2023 College Football Betting Predictions
2023 College Football Predictions
(written before the season began in July)
American Athletic Conference (AAC) Preview
There was plenty of upheaval as far as conferences go and the AAC is no exception. Three of the powerhouse programs (Houston, Cincinnati and UCF) are gone, taking their talent to the Big 12. In their stead are six teams from Conference USA as Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA have moved into the conference, creating a 14-team unit for this season. UTSA won Conference USA last season with an 11-3 record and brings back 16 starters, led by QB Frank Harris along with receivers Joshua Cephus and DeCorian Clark…. Tulane won the AAC title game last season and then stunned USC in the Cotton Bowl to finish the year 12-2. They have Michael Pratt, who threw for 3,009 yards with 27 touchdowns against five picks, back to run the offense, along with AAC Coach of the Year Willie Fritz…. SMU lost Tanner Mordecai but hopes to be more explosive with Preston Stone under center, while Memphis (0-4 in games decided by seven points or less) and FAU (with new coach Tom Herman) hope to contend in the conference as well.
Conference Championship Game Winner: UTSA (+450)
UTSA was a powerhouse in the last two seasons in Conference USA, winning a combined 23 games between 2021-22. While the program is looking for their first bowl victory in school history (they are 0-4), the Roadrunners have one of the deepest returning teams in the country. UTSA averaged 36.8 points per game last season, which was 14th in the FBS, and with Harris (328 of 471 passing, 4063 yards, 32 TD, nine INT, 602 rushing yards, nine TD) back to orchestrate the offense, Jeff Traylor’s team will be tough to slow down. Kevorian Barnes (135 carries, 845 yards, six TD) should crack the 1,000-yard mark after sharing the load with Brenden Brady last season. While losing Zakhari Franklin hurts, having Cephus (87 receptions, 985 yards, six TD) and Clark (51 grabs, 741 yards, eight TD in nine games) at the receiver spots plus tight end Oscar Cardenas (31 catches, 438 yards, two TD) gives Harris plenty of options. Jamal Ligon (88 tackles) and Trey Moore (eight sacks) are back to lead the front seven, while the secondary brings three starters back as well. The Roadrunners are going to be tough to handle in their new conference digs this season.
Longshot: Florida Atlantic (+650)
There aren’t a ton of longshots worth throwing your hat in on the top five teams in the conference fall in at +650 or better, while the drop-off from that point is steep as the next tier of teams come in at a hefty +2500 with more problems than one cares to think about. Tom Herman takes over the program from Willie Taggart and the program returns their top two rushers and two of their top three receivers. The problem may be figuring out who will be at QB after N’Kosi Perry graduates. Daniel Richardson transferred from Central Michigan and hopes to emerge as the starter though Tyriq Starks, Ben Ballard, and Michael Johnson Jr. are all in the mix as well. Running back is deep with Larry McCammon III (1,001 yards, seven TD) and Zuberi Mobley (534 yards, three TD) being joined by Purdue transfer Kobe Lewis. If the defense steps up, with seven of their top eight tacklers from last season back, and the quarterback isn’t an issue, the Owls should be bowling in 2023 and a dark horse contender.
AAC Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) UTSA Over 7.5 Wins (-130)
2) Tulane Over 9.5 Wins (+110)
3) SMU Over 8 Wins (-165)
4) Florida Atlantic Over 7.5 Wins (+125)
5) Memphis Under 7.5 Wins (+125)
6) East Carolina Over 5.5 Wins (+125)
7) North Texas Under 6.5 Wins (-110)
8) Temple Over 5 Wins (-150)
9) Navy Under 6.5 Wins (-125)
10) Tulsa Over 4.5 Wins (-120)
11) UAB Over 5 Wins (-120)
12) Rice Over 4.5 Wins (-115)
13) USF Under 4 Wins (-105)
14) Charlotte Under 2.5 Wins (+140)
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Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Preview
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, at least on paper. Clemson won the ACC title for the seventh time in eight years as they were 8-0 in conference play during the regular season before dropping North Carolina in the ACC title game. That win was sandwiched around losses to South Carolina and then a drubbing at the hands of Tennessee in the Orange Bowl….The big difference this season is there are no divisions: the top two teams in the conference will battle in the conference title game. Florida State had a big season for coach Mike Norvell and bolstered its roster through recruiting and the transfer portal in an effort to build on 2022’s success… North Carolina has Drake Maye running the show offensively and they should be explosive again but the defense has to improve if they hope to contend…..Duke stunned the college football world by winning nine games last season for first-year coach Mike Elko and looks to have success again….. NC State hopes to figure things out offensively as they turn the page after Devin Leary transferred: former Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong takes over the reins this season.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Florida State Seminoles (+165)
Florida State started last season 4-0, highlighted by a 24-23 win over LSU in New Orleans, before dropping three straight games to NC State, Clemson, and Wake Forest. The Seminoles regrouped after that, winning six straight games, including a 35-32 win over Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl, to finish 10-3 and post double-digit wins for the first time since 2016. Florida State averaged 36.1 ppg last season (best in the ACC, 16th in the FBS) and has their triggerman back in Jordan Travis (226 of 353, 3214 yards, 24 TD, five INT) under center. That decision brought back Trey Benson (990 rushing yards, nine TD) and Johnny Wilson (43 catches, 897 yards, five TD) to provide weapons offensively. Defensively, the Seminoles are loaded, led by defensive end Jared Verse and defensive tackle Fabien Lovett. All-ACC cornerback Fentrell Cypress comes in from Virginia and will bolster the secondary, which has plenty of returning starters. If their kicking game woes improve, the Seminoles should earn the conference crown.
Longshot: Duke Blue Devils (+3000)
Duke posted their first winning season since 2018 as the Blue Devils won nine games in the first year of the Mike Elko era in Durham. The Blue Devils made major strides defensively last season, allowing only 22.1 points per game in 2022 after giving up a staggering 39.8 points a game in 2021. Duke brings back plenty of starters on both sides of the ball, led by quarterback Riley Leonard (250 of 392, 2967 yards, 20 TD, six INT, 699 rushing yards, 13 TD) to run the offense. Jalon Calhoun (62 receptions, 873 yards, four TD) and Jordan Moore (60 catches, 656 yards, five TD) provide a stellar 1-2 punch in the passing game. Defensively, Myles Jones (Texas A&M) and Al Blades Jr. (Miami) add experience to the secondary via the transfer portal. The schedule is tough, with a season-opening home game with Clemson plus a home tilt against Notre Dame in September, but they could surprise.
ACC Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Florida State Over 10 Wins (+110)
2) Clemson Over 10 Wins (+105)
3) North Carolina Under 8.5 Wins (-110)
4) Duke Over 6.5 Wins (+130)
5) Miami (FL) Over 7.5 Wins (+120)
6) Pittsburgh Over 7 Wins (-120)
7) NC State Over 6.5 Wins (-145)
8) Louisville Under 8 Wins (-115)
9) Wake Forest Over 6 Wins (-120)
10) Syracuse Under 6.5 Wins (-125)
11) Georgia Tech Over 4.5 Wins (+120)
12) Virginia Tech Under 5 Wins (-105)
13) Boston College Under 5.5 Wins (+100)
14) Virginia Under 3.5 Wins (+100)
Big Ten Preview
Michigan upended Ohio State to win the East Division title for the second straight year and then walloped Iowa in the conference title game. The Wolverines wound up in the CFP, where they were beaten by TCU. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan look primed to build off last season’s success with plenty of returning experience, led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy along with running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards……Ohio State is always a force though Ryan Day has to figure out who will replace C.J. Stroud, who was selected second overall in the 2023 NFL Draft…..Penn State has a solid 1-2 punch on the ground in Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, though they will be starting new at quarterback with Drew Allar…. In the West Division, Wisconsin has its first full season with coach Luke Fickell. The Badgers have a new signal caller as well as SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai takes over the reins under center…..Iowa hopes that ex-Michigan QB Cade McNamara can wake up the offense and help out the nation’s #2 defense from a season ago….Maryland hopes to build off their best season in more than a decade but there are plenty of pieces that need to be replaced if they are to have success in 2023.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Michigan Wolverines (+180)
Admittedly, the three top teams in the conference are all in the East Division, so two of them are automatically eliminated from having a shot at winning the conference title game. Out of those three, Michigan has the fewest question marks, especially with both Ohio State and Penn State entering the season with new starting quarterbacks. McCarthy (208 of 322 passing, 2719 yards, 22 TD, five INT, 306 rushing yards, five TD) runs the offense. Corum (247 carries, 1463 yards, 18 TD) was rolling before suffering a knee injury in week 12 that ended his season. He’ll be paired with Edwards (140 carries, 991 yards, seven TD), who stepped in and contributed after Corum went down. Add three starting offensive linemen back, plus three transfers from the Pac-12 to bolster the O-line, and the Wolverines are going to be good to go. Replacing Mazi Smith on the defensive line will be important but the Wolverines have capable pieces to step in and contribute.
Longshot: Wisconsin Badgers (+650)
Luke Fickell coached Wisconsin in their bowl game last season but this is his first full campaign in Madison after coming over from Cincinnati, where he posted a 57-18 mark in six seasons. That included a berth in the CFP in 2021, where they were dumped by #1 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin will overhaul their offensive thought process this year, as Phil Longo comes in from North Carolina to implement an Air Raid-type of offense. Mordecai (288 of 443, 3524 yards, 33 TD, 10 INT, 100 rushing yards, two TD) comes in from SMU to run the offense and he’s used to that wide-open type of system. Braelon Allen (230 carries, 1242 yards, 11 TD) and Chaz Mellusi (112 carries, 473 yards, two TD) provide production in the run game. Wisconsin has to develop more production from the receiving corps as Chimere Dyke led the team with 47 catches for 689 yards and six scores last season. How Wisconsin responds defensively to Mike Tressel’s 3-3-5 scheme that he ran at Cincinnati will go a long way to determining the Badgers’ fate.
Big Ten Division Winners:
East Division: Michigan Wolverines (+120)
West Division: Wisconsin Badgers (+120)
Big Ten Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Michigan Over 10.5 Wins (-120)
2) Ohio State Over 10.5 Wins (-115)
3) Penn State Over 9.5 Wins (-130)
4) Maryland Over 7 Wins (-105)
5) Michigan State Over 5.5 Wins (+135)
6) Rutgers Over 3.5 Wins (-150)
7) Indiana Under 3.5 Wins (+125)
1) Wisconsin Over 8.5 Wins (-125)
2) Iowa Over 7.5 Wins (-170)
3) Minnesota Over 6.5 Wins (-140)
4) Illinois Under 6.5 Wins (+100)
5) Nebraska Under 6 Wins (+110)
6) Purdue Under 5.5 Wins (-145)
7) Northwestern Under 3.5 Wins (-110)
Big 12 Preview
Talk about a conference in flux and most people would quickly point toward the Big 12 as a prime example. This will be the final year in the conference for Texas and Oklahoma, who will move to the SEC in 2024. To avoid the conference potentially imploding, they added Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF from the AAC while BYU leaves the ranks of the independents to join as well. That means the conference has 14 teams this season before returning to the actual number that the conference boasts in its name next year. Kansas State won the conference title last season, though they have to replace Deuce Vaughn on offense and Felix Anudike-Ozumah on defense…TCU reached the national title game last year but there are a lot of pieces gone from last season’s team. The Horned Frogs have to hope their dive into the transfer portal fills those voids…..Texas Tech can pile up points and yards offensively but they’ll have to find ways to patch up their defense if they hope to contend…. Kansas was a huge surprise last year, earning bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008, but their defense was a major problem that requires an overhaul.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Texas Longhorns (+120)
It would be only fitting for Texas to win their first Big 12 title since 2009 in their final year in the conference. The Longhorns bring back nine starters on offense, including all five starters on the offensive line. That includes Kelvin Banks Jr., who anchored the line at left tackle as a freshman and earned All-American honors. While losing Bijan Robinson is a major blow, the Longhorns have plenty of skill returning in 2023. Quinn Ewers (172 of 296, 2177 yards, 15 TD, six INT) is back under center after starting 10 games last season. He’ll be backed up by Arch Manning, a highly-touted prospect with the lineage to support the hype. With Xavier Worthy (60 catches, 760 yards, nine TD), tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders (54 grabs, 613 yards, five TD), and Jordan Whittington (50 receptions, 652 yards, TD) back in the passing game, there is no shortage of targets. Throw in Georgia transfer AD Mitchell and it’s going to be tough figuring out who to cover. Additions on the defensive side of the ball through the portal should help curtail the big plays Texas allowed that cost them games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State last season.
Longshot: Texas Tech Red Raiders (+1200)
Texas Tech went 8-5 in Joey McGuire’s first season in Lubbock last season and showed a propensity to gamble. Similar to what Kevin Kelley did with Presbyterian, the Red Raiders led the nation in fourth down attempts and conversions in 2022. The Red Raiders bring back a truckload of returning starters on the offensive side, led by Tyler Shough, who is 8-1 as a starting quarterback for the program over the past two years, including winning all five starts last season. If he can avoid the injury bug that has hampered him, Texas Tech has an experienced triggerman. Their offensive line was bolstered by adding Rusty Staats from Western Kentucky, along with the return of Cole Spencer. By adding Staats, Dennis Wilburn kicks inside to his natural right guard spot, solidifying the offensive line. If the Red Raiders can find a way to replace the production lost from Tyree Wilson on the defensive side of the ball, they have enough pieces back where they could surprise some people and make their regular season finale against Texas on November 24th carry a lot of meaning.
Big 12 Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Texas Over 9.5 Wins (-120)
2) Kansas State Over 8.5 Wins (+120)
3) Oklahoma Under 9.5 Wins (-120)
4) TCU Over 7.5 Wins (-130)
5) Texas Tech Over 7.5 Wins (+120)
6) Baylor Over 7 Wins (-130)
7) Kansas Over 6 Wins (-140)
8) Oklahoma State Over 6.5 Wins (+105)
9) UCF Under 6.5 Wins (+145)
10) Houston Over 4.5 Wins (-135)
11) BYU Over 5.5 Wins (-110)
12) Iowa State Under 5.5 Wins (-120)
13) Cincinnati Under 5.5 Wins (-115)
14) West Virginia Under 4.5 Wins (+120)
Conference USA Preview
You wouldn’t be alone in taking a look at Conference USA and wondering if the conference belongs on the side of a milk carton. There was a complete overhaul of the conference’s members in the offseason as UTSA, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, UAB, North Texas, and Rice all left for the AAC. Scrambling for members, the conference brought in New Mexico State and Liberty from the land of independents, while Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State transitioned up from the FCS. Kennesaw State will join on July 1, 2024, giving the conference 10 teams. As for this season, Western Kentucky and their high-octane offense will look to pile up video game numbers again with Austin Reed back under center… Middle Tennessee should be in the mix if Nick Vattiato steps up to replace the production the team got from Chase Cunningham last season at quarterback…. We’ll see what Jamey Chadwell and the Liberty Flames have in their first year in the conference after Chadwell left Coastal Carolina to take the job at Liberty.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (+145)
Western Kentucky doesn’t bring back a ton of starters from a season ago but they do bring back key weapons at skill positions. Austin Reed (389 of 603, 4746 yards, 40 TD, 11 INT, 224 rushing yards, eight TD) flirted with the transfer portal but returned to the Hilltoppers. He led the nation in passing yards and was third in passing touchdowns last season. His #1 target from a year ago, Malachi Corley (101 receptions, 1295 yards, 11 TD) is back to lead the way. There will be no shortage of options for Reed to target, which has been the program’s trademark since Tyson Helton took over the program. If the Hilltoppers can find a few playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll be primed to win the conference title this season.
Longshot: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (+450)
Let’s be honest: once you get past Western Kentucky and Liberty, everyone else is going to be further down the food chain. Middle Tennessee may be the third-best team in the conference but unless they get some production from new faces, it will be a tough time in Murfreesboro for coach Rick Stockstill. Cunningham is gone so Vattiato, who was 30 of 46 passing for 293 yards and an interception, takes over the starting QB role. Four of the team’s top five pass catchers from a season ago are gone as running back Frank Peasant (182 carries, 777 yards, nine TD, 28 catches, 286 yards, two TD) is the top returning threat. Among wide receivers, DJ England-Chisolm (23 grabs, 366 yards, four TD) is the lone returning starter from last season. Replacing Jordan Ferguson and Decorian Patterson on the defensive side of the ball will be important as well. If the offense gets going and they survive a rough opening part of the schedule (they open at Alabama and at Missouri), they could contend if one of the top two teams struggles.
Conference USA Over/Under Regular Season Wins
1) Western Kentucky Over 8.5 Wins (+110)
2) Liberty Under 9 Wins (-120)
3) Middle Tennessee Over 6.5 Wins (-125)
4) New Mexico State Over 5.5 Wins (-120)
5) Louisiana Tech Over 5.5 Wins (-170)
6) UTEP Under 5.5 Wins (-105)
7) FIU Over 3 Wins (-145)
8) Jacksonville State Under 5 Wins (-150)
9) Sam Houston Under 4 Wins (-115)
Mid-American Conference Preview
Unlike some of the other mid-major conferences, the MAC is status quo for 2023 which means there will be plenty of parity as teams battle to play in the conference title game. It also means plenty of MACtion will be on the horizon on Tuesday and Wednesday nights come late October and November. Ohio was a force last season and has Kurtis Rourke back under center to run the offense after winning MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors last season…Toledo brings back a truckload of starters, led by Dequan Finn, as they look to defend their conference title…Miami (OH) hopes that Brett Gabbert can stay healthy to help them stay in the race while teams like Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois try to upset the apple cart and earn a spot in the Motor City for the MAC Championship Game.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Toledo Rockets (+170)
Toledo won the MAC title game last season, besting Ohio 17-7 after dropping their final two regular season games. They followed that up with a 21-19 win over Liberty in the Boca Raton Bowl to end the year 9-5. This seems to be the year the Rockets hit double-digit wins for coach Jason Candle. Besides Finn, who hit 59.7% of his throws last season for 2,260 yards and 23 scores plus rushing for 631 yards along with nine touchdowns, Toledo has running back Jacquez Stuart (134 carries, 770 yards, four TD) back in the mix too. Throw in receivers Jerjuan Newton (53 grabs, 830 yards, nine TD) and Devin Maddox (39 catches, 548 yards, three TD) plus four returning starters on the offensive line and Toledo is poised to explode offensively. With seven returning starters from the conference’s top defense from a year ago, the Rockets are in good shape to repeat as conference champs.
Longshot: Miami (OH) RedHawks (+900)
Miami (OH) struggled last season, finishing 11th in the MAC in offense as the team struggled after Brett Gabbert went down for the season after four games with a broken collarbone. The RedHawks hope that they can keep him upright and healthy as he is in his fifth season with the program. Should he be able to stay on the field, this team is going to be capable of putting together some solid offensive numbers. The RedHawks were 35th in the FBS in scoring defense last season (22.6 ppg), so even getting their offense up to an average performance would be a major improvement. They bring back nine guys that started at least one game on the defensive side of the ball and with a relatively soft road slate in conference play, they have the potential to slip past Ohio and Buffalo to punch their ticket to the MAC title game.
Mid-American Conference Division Winners:
East Division: Miami (OH) RedHawks (+360)
West Division: Toledo Rockets (-110)
Mid-American Conference Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Miami (OH) Over 6.5 Wins (-165)
2) Ohio Over 7 Wins (-145)
3) Buffalo Over 6.5 Wins (-105)
4) Bowling Green Under 5 Wins (-155)
5) Akron Over 3.5 Wins (-140)
6) Kent State Under 2.5 Wins (-120)
1) Toledo Over 9.5 Wins (+135)
2) Northern Illinois Over 6.5 Wins (+135)
3) Eastern Michigan Over 6.5 Wins (-170)
4) Central Michigan Under 5.5 Wins (-115)
5) Ball State Under 4.5 Wins (+130)
6) Western Michigan Under 3.5 Wins (+105)
Mountain West Conference Preview
The Mountain West was a huge disappointment in 2022, mainly due to dismal quarterback play throughout the conference. Of the 10 worst teams in passing efficiency last season at the FBS level, four came from the Mountain West, and six of the bottom 25 were residents of the conference. In addition, the conference went 1-16 in games against Power Five opponents and lost three games to FCS programs. San Diego State seemed poised to try and leave the conference but changed their mind…. Fresno State won the conference title game last season but has to regroup without Jake Haener under center, which thrusts Logan Fife into the spotlight…. Air Force is in a similar situation as quarterback Haaziq Daniels and fullback Brad Roberts are gone, though they have a very good defense……Boise State has plenty of returning pieces on offense but can they get enough help on defense?, Wyoming brings back a ton of starters from last season but they need better performances from the quarterback position after tossing more picks (12) than touchdown passes (11) in 2022.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Boise State Broncos (+165)
This one is a gamble based on the expectation that Taylen Green takes a step or two forward at the quarterback position. He stepped in when Hank Bachmeier entered the transfer portal and went 8-2 as the starter while completing 166 of 271 passes for 2,042 yards with 14 touchdowns against six picks. Green did damage with his legs as well, running for 588 yards and 10 scores. Throw in a two-headed monster in George Holani (221 carries, 1157 yards, 10 TD) and Ashton Jeanty (156 carries, 821 yards, seven TD) at running back along with the team’s top six pass catchers from a season ago back in the mix and the Broncos have the potential to be dangerous offensively. Boise State has some holes to patch on the defensive side of the ball but if their offense lives up to expectations, they should be able to work around those potential problems.
Longshot: Wyoming Cowboys (+1200)
Wyoming has been a team that tends to appear in bowl games under coach Craig Bohl but if the offense improves this season, they could surprise in the Mountain West. The Cowboys were 48th in the FBS in scoring defense last season by allowing 23.9 points per game and bringing back nine starters on that side of the ball. They have an experienced secondary, arguably the top defensive line in the conference and Easton Gibbs (team-leading 121 tackles, nine TFL, three sacks, FF, fumble recovery, TD) back at the middle linebacker spot. Andrew Peasley (52.4% completion rate, 1574 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT, 339 rushing yards, two TD) is back to run the offense. If the Cowboys improve on ranking 122nd in yards per pass attempt and 124th in passing yards per game, they may be able to shock some teams. Adding Harrison Waylee (165 carries, 899 yards, five TD) from Northern Illinois via the transfer portal to team with Dawaiian McNeely (63 carries, 356 yards, TD) and D.Q. James (40 carries, 346 yards) should bolster the run game while replacing the production from the departed Titus Swen.
Mountain West Conference Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Boise State Over 8.5 Wins (+100)
2) Air Force Over 8.5 Wins (+100)
3) Fresno State Over 8 Wins (-145)
4) San Diego State Over 7 Wins (+110)
5) Wyoming Over 6.5 Wins (+105)
6) San Jose State Over 5.5 Wins (-150)
7) UNLV Under 6 Wins (-140)
8) Utah State Under 5.5 Wins (-140)
9) Colorado State Over 4.5 Wins (-135)
10) Hawaii Under 3.5 Wins (-110)
11) Nevada Under 4 Wins (+100)
12) New Mexico Under 3.5 Wins (-105)
Pac-12 Conference Preview
It’s a mixed bag for the Pac-12 this season, depending on which side of the scale you want to look at. On the positive side, you have five teams that won at least 10 games last season with six finishing in the top 21 of the final rankings. The flip side of that equation is that this is the final year that USC and UCLA will be in the conference before they depart for the Big Ten….Washington brings back Michael Penix Jr. to run a high-octane offense while returning their top five pass catchers from a year ago… USC returns the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Caleb Williams as Lincoln Riley tries to bring the Trojans back to the top of the mountain….Oregon has veteran QB Bo Nix along with running back Bucky Irving to lead their offensive charge…. Oregon State has former Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei running the offense now after he transferred after reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 2006… With all those teams, don’t sleep on Utah, the two-time defending Pac-12 champs. Cam Rising is back to run the offense for the Utes and Brant Kuithe looks to step into the big shoes that Dalton Kincaid left when he was a first-round pick in the NFL Draft… Moving the needle in the media but not necessarily in a big way on the field, Colorado hired Deion Sanders as head coach, leading to a mass influx and departure of players through the transfer portal.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Washington Huskies (+340)
Washington was terrific offensively last season in Kaleb DeBoer’s first season running the program. The Huskies were seventh in the FBS in scoring offense as they averaged 39.7 points per game last season. Penix Jr. completed 65.3% of his throws last year for 4,641 yards with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. He gets back the explosive receiver trio of Jalen McMillan (79 catches, 1098 yards, nine TD), Rome Odunze (75 receptions, 1145 yards, seven TD), and Ja’lynn Polk (41 grabs, 694 yards, six TD) to do damage through the air. The Huskies also bring back their top two tight ends Jack Westover and Devin Culp, who combined to catch 60 balls for 608 yards and two scores. If the Huskies’ defense can play like they did down the stretch last season or even improve on that, they’ll be the frontrunners to win the conference crown.
Longshot: Utah Utes (+500)
Kyle Whittingham and the Utes tend to overachieve and that wouldn’t be a major surprise again this season. Utah clobbered USC in the regular season last year and then took them down in the Pac-12 title game last season, so they aren’t intimidated by Riley, Williams, and company. Rising (64.7% completion rate, 3034 yards, 26 TD, eight INT, 465 rushing yards, six TD) is back to run the offense. Devaughn Vele (55 receptions, 695 yards, five TD) is the leading returning receiver and Kuithe (19 grabs, 206 yards, three TD) will get a chance to inherit a big share of the looks that went to Kincaid last season. Utah was solid defensively last year, ranking second in the conference in scoring defense, rushing defense, and total defense. Miles Battle, who transferred in from Ole Miss, will try to replace Clark Phillips at the starting corner spot. The Utes have one of the deepest defensive line groups in the country and that will help make things easier for the back seven when it comes to stopping opposing offenses.
Pac-12 Conference Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Washington Over 9 Wins (-130)
2) USC Over 10 Wins (+100)
3) Utah Over 8.5 Wins (+120)
4) Oregon State Over 8.5 Wins (+120)
5) Oregon Under 9.5 Wins (-120)
6) UCLA Under 8.5 Wins (-105)
7) Washington State Under 6.5 Wins (-165)
8) Arizona Over 5 Wins (+100)
9) Cal Under 5 Wins (+100)
10) Colorado Over 3.5 Wins (+130)
11) Arizona State Under 5 Wins (-160)
12) Stanford Under 3 Wins (-135)
Southeastern Conference Preview
Anyone that hasn’t been under a rock for the past decade knows that the power conference in college football is the SEC. Georgia has won back-to-back CFP titles after obliterating TCU in the national title game last season. Kirby Smart’s team has to reload as Stetson Bennett, along with offensive coordinator Todd Monken, among others, are off to the NFL….. Alabama is in a similar situation as Bryce Young was drafted #1 overall, meaning Nick Saban will have a new signal caller this season. Keeping with that theme, Josh Heupel and Tennessee move on from Hendon Hooker, turning the keys to that explosive offense over to Joe Milton….LSU was solid in Brian Kelly’s first year in Baton Rouge, winning the SEC West and reaching the conference title game. Unlike the previously mentioned trio, the Tigers bring back their quarterback Jayden Daniels. There is a drop-off after that quartet of teams, though it would be no surprise to see one, if not two, of these teams in the mix for the CFP, come late December/early January.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Georgia Bulldogs (-110)
As Ric Flair used to famously say, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” In college football right now, the man that you have to beat is Georgia, who has won back-to-back national titles heading into this season. The Bulldogs may not have Bennett and Monken there this season, though there are plenty of capable replacements to step in and contribute. Mike Bobo, who was the offensive coordinator when Georgia had a similarly explosive offense in 2014, takes over for Monken while Carson Beck is expected to be the starter under center. The Bulldogs have a stable of backs, led by Kendall Milton (86 carries, 590 yards, eight TD) to take some pressure off Beck while he gets up to speed. In the passing game, Ladd McConkey (58 grabs, 762 yards, seven TD) and tight end Brock Bowers (63 receptions, 942 yards, seven TD) provide reliable targets. The defense lost Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, who were both first-round picks, along with Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith, but there are plenty of returning veterans that will keep the Bulldogs’ defense stout. With so much upheaval at the QB position throughout the conference, you have to back the defending champs.
Longshot: LSU Tigers (+450)
While Tennessee (+1600) or Texas A&M (+1300) may be trendy longshot picks, they have their own issues to deal with if they hope to emerge with the conference crown. The Volunteers were leaky defensively last season and going from Hooker to Milton at quarterback, not to mention losing Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman from the receiving corps, means that the Volunteers have work to do in order to show they can contend. Texas A&M brings back eight starters on defense but only four offensively from a team that finished 100th in the FBS in scoring offense last season. That leaves LSU as the most reliable longshot to take the title. The Tigers reached the SEC Championship Game last season, beating Alabama to earn the SEC West title. Jayden Daniels (68.6% completion rate, 2913 yards, 17 TD, three INT, 885 rushing yards, 11 TD) is back for his second year in Baton Rouge to lead the offense. Josh Williams (97 carries, 532 yards, six TD) is the lead back and the Tigers have five players back that caught at least 20 balls a season ago. Malik Nabers (72 grabs, 1017 yards, three TD) is the top target in the passing game. If the Tigers can reload defensively after losing several key contributors, they could be a force. Omar Speights (Oregon State) and Denver Harris (Texas A&M) are a pair of transfers that will be looked at to be major pieces on that side of the ball.
Southeastern Conference Division Winners:
East Division: Georgia Bulldogs (-600)
West Division: Alabama Crimson Tide (-105)
Southeastern Conference Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Georgia Over 11.5 Wins (+120)
2) Tennessee Under 9.5 Wins (-180)
3) Kentucky Over 6.5 Wins (-155)
4) South Carolina Over 6.5 Wins (+115)
5) Missouri Under 5.5 Wins (-135)
6) Florida Under 5.5 Wins (+100)
7) Vanderbilt Over 3.5 Wins (-170)
1) Alabama Over 10.5 Wins (+150)
2) LSU Over 9.5 Wins (-115)
3) Ole Miss Over 7.5 Wins (-105)
4) Texas A&M Under 7.5 Wins (+150)
5) Arkansas Under 7 Wins (-145)
6) Mississippi State Under 6.5 Wins (-145)
7) Auburn Under 6.5 Wins (+115)
Sun Belt Conference Preview
It’s likely that the Sun Belt will be the “Fun Belt” again this season, though there are some changes to take note of ahead of the start of the year. Jamey Chadwell left his coaching job at Coastal Carolina to take the job at Liberty so Tim Beck takes over the reins. The Chanticleers do still have three-time Sun Belt Player of the Year Grayson McCall under center to run the offense…. Appalachian State looks to bounce back after a disappointing 2022 season, though they have to replace two-year starter Chase Brice at QB, along with several skill position players and a pair of all-conference tackles. …James Madison was terrific in their first season at the FBS level though they are ineligible to play in the conference title game due to the transition rule: otherwise, they would have played in the title game last year. Troy rang up a dozen wins last year and has Gunnar Watson back under center…..South Alabama won 10 games a season ago and brings back a lot of starting experience with Carter Bradley under center, La’Damian Webb at running back, and some solid receivers….Georgia Southern was explosive offensively in Clay Helton’s first season in Statesboro but the question will be if Tulsa transfer Davis Brin can produce the numbers that Kyle Vantrease did for the Eagles last season at quarterback.
Conference Championship Game Winner: Troy Trojans (+320)
Troy relied on their defense a season ago, finishing 8th in the FBS by allowing 17.1 points per game and 19th in total defense (326.7 yards per contest) for first-year coach Jon Sumrall. Gunnar Watson (61.5% completion rate, 2818 yards, 14 TD, 12 INT) is back under center but the Trojans will look for him to cut down on the turnovers. Kimani Vidal is the feature back after racking up 231 carries for 1,132 yards and 10 scores last season, giving Watson a decent run game to lean on as well. Troy needs to get production from Jackson Thomas and Mykel Johnson to help out the receiving corps but the defense should be good once again. Greg Gasparato, who was the linebacker coach at Louisville last season, takes over as defensive coordinator this season. That Louisville team led the FBS in sacks last season with 50 and should help bolster the numbers of T.J. Jackson and Richard Jibunor, along with the rest of the front seven.
Longshot: Marshall Thundering Herd (+800)
Marshall finished 9-4 last season, winning their final five games, including a win over Connecticut in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. The Thundering Herd should get a boost offensively with Cam Fancher (55.5% completion rate, 1558 yards, 10 TD, six INT, 466 rushing yards, TD) back with a full offseason to get up to speed under center. Rasheen Ali ran for 1,401 yards and 23 scores in 2021 before missing the majority of last season. With him back and healthy, that should help take pressure off Fancher. Losing Corey Gammage, who transferred to Memphis, hurts, but they do have Talik Keaton and Charles Montgomery back as starting receivers. Defensively, the Thundering Herd was 6th in scoring defense (16 ppg) and 8th in total defense (294.5 ypg) last year while finishing tied for 5th by forcing 29 turnovers. Marshall’s defense will keep them in the thick of things, so if the offense takes a step forward, they could be a force in the Sun Belt’s East Division.
Sun Belt Conference Division Winners
East Division: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (+150)
West Division: Troy Trojans (+170)
Sun Belt Conference Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Coastal Carolina Over 8 Wins (+105)
2) Marshall Over 7 Wins (-115)
3) James Madison Over 6.5 Wins (-125)
4) Appalachian State Over 6.5 Wins (-115)
5) Georgia Southern Under 6 Wins (-120)
6) Georgia State Under 5.5 Wins (-155)
7) Old Dominion Under 3.5 Wins (-105)
1) Troy Over 8 Wins (-165)
2) South Alabama Over 8 Wins (-105)
3) Southern Miss Over 5 Wins (+100)
4) Louisiana Over 6.5 Wins (-165)
5) Arkansas State Under 4.5 Wins (+100)
6) Texas State Under 4.5 Wins (-160)
7) ULM Under 3.5 Wins (-165)
Independents Season Preview
The field of independents thinned out after last season as BYU moves to the Big 12 while Liberty joins Conference USA in 2023. That leaves us just four independent teams for 2023 and one can argue that at least three of them are worth talking about in some form or fashion. Notre Dame saw Tommy Rees, their offensive coordinator, and Drew Buchner, their starting QB last season, move to Tuscaloosa to work with Nick Saban. In addition, Drew Pyne transferred to Arizona State. Gerad Parker, who used to be the offensive coordinator at West Virginia, takes over the reins while former Wake Forest star QB Sam Hartman will run the offense this year. That should help the passing game, especially vertically, this season…. UConn surprised the college football world as they went 6-7 in Jim Mora Jr.’s first year running the program. The Huskies reached a bowl game for the first time since 2015 but they have to find some receivers to help out the offense…. Army changes things up this season for coach Jeff Monken as they are transitioning from the triple option offense that we’re used to seeing from the service academies to more of a shotgun style. Whether they have the pieces or not remains to be seen. Finally, there is UMass, who was dead last in the FBS in scoring offense (12.5 ppg) last season en route to a 1-11 campaign. The Minutemen bring back plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball but they have to find some offense if they hope to improve this season.
Top Team: Notre Dame to Win National Championship (+2800)
Notre Dame had their struggles early last season as injuries took a toll. The Fighting Irish started 0-2 with losses at Ohio State and at home to Marshall, then lost at home to Stanford to fall to 3-3 on the year. Notre Dame regrouped, winning six of their last seven games to finish 9-4, capped by a win in the Gator Bowl over South Carolina. Now, with Buchner and Pyne gone, Hartman slots in to run the offense. He’ll miss the tight end, Michael Mayer, so Jayden Thomas (25 receptions, 361 yards, three TD) and Chris Tyree (24 grabs, 138 yards, two TD, 100 carries, 444 yards, three TD) will be more involved. Al Golden hopes that he can get the defense to tighten up in the red zone this season. They were 36th against the run, 38th in scoring defense (23 ppg), 23rd against the pass, and 21st in total defense last season. If they can limit the damage in the red zone, the Fighting Irish could be tough. A home game against Ohio State along with a road trip to Clemson dot the schedule this season.
Let’s be perfectly honest: with just four teams in the independent field, there is no such thing as a longshot that is worth chasing after in relation to winning the national title. Army is the best remaining team in the field and they are going off at a staggering +200,000 to win the national championship. UConn (+500,000) showed a lot of improvement last season but there are still plenty of holes to patch up to be considered relevant on the national scale. Meanwhile, UMass (+1,000,000) won just one game last season and hasn’t won more than a single game in a year going back to 2018, when they were 4-8. Save your money here as opposed to burning it by taking a long shot out of this field.
Independents Over/Under Regular Season Win Totals
1) Notre Dame Under 9 Wins (-160)
2) UConn Over 5 Wins (-110)
3) Army Under 6 Wins (-105)
4) UMass Under 2 Wins (+105)