The college football season is right around the corner.
Believe it or not, we're a little more than three weeks away from the first batch of games of the 2022 season. With the season so close, we dove into the win totals set by the oddsmakers over at BetMGM.
More and more focus will be paid to the futures market as we inch closer to the season, so some of these numbers could shift in the coming days. Before that happens, let’s take a look at 10 teams worth a wager.
This feels like a good time to buy low on Iowa State. The expectations were through the roof for the Cyclones entering the 2021 season and they fell well short of living up to the hype. Now the Cyclones are back to flying under the radar and playing the underdog role. With a disappointing 2021 as motivation, I think ISU will be better than people expect in 2022.
Brock Purdy is an all-time Iowa State great, but he had some tough moments over the last few years. If you believe what the coaches in Ames tell you, new starting QB Hunter Dekkers will step right in and do well. He’s got a solid offensive line and a true No. 1 receiver in Xavier Hutchinson, though RB Breece Hall will be tough to replace. On defense, the Cyclones can be one of the best in the Big 12 if the young players in the secondary emerge.
And when you look at the schedule, having five conference home games (plus Kansas on the road) gives you a lot of feasible paths to seven wins.
Things went off the rails in the late days under Ed Orgeron, but Brian Kelly is big on accountability. With the level of talent still on the LSU roster, there’s potential for a promising season if the players buy into what Kelly is preaching.
I’m not a huge Jayden Daniels believer, but the presence of Myles Brennan and heralded freshman Garrett Nussmeier eases any concerns about the QB position if Daniels doesn’t win the job. Oh, and Kayshon Boutte is one of the best receivers in the country. The defensive line should be strong, so this bet could come down to how LSU’s transfer additions perform — particularly on the offensive line and in the secondary.
I’m pretty comfortable going with the over 6.5 wins, but that feeling could diminish quickly if the Tigers can’t take care of Florida State in Week 1. LSU is currently a 3-point favorite at BetMGM.
MSU was a weird team in 2021. The Bulldogs had an ugly loss to Memphis and an uglier loss to Texas Tech in the bowl game, but also upset Texas A&M in College Station and had a 25-point comeback win over Auburn on the Plains. Even with that volatility, the Bulldogs got to a 7-5 regular season. There’s plenty of reason to believe they can be better in 2022, but to win this bet we only need to match that seven wins.
This team is very experienced, and it starts with third-year starting QB Will Rogers. He threw for 4,739 yards and 36 touchdowns, thriving in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. There’s still room for growth, too, with MSU ranking near the bottom of the SEC in explosive passing plays.
Defensively, Zac Arnett has proven to be a shrewd hire by Leach and his unit returns the majority of last year’s starters. The kicking game was a disaster but should be much better with Massimo Biscardi (46/57 on FGs at Coastal Carolina) transferring in. I like this over bet quite a bit.
Is Nebraska really going to go from three to eight wins? It’d be a shock if the Huskers weren’t somewhat better in 2022, but Scott Frost has given me no confidence whatsoever that his team can take such a drastic leap. The Huskers just find ways to lose — the team’s 5-20 record in one-possession games during Frost’s tenure is glaring evidence of that.
Last year, the defense kept the Huskers in so many games before the offense or special teams gave it away. I think the defense will take a step back. I also believe the common thought that ex-Texas QB Casey Thompson is a significant upgrade over Adrian Martinez is overstated. Martinez was turnover-prone, no doubt, but he also kept so many plays alive with his feet while playing behind a leaky offensive line. Additionally, the offense has very few proven playmakers.
Combine those factors with a tricky schedule (opening with Northwestern in Ireland, hosting Oklahoma and closing the year with Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa), and I don't think eight wins is realistic.
For most of Mike Gundy’s time in Stillwater, Oklahoma State’s strength has been offense. Last year, it was the defense led by Jim Knowles. In the offseason, Knowles left for Ohio State and many of OSU’s top defensive players — particularly at linebacker and in the secondary — are no longer with the program.
If the defense takes a step back, that leaves a lot on the shoulders of veteran QB Spencer Sanders. Sanders has talent, but he still takes too many risks even at this late juncture in his career. Tay Martin, Sanders’ top target by far in 2021, has moved on to the NFL. Jaylen Warren, a 1,200-yard rusher, and Josh Sills, OSU’s best offensive lineman, have too.
I don’t have the confidence in Sanders to pick up the slack and get this team to nine wins — especially with such a tough road slate in Big 12 play (Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma).
There’s no reason to believe Pitt’s offense will be anywhere near as explosive as it was in 2021. Sure, the offensive line remains intact and there’s solid depth at running back and receiver, but Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison turned in special seasons that won’t be replicated. There isn’t a receiver on the roster anywhere near Addison’s level and I think transfer QB Kedon Slovis is overrated nationally.
Pitt won by throwing the ball and outscoring its opponents in 2021, but Pat Narduzzi wants his team to be more balanced in 2022. With Frank Cignetti’s West Coast-style offense now in place, I’m expecting the Panthers to take a step back into the middle of the pack in the ACC. And with tough non-conference games vs. West Virginia and Tennessee and ACC road games vs. Louisville, UNC and Miami, I think 8-4 is the ceiling. Before last season, Pitt had never won more than eight regular season games under Narduzzi, so that would still be a pretty good result.
The early returns on Jeff Scott at USF have not been positive. The Bulls followed up a 1-8 record in 2020 by going 2-10 in 2021 and only one of his three wins came over an FBS opponent. There’s evidence of improvement for the Bulls, but it’s a tall task to find five wins on this schedule.
USF has BYU, Florida and Louisville on its non-conference schedule. And then once the Bulls enter AAC play, there is maybe one game — at Temple — they would be favored in. USF will travel to Cincinnati, Houston and Tulsa (an underrated tough trip). At home, the Bulls have East Carolina and Tulane. Those could be winnable, but SMU and UCF feel like surefire losses. The only game I check off as a sure win is a Week 2 home game against Howard, an FCS team that went 3-8 last year.
Even with the juice at -140, this is a very comfortable under play.
Based on his track record at Oklahoma, the Lincoln Riley hype at USC is probably justified — especially with Caleb Williams as his quarterback for the next two seasons. This offense should be very, very good with the talent assembled and some of the pieces left behind.
At the same time, making the jump to 10 wins when you’re trying to mesh so many new parts together seems like too big of an ask. I don’t have high hopes for the defense either. The Trojans were miserable on that side of the ball in 2021 and the transfers they brought in on defense are much less proven than guys like Caleb Williams, Mario Williams and Travis Dye on offense.
And it’s not like the schedule is a cake-walk either. The draw from the Pac-12 North is pretty favorable, but the trip to Corvallis to play Oregon State is tricky — especially early in the season. There are also road games against Utah and UCLA and a visit from Notre Dame.
Earlier in the summer, I jumped all over the under 9.5 when it was still at plus-money. Even at -105, I’m willing to give it out.
UTSA put together a 12-win season in 2021 and the Roadrunners should still be among Conference USA’s best teams in 2022. However, it’s hard to find nine wins on the schedule with a tough non-conference slate that includes a home game vs. Houston and road trips to Army and Texas. If the Roadrunners lose those three, they’d have to go undefeated in C-USA play to hit the over. There’s a few spots I can envision a slip-up, especially the November road game vs. UAB.
There are a few other factors at hand here. First off, it’s really hard for a program to have its best season ever and then turn around and replicate that performance, especially on the heels of a year that included so many close wins (the Roadrunners were 6-0 in one-score games). Additionally, UTSA is going to have a tough time replacing high-usage running back Sincere McCormick. The team’s OC from last year, Barry Lunney, also left for Illinois.
I love quarterback Brennan Armstrong, but I’m pretty confident that Virginia won’t get to eight wins in its first season under Tony Elliott. The Cavaliers lost their top six offensive linemen from last season, including four to the transfer portal.
The receiver group is one of the ACC’s best, but there is little proven production at running back. Armstrong was asked to run the ball a lot, and he was bruised and battered by mid-season. Elliott has said he wants the offense to be pretty balanced, but that’s a tough task with an O-line that could really struggle. On top of that, Elliott’s most-recent output as Clemson’s play-caller left a lot to be desired. Oh, and there’s also the defense that was absolutely terrible in 2021. I’m just not seeing it with UVa in Elliott’s first season.