Photo credit: Simon Asher/Arizona athletics
Welcome back to our series of articles going over the preseason win totals for all 131 FBS teams.
Thanks to Playoff Predictors for being a free site that allows each and every game to get picked. To ensure that we didn’t just blindly choose overs or unders, all 131 teams had their schedules picked.
Explaining the Math
All Power 5 win totals and odds are from June 13, so not all odds listed may be current. Group of 5 odds are not yet widely available at multiple sportsbooks, so those articles will get started whenever those odds are released, but the games have been picked.
Where sportsbooks had differing win totals, the combination of odds with the lowest hold was kept, because sports bettors usually look for the lowest holds before looking at any prices or numbers.
For those unaware, the hold is however much over 100% each side of the bet adds up to. It’s how the sportsbooks win bettors’ money in the long run.
A lower hold is better for bettors. Anything below 2% is considered good, and a negative hold is great because it means the bet is skewed in the bettor’s favor.
Plus odds (+) means that betting $100 will profit that much. Minus odds (-) means that to profit $100, a bettor must wager that much.
The sportsbooks considered — due to having all, or very nearly all, of the Power 5 teams — were PointsBet, FanDuel, DraftKings, and Barstool.
Special thanks to Kelley Ford. We’ll be referencing some of his models that he’s posted to his Twitter (@KFordRatings).
We’re able to take the odds and turn it into expected return. Expected return means how much profit should be expected per $1 wagered if the models are correct.
By his own admission, they’re not perfect. And as the old saying goes, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”
They’re an interesting piece of the puzzle worth considering, but do not take any of these opinions as gospel. It’s all in good fun and to acknowledge just how wrong we were at the end of the season.
We continue this series with the Pac-12 South:
Image Credit: Kelley Ford, Twitter
USC — Over 9.5 wins; Confidence: 1/10
At DraftKings, the over is -125, while the under at FanDuel is +135. So, the hold is -1.89%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 93% chance that the Trojans go under. This gives an expected return of $1.19 per $1 put on the under at FanDuel.
This is by far the highest expected value, and we’re disagreeing with it. But, by Ford’s admission, the model struggled to capture just how much talent was added this past offseason for USC.
If USC loses any of its first six games, the Trojans can kiss the over goodbye. The three games that are most likely to be losses for USC are Utah, UCLA, and Notre Dame — the first two coming on the road.
Ultimately, we think that the Trojans win at least one of those three. So we’re leaning towards the over, but because programs breaking in new coaches and quarterbacks can be prone to hiccups, our confidence is only at a one.
Utah — Over 8.5 wins; Confidence: 2/10
At FanDuel, the over is -115, while the under is +127 at Barstool. So, the hold is -2.46%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 75% chance that the Utes go over. This gives an expected return of $0.40 per $1 put on the over at FanDuel.
Utah has to play five of its nine conference games on the road, including tough road tests at Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon. Also, the first game against Florida is no easy matchup, even if Florida will be in its first game with head coach Billy Napier at the helm.
There are six close games in our estimation, so Utah just needs to go 3-3 in those games.
Under Kyle Whittingham, eight to nine regular season wins has more or less been the norm. Given the breakdown of the schedule, we’re giving this a low confidence of two, but we think there are three or fewer losses on this schedule.
UCLA — Over 8.5 wins; Confidence: 2/10
At DraftKings, the over is -110, while the under is -105 at FanDuel and PointsBet. So, the hold is 3.6%, which is a good indication that 8.5 is a strong industry consensus and likely on the money.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 55% chance that the Bruins go over. This gives an expected return of $0.05 per $1 put on the over at DraftKings. That low of an expected return is further proof that Las Vegas is probably on the money.
We happen to be pretty bullish on UCLA for a few reasons.
First of all, UCLA only plays in four road games, with two of them being against the easier matchups of Colorado and California. Also, UCLA has a bye before traveling to face Oregon.
Second of all, UCLA plays one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country. Matchups against Bowling Green, Alabama State, and South Alabama should lead to three comfortable victories.
Finally, as if UCLA needed to be done any more scheduling favors, getting Washington, Utah, and USC all at home is a great stroke of luck for the Bruins.
The reason we’re not more confident in UCLA’s chances of getting to nine wins is because it hasn’t happened for the program since 2014.
Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon, and Amari Cooper comprised the top three in Heisman Trophy voting the last time UCLA won nine regular season games.
Colorado — Over 3.5 wins; Confidence: 3/10
At Barstool, the over is +135, while the under is -110 at FanDuel. So, the hold is -5.07% — one of the best holds that we’re going to see.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 78% chance the Buffaloes go under. This gives an expected return of $0.49 per $1 put on the under at FanDuel.
Not getting to play Stanford or Washington State is not the best draw, but having TCU, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, and Utah at home are all good things.
TCU, Air Force, and Minnesota is a formidable non-conference slate that we have Colorado losing all of, but it could very well steal a game or two.
California travels to Boulder after Colorado has a bye week — something the Buffaloes will need to take advantage of to hit four wins.
It is incredibly unlikely that Colorado gets to five wins, but we think there’s a good enough chance it gets to four.
Arizona State — Under 6.5 wins; Confidence: 7/10
At DraftKings, the over is +115, while the under is -120 at PointsBet. So, the hold is 1.06%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 83% chance the Sun Devils go over. This gives an expected return of $0.78 per $1 put on the over at DraftKings.
We have Arizona State going 5-7 or 6-6, with Herm Edwards likely finding himself on the hot seat.
Northern Arizona, Eastern Michigan, and Arizona are the three games that we give Arizona State a really good chance in.
Traveling to Oklahoma State and USC are games we really do not like its chances in.
If Arizona State wants to get to seven wins, it needs to go 4-3 against Utah, Washington, Stanford, Colorado, UCLA, Washington State, and Oregon State.
We just don’t like those chances given how much talent has left the program in the last year.
Arizona — Under 2.5 wins; Confidence: 9/10
At DraftKings, the over is -125, while the under is +140 at FanDuel. So, the hold is -2.78%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 77% chance the Wildcats go over. This gives an expected return of $0.39 per $1 put on the over at DraftKings.
Arizona is going to be significantly better than its final record indicates.
To start the season, the Wildcats travel to a San Diego State team coming off of a 12-win season. Then it faces Mississippi State and North Dakota State.
One good thing that Arizona has going for it is playing five of nine conference games at home, including USC after a bye.
Unfortunately, it will not get to face Stanford — a team it would have a realistic chance of beating.
San Diego State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Washington, USC, Utah, UCLA, and Arizona State are all very likely losses.
So, Arizona will need to go 3-1 between North Dakota State, California, Colorado, and Washington State. For +140, we really don’t like those odds.