College football season is five weeks away, and win totals are on the board at the Westgate SuperBook for all 131 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
I asked five professional oddsmakers and handicappers for their best bets and, surprisingly, UNLV over was the one common play.
The Rebels are 2-16 under coach Marcus Arroyo and have only one winning season this century. But bookmakers expect them to show marked improvement this season.
UNLV’s win total is 4½ at the Westgate and BetMGM and 4 at Circa Sports and Caesars Sportsbook, which bumped up the Rebels from 3½ on Wednesday after taking action on the over at -140 and -150.
“If they see improvement, four or five wins is definitely on the table,” Caesars assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said. “I think everyone in Las Vegas is itching to see Marcus Arroyo getting things on track.”
Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons bet the Rebels to go over 3½ wins, and ESPN sports betting analyst Joe Fortenbaugh also recommended UNLV over 3½ before Caesars moved the number.
“UNLV’s schedule lights up this year. Even though they finished 2-10 last year, I believe they were much better than their record,” Salmons said. “They have a bunch of transfers from schools you normally wouldn’t see at UNLV. There’s some upside there, and some teams in the Mountain West are in complete rebuilds.”
Salmons expects the Rebels to beat Idaho State, Hawaii, New Mexico and UNR, which he bet to go under 5½ wins. The Wolf Pack’s total is 5 (u-120) at BetMGM.
The Rebels added several former Power Five players through the transfer portal, including Tennessee quarterback Harrison Bailey, Michigan State wide receiver Ricky White and Florida State outside linebacker Jordan Eubanks.
Fortenbaugh (@JoeFortenbaugh) also expects UNLV to show positive regression in a couple of key metrics.
“The two that stand out to me are turnover differential and their record in one-score games,” he said. “UNLV was 97th in the country in turnover differential (-5) last year and was 0-6 in one-score games. If you’re on one end of the spectrum, chances are there is going to be some regression.”
Southern California Under 9½ (Even)
The Trojans have been a popular national title pick after adding former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams and wideout Jordan Addison. But handicapper Bruce Marshall, editor of The Gold Sheet, doesn’t expect USC to live up to the hype.
“There is the issue with fixing a defense that was likely the worst in school history last season,” he said. “Riley is not inheriting a Final Four team like he did from Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, either. Instead, he inherits the worst SC team of my lifetime last year, though there have been massive personnel changes, mostly through the transfer portal.
“I see a likely 8-4 record.”
Colorado Under 3½ (-175)
ESPN “Daily Wager” host Doug Kezirian is banking on the Buffaloes to go under their number after getting all four of their last season wins at home.
“This all comes down to the schedule for me,” said Kezirian (@DougESPN). “Last year, they were able to sneak up on some teams and take advantage of their home field and the altitude. But I can’t imagine that happens this year because all of their conference home games are against the top-tier teams in Utah, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Arizona State.
“The Buffaloes will likely be an underdog in every game. Four wins is a little much to ask.”
Washington Under 8 (-125)
The Huskies went 4-8 last season, and Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone doesn’t see them flipping that mark this season.
“Washington’s program has really nosedived in the two seasons since Chris Peterson’s departure,” said Stone (@paulstonesports). “Kalen DeBoer may get the ship righted in time in Seattle, but I put the Huskies’ win total at seven, and I think reaching that number would represent a solid accomplishment this season.”
Purdue Under 7½ (-125)
Stone also expects the Boilermakers to go under after winning eight regular-season games last season for the first time in 15 years. He noted that Purdue lost its top offensive and defensive player in wideout David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis, a first-round NFL draft pick.
“I really believe Purdue’s ceiling this season is seven wins,” Stone said.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.