Welcome to the Gamble-Tron’s maiden voyage of 2016. When last we left you, we were riding pretty high, what with a slight profit in bowl season and an extra $1,255 in our pocket when all was said and done. Much like Cougar Football, 2015 was far more kind to us than 2014.
Before the games start (don't forget about Hawaii-Cal down under!), we’ll try our luck at guessing how well teams will perform for the entire season. This doesn’t exactly gel with our mandatory fan mantra of “One week at a time, blah, blah, blah” but it’s a fun exercise, so let’s dive in.
First, an explanation of the odds. Many of you probably saw the most recent season totals published by Bovada. Well, all they did was confuse me. Some included postseason games, some didn’t, and the odds swung wildly. I am not a fan of including postseason games in season totals. For that reason, I’m going with the 5Dimes totals published earlier this summer.
As always, here’s a little primer: You’ll see a number such as (-110) listed next to both the over and under. If you see (-110), that means that you have to put down $110 in order to win $100. This is known as the vig. The higher the vig gets, Ohio State under 9.5 wins is (-125) for example, the more money you have to put down to win your $100 bet.
To call my methodology scientific would be a slap in the face to every scientist ever. First, I take a look at the schedule, which always leads to “Yep, the odds-makers have them pegged.” Also, instead of using any sort of returning starters data, I found an interesting metric invented by Bill Connelly, he of the laptop that says WSU was super duper lucky last season and not that good.
Connelly crafted a formula for returning experience that he explains here. I thought it could be useful, so I may reference it a few times. As has been the norm, we’ll save our pretend money for the regular season, but that won’t stop us from trying to forecast the fortunes of several teams. Let’s get to it.
WSU - 7.5 (Over -110/Under -110): Anyone who read the 2014 and 2015 versions of this post (thanks, mom) knows that I’ve whiffed badly on the Cougs both times. I count six games (EWU, Idaho, Arizona, OSU, Cal, Colorado) that WSU should win. ASU should also be in there but no because Tempe. That leaves toss-up games with Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington.
Here’s the rub: three of those games (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA) come all in a row to open Pac-12 play. In other words, this season’s trajectory could be headed sharply in either direction before mid-October. As good as I think this WSU team can be, and I think 10 wins is in play, my gut tells me they’re 7-4 going into the Apple Cup. You don’t need a historian to tell you which team wins that game 70 percent of the time.
Verdict: Under (this is at least 51% due to the fact that I’ve been wrong about WSU the last two seasons)
Arizona - 6 (Over -110/Under -110): Let’s see here...Arizona doesn’t have a quarterback who is any good. Arizona lost the best player from a putrid defense. Arizona fired its defensive coordinator. While I’m sure the new guy is going to bring a “more aggressive, attacking style that will blitz 135 percent of the time, I just can’t see six wins on that schedule. Rich Rodriguez is still one of the Pac-12’s best coaches, but they’re going to struggle.
ASU - 5 (Over -120/Under +100): ASU has kind of fallen off a cliff since playing for the Pac-12 title just two seasons ago. They stumbled to a 6-7 finish last season, and lost a ton of experience, returning just 27 percent of their offensive production in 2016. Todd Graham’s vocal cords may not survive training camp.
That Texas Tech game in Week Two really sticks out to me, and could tell the tale of where this season goes for the Sun Devils. I don’t know whether ASU has the firepower this season. 2016 won’t be Washington-in-2008 vintage for the Arizona schools, but it is shaping up to be the worst in a long time. When in doubt, go with the value pick.
Verdict: Under (I actually foresee a push here, but ties are no fun)
Cal - 4 (Over -120/Under +100): Cal returns just 15 percent(!!!) of its offensive production. However, that is mitigated a bit by transfer QB Davis Webb and highly-touted freshman receiver Demetris Robertson. Cal needs to pile up the wins early, because they probably aren’t winning a game after they visit Corvallis on October 8. Like ASU, I see this as a push, but that means they’ll beat both San Diego State and Texas. I don’t see it.
Stanford - 8.5 (Over +100/Under -120): This one seems pretty simple, even though the odds don’t indicate that. Yes, Stanford is breaking in a new QB. Yes, Stanford lost a lot on the offensive line. Yes, they have a brutal first six games. Even if they’re emerge 3-3, there’s still a very good chance that they win their final six. Oh, and they still have some scrub named McCaffrey.
UCLA - 8.5 (Over +100/Under -120): Jim Mora is a chump. They have a new offensive coordinator. They lost a ton of receivers. Myles Jack is gone. Guess who is still there. Yep, the quarterback. This is the year.
Verdict: Over (I really want to be wrong here)
USC - 7.5 (Over +100/Under -120): New QB. Less-than-inspiring coach. Decimated defensive line. BRUTAL BRUTAL OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THEIR BRUTAL SCHEDULE.
UW - 9 (Over -110/Under -110): Washington’s over/under in 2015 was four wins. They won six. Suddenly, their total jumps by five games??!! I don’t know if anyone has jumped that much in one season. Still, have you seen that schedule? Do you know what they have coming back? Enough that Bill C’s computer says their scoring margin will improve by 4.5 points per game.
Even if they stumble against both Stanford and Oregon (I think they win at least one of those two) every game after the bye week is winnable. I can’t find a bigger lead pipe cinch lock of the millennium on the board. Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife, ‘cause the Huskies is about to whip everybody out here.
Oregon - 8 (Over -110/Under -110): Nope
OSU - 3.5 (Over -110/Under -110): When the only sure thing on your schedule is Idaho State, one of two things is happening. Either Paul Wulff is your coach, or you’re even worse than you were last year, if that’s possible. Well, I guess both of those things could be true.
Utah - 7.5 (Over +100/Under-120): Lots of production lost on offense, with just 35 percent of 2015 experience returning. Included in that lost production is Mr. Booker, who was really good. Travis Wilson is also gone, but he wasn’t very good.
Utah returns 76 percent of its defensive experience and will be, stop me if you’ve heard this before, very good on both the offensive and defensive lines. They also have Kyle Whittingham, and even though they go through offensive coordinators like I go through jars of peanut butter, they have a realistic shot to start 7-0 before they visit UCLA.
Colorado - 4.5 (Over -110/Under -110): I want to give the Buffs the benefit of the doubt. I really do. If Sefo Liufau is healthy, they’ve got a shot. Still, they lost easily their most productive player in Nelson Spruce. Liufau’s Lisfranc injury is not an easy one to get over.
Ahh, what the heck. They lost nine games last year, but five of those were by one score. They return a ton of experience, and the schedule isn’t that bad, especially if they can beat Colorado State in the opener. They may not make a bowl game, but I think they get five. Just don’t let one of them come on November 21.
Around the country leans
BC - 6.5 (Over -110/Under -110): Let’s see here. Boston College won three games last season. Not one of those wins was in conference play. Sure, they lost some close ones, but their offense was a grease fire inside a tire fire inside a dumpster fire. Now I’m supposed to think that they’re going to win seven?
They return a ton of experience on both sides, including several pieces from a very good defense. But is it really a good thing when you bring back a bunch of guys on offense who were completely awful the previous season?
Florida State - 9.5 (Over -110/Under -120): The Seminoles had (for them) a bit of a down year in 2015. They still went to the Peach Bowl. They return alot of defensive production, and while the offense has some rebuilding to do, including at QB, all that guy has to do is hand the ball to Dalvin Cook 25 times per game and the ‘Noles should be fine.
Iowa - 8.5 (Over -110/Under -110): My Hawkeyes came out of nowhere last season to win their first 12 games, and were a fourth down stop in the Big Ten title game from the College Football Playoff. Yes, that Iowa. I took the “over” on the Hawks last season, and I see no reason to stop now. That’s due in large part to the fact that they return an above-average QB and the Thorpe Award winner. It doesn’t hurt that they play in a really bad division.
Kansas State 5.5 (Over-120/Under+100): I can’t name one player on the Kansas State roster. What I do know is that KSU returns a lot of experience, and Bill Snyder is still the coach. That’s enough for me.
NC State - 6 (Over -110/Under -110): Not even Alan Garner and his one-man wolfpack can help these guys.
Ohio State 9.5 (Over +105/Under-125): So on that Football Study Hall table, ASU is 126/128 in terms of returning experience. Only two teams return less experience, UMass and none other than Ohio State. That points to a big regression. Hang on.../googles Urban Meyer. Yep, he’s still their coach. /googles J.T. Barrett. Yep, he’s still the quarterback. /looks up recruiting rankings. We’re done here.
Happy football everyone.