Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2022

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Forget luck: Here are 10 bets to make this football season

football

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) drops back to pass against Texas Tech on Oct. 25, 2014, in Fort Worth.

Gamblers are starved for football after watching odds for the upcoming season marinate on Las Vegas casinos’ tote boards over the past several months.

A variety of options, from future odds to win championships, over/under win totals to game of the year lines, have tempted bettors to dive into the action early. With games less than two weeks away, it’s officially time to either load up on a helping of preseason wagers or sit out.

For the second year, the Las Vegas Sun is here to help, with 10 of our favorite bets, including both college football and the NFL. Last year, we went 5-0 — with one void because of a canceled game — combined on win totals and games of the year.

A set of long shot future bets didn’t pan out as well, going 0-4, so we’ll try to learn from our mistakes and stray further away from them this year. Here’s a look at this year’s 10 best bets.

1. Auburn under 8.5 wins at plus-150

The Tigers have a dearth of returners, major defensive shortcomings and one of the five toughest schedules in the nation. That doesn’t sound like a team that merits being one of the most popular bets on the college football board. Auburn’s hype has shifted its betting lines toward inflated territory, creating value on fading the public sentiment.

2. TCU under 10.5 wins at minus-120

Everyone is too absorbed with what the Horned Frogs return on offense to notice what they’ve lost on defense. Six of their top seven tacklers depart, and with coach Gary Patterson openly maligning the unit, TCU is going to have to win a lot of shootouts. That won’t be easy in a quietly improved Big 12 Conference.

3. UCLA over 9 wins at minus-110

Coach Jim Mora won nine games in each of his three previous seasons at UCLA despite never having a team as talented as this year’s group. The Bruins are one of the country’s most experienced teams with 18 returning starters, including its top five receivers, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, Paul Perkins, and perhaps the nation’s top linebacker, Myles Jack. Not only is over/under nine wins a faulty line, but so is a 4-to-1 price to win the Pac-12. UCLA is the conference’s best team.

4. Baltimore Ravens minus-3 vs. Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 27

The Bengals outperformed their expectation as much as any team last year, going 10-5-1 despite a statistical profile more befitting of an 8-8 record. The Ravens were the opposite, going 10-6 and just squeezing into the playoffs even though they had the sixth-best point differential in the NFL. The divide was largely because Cincinnati won a pair of razor-tight games over Baltimore. The results will even out this year.

5. Baylor to win the Big 12 at plus-270

If not for the Big 12’s asinine rules last year, Baylor would be on a quest for a third straight outright conference title this season. The only thing that makes less sense than the conference not honoring Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU in 2014 is naming any team other than the Bears the favorite in 2015. Baylor is stocked with experience everywhere except quarterback, a position that coach Art Briles’ system consistently has rendered replaceable.

6. Michigan State plus-14 at Ohio State on Nov. 21

The past 10 national champions have gone a combined 58-68 against the spread in their next season, with only three of them posting winning records versus the number. They’re annually overvalued, just as the Buckeyes will be this season. These two teams have played in each of the past four seasons, with Ohio State outscoring Michigan State by only a total of six points. The Spartans will give the Buckeyes their toughest test of the year.

7. Atlanta Falcons to reach the playoffs at plus-170

The Falcons gave up 6.1 yards per play last season, making their defense the worst in the NFL. With a consistently productive offense, marginal defensive improvement is all that’s necessary under new coach and former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for Atlanta to capture the crown in the frail NFC South. Even if they don’t win the division, the Falcons should stay in the wild-card chase by virtue of a schedule Football Outsiders rates the easiest in the league.

8. Arizona Cardinals under 8.5 wins at minus-105

Speaking of teams bound to regress after playing above their head last season, here’s a reminder that the Cardinals went 11-5. Arizona benefited from a 5-1 record in games decided by less than a touchdown and the league’s fifth-best turnover margin of plus-8. The Cardinals are one of the oldest teams in the NFL, yet another reason a stark downturn is imminent.

9. St. Louis Rams over 7.5 wins at minus-120

With the Cardinals and 49ers projecting collapse, a team is going to emerge to claim a share of the 41 victories those two franchises racked up over the past two years. Enter the NFC West rival Rams. Injuries besieged St. Louis each of the past two seasons, but with moderate health, it will compete for a playoff spot in 2015. The Rams will be a nightmare to prepare for, with a defensive front consisting of Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald terrorizing opposing offensive lines.

10. Joseph Randle to win the rushing title at 25-to-1

Might as well fire off one big gamble. DeMarco Murray didn’t win the rushing title last year as much as one of the best offensive lines of the past decade won it for him. The unit, led by center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith, is back in full to clear space for Randle, who averaged more than six yards per carry as Murray’s understudy. Fans trashed Randle for saying Murray left “a lot of meat on the bone,” but what if he’s right? It’s worth paying to find out.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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