule. Barring an injury to QB Stockstill, I think it’s a free roll on the Over 7.
½ Unit: Eastern Carolina Under 3.5 Wins (-125 5D)
It’s going to be very tough sledding for HC Montgomery in this, his second campaign. I think they’ll improve enough to pick up one win this year, but that still only puts them at 3.
I’m quite comfortable with the win ceiling of 4 games I’ve set for them, with losses @ WVU, vs VT, vs USF, vs TEM, @ UCF, vs BYU, @ HOU and vs MEM. The game vs Temple is certainly the most winnable of the bunch, and it’s also a bit tricky to gauge how far Temple will drop this year losing their coach and QB.
Even ECU’s D1-AA game in week #1 is no gimmie with visiting James Madison. But giving them that win, I project just two more wins for the year @ Conn and vs Tulane. Assuming ECU goes 3 for 3 on those winnable games than it all rides on the week #12 game at home vs Cincinnati, which I project as a close loss.
½ Unit: Fresno State Under 4 Wins (-120 5D)
Fresno Under last year ended up being a pretty easy bet, as they finished with a lone win against Sacramento State. And now you’re telling me they’re going to have to improve to 5 wins under a new head coach for this play to lose?
For starters, Fresno is losing their two best defenders, DB Stratton Brown and LB Camilli. There is not usually as big of a gap between tackles made by the #1 and #2 guys for each unit as we see with these guys. Brown had 115 tackles, the next closest DB 59. Camilli had 108 tackles, the next closest LB also had 59. On top of that, Fresno also lost 2 of their top DBs behind Brown. At least their DL remains mostly intact, as does their decent depth at linebacker. As such, I figure Fresno’s run defense out to stay about the same, but their pass defense should slip a little, and they could finish up worse than their 93rd ranked defense of last year.
On offense Fresno returns most of their “skill” players, but those quotations are well earned as I ranked their offense dead last in 2016. That took some “skill” to beat out the likes of Texas State and Charlotte for that award, lol.
½ Unit: Houston Over 8 Wins (-115)
I think the move from HC Herman to Applewhite and QB Ward Jr. to Kyle Allen won’t be as big of a drop off for the Cougars as some would expect. Houston’s running game was terrible and can only get better, while the passing game was okay, but should stay near the same with Allen. They also get top WR Bonner back, who had almost 100 catches last year.
Here’s something I wrote about the AAC last week, which I’ll just post here, as it talks a lot about Houston:
There are three teams with a legitimate chance to win the AAC West, in my opinion, Houston, Memphis and Navy. At the end of last season (pre Bowl Games) I had all three of these teams clustered very tight in the rankings with Navy at 23rd, Memphis at 26th, and Houston at 27th.
Let’s look at the schedule and who it favors in the key AAC West games this year. Navy gets both Houston and Memphis on the road this year, which is a really bad draw for them. As for Houston, they also get Memphis at home, so all the schedule advantages in the head to head match ups of the top Western teams go to Houston.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, that script is pretty much flipped when looking at the schedule versus the AAC Eastern teams. Houston has USF on the road (a probable loss, though I rate it to be very close) and Temple on the road (a close projected win for Houston).
Memphis avoids USF this year but does face UCF early in the year on the road. They also avoid Temple, so Memphis has a healthy scheduling advantage on AAC East teams played compared to Houston.
Navy also avoids USF, but plays Temple on the road and UCF at home.
As a whole, that tightens up any scheduling advantages quite a bit -- it will probably come down to the head to head matchups in the West, which favors Houston just for having home field advantage, especially against Memphis, as I rate those teams really closely entering this year, with Navy slipping some.
Let’s get Navy out of the way. Their defense should be about the same this year, but they didn’t win games with their defense last year (77th ranked). It was their #4 ranked offense that was mowing over everyone in site until injuries eventually forced them to 3rd string QB Abey. Abey is a pretty good runner, but his passing was well behind Worth. I’m not sure how much better he’ll be this year, but even still, Navy lost a lot of wide receivers and running backs. It just looks like a bit of an offensive rebuild for Navy this year. It doesn’t pay to underestimate Navy, but unlike this year, I won’t be making a regular season wins Over play on them.
Western Kentucky was one of my top Bowl plays last year in their game against Memphis. Fortunately that game played out as predicted, exposing Memphis’ somewhat below average run offense and defense, two things that WKU excelled at last year. I think Memphis will shore up their run defense a little bit this year, but their good pass defense (23rd best) will probably get a bit softer as they’re returning only 40% of the tackles made by their secondary last year.
That’s the not so good news for Memphis – the defense. The really good news for the Tigers is their offense, which returns almost everybody. A couple of months ago when looking at projected starting lineups, Memphis had a pretty inexperienced group listed for their offensive line. Most teams acquire/slot in more experienced players as we get closer to the actual season, and after just checking Memphis’ offensive line projection is now much more experienced. So, instead of projecting a possible small drop off in the passing game because of a new offensive line, I’m projecting no drop off in the passing game and a small improvement in the running game. This ended up pulling them up to be almost dead even with Houston overall. I only project Houston to win that home game against the Tigers by only 2.7 points now.
Houston’s short-lived Tom Herman era is over, with Major Applewhite taking over as the new HC. Houston’s effort at times last year seemed to mirror that of their HC – with one foot out the door. Their Bowl game was even worse than Memphis’, as they came in as the favorite and got straight up smoked. Greg Ward Jr. was throwing picks left and right while their anemic running game had almost no blood in it all, averaging 0.6 yards per carry. Houston had wins against Oklahoma and Louisville last year…as well as losses to Navy, SMU and Memphis. Those wins were home games, the losses all road games. Huge if it plays out that was again this year.
The one thing that didn’t suck for Houston in the Bowl Game was the biggest strength of the team – their run defense. They didn’t shut down SDSU’s running game, but they held a really good running team to 3 yards and change per carry. As bad as Houston’s run offense was, their run defense was even better, only once allowing a team to exceed their usual yards per carry average. Houston returns a lot of that defense, too. They only had one defender leave early for the draft, DB Howard Wilson, who joined fellow DB Brandon Wilson and LB/DE Tyus Bowser as Houston defenders drafted. As such, I think Houston’s pass defense will be about the same (still pretty good), while their rush defense is bound to regress some, even with the players returning. That still projects out as a really, really good run defense, though.
I think the transition to HC Applewhite will be pretty smooth, but I do make small deductions to teams for head coaches in their first season, so that’s factored into the projections.
QB Greg Ward Jr. is gone, and Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen takes over. That’s a good pick up for Houston. Greg Ward Jr. wasn’t the greatest passer, but man was he hard to lay hands on. Running or buying time to set up open passes was what made the Houston offense go, when it did go. As mentioned, their running game, in part due to some injuries, was horrible. With the new HC and QB I’m still giving a Houston a small deduction in the passing projections, and I’m leaving their running projections as is. They should run the ball better, but subtracting Greg Ward Jr.s carries from the mix brings that average back down to where it was last year, potentially. Houston’s offense has room for improvement, so there could be some hidden upside there. On the flip side, Houston’s run defense also has plenty of room for even more regression than projected.
Overall, I think the most reliable unit for either Houston or Memphis will be Memphis’ offense. Big advantage to Memphis on offense, as Houston was a little below average overall last year, ranking just 73rd for me, to 40th for Memphis. Memphis should finish higher this year. Houston? Hard to say. Houston had such a huge advantage on defense last year that even if they regress some they should still be far ahead of Memphis’ squad.
With South Florida also having a new HC and losing their star running back they rate to come back to the field somewhat. They should still win the East, but I project either Houston or Memphis to play them pretty evenly. As such, taking both Houston and Memphis at +550 to win the conference has to be plus money. As long as Navy doesn’t rise up and surprise the West, you should be sitting on a pretty good hedging opportunity for the conference championship game.
½ Unit: Rice Under 3.5 (+100 5D)
Rice was another supremely easy Under season wins play last year, though they did start to play better in their final 3 games, where they did manage to grab a couple of conference wins and then cover against Stanford.
I expect the Owls passing game to continue to improve, and their pass defense was so horrific last year (I ranked them dead last) that regression to the mean means that they’ll probably be a little bit better this year. I mean, their 128th ranked pass defense actually had good games when they faced the 128th and 127th ranked pass offenses of Charlotte and UTEP when they won those two games, lol.
But then again, Rice’s run defense was a bottom 25 unit as well, their recruiting numbers are poor…this program certainly seemed to peak 5 or so years ago, if memory serves.
Rice doesn’t have a D1-AA game on their schedule this year, so that means they’re going to have to win at home versus North Texas (a team slowly on the rise), at UTEP (not impossible, but I don’t think they will), at home versus Army (possible but doubtful), at home versus FIU (possible but doubtful), at UAB (coin flip?) and at Southern Miss (possible but doubtful) for the Under to lose. Well, win 4 of those 6 games, anyway. Games vs Stanford, @ Houston, @ Pitt, @ UT-San Antonio, versus Louisiana Tech and @ Old Dominion I’m chalking up as losses right now.
This isn’t nearly as good of a bet as it was last year, but considering that Rice might go winless this year it doesn’t seem to bad.
½ Unit: Kansas Under 3 Wins (+100 5D)
It seems fitting that I forgot about Kansas until going over my figures for the G5 schools today, lol. Sorry, Jayhawks!
Kansas was surprisingly decent defending the pass last year, but not they lose the bulk of that secondary. They also lose the only running back that put up a decent ypc average, Ke’aun Kinner. I project Kansas’ passing game to improve a little, but that’s hard to tell. Peyton Bender, the transfer from Washington State, didn’t put up good numbers in his limited experience, and from what I remember he looked like a deer in the headlights at times.
Kansas should win their week one D1-AA game, and are a toss up in week #2 against CMU, though I suspect they’ll be favored. Let’s give them those 2 wins. Can they get a third? In Week #3 they play at Ohio. Ohio should still be pretty decent this year, at least by MAC standards. Ohio beat Kansas by 17 at Kansas last year, so I’m still like Ohio to get it down again this year, this time at home. After that the only real winnable game for Kansas is at home in Week #6 against Texas Tech. Other than that, they should be brutalized by their Big 12 competition. Iowa State has been improving and Kansas has to play them on the road this year. Baylor has been plummeting, but not to Kansas’ depths just yet.
With one guaranteed win, and needing 3 more for this play to lose with only 3 winnable games on their schedule, I like my chances here. Even if Kansas is sitting on 2 wins after week #2 I’m not sweating the Under 3 until they possibly win again in week 3, lol.
1 Unit: Appalachian State Over 9 Wins (-140)
The Mountaineers return enough players to win the Sun Belt again. It’s a little bit of a rebuild on the offensive line, so I’ve given them a 7% deduction to their projections, just in case it has an effect. I’ve given some deductions to the defense as well, even though they’re returning a healthy numbers of players, also just to be on the safe side an account for some regression. I gave a small bump to the passing game, thinking that QB Taylor Lamb’s chemistry should be pretty good in this, his Senior season, with most of his receivers returning.
App State has been so consistent over the last couple of seasons, it’s hard to see them dropping off much this year. I think they’ll lose at Georgia, win a close won at Wake, and after that if I had to pick a loss I’d pick at Idaho. But I’m not picking that for a loss. I’m picking App State to win every conference game by at least double digits, as they get a couple of their potentially tougher games at home late in the season, and they don’t even play the one team in the conference right now with a legit chance at beating them, Troy. So even if App State opens with a loss at Georgia and then at Wake Forest in week #4, I can handle living on the razor’s edge of losing this play for the final 8 games of their season.