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Alabama, Clemson atop college football win totals; 7 best bets

Updated July 17, 2021 - 7:50 am

First-round draft picks come and go, but Alabama and Clemson continue to dominate college football.

The defending national champion Crimson Tide lost a record-tying six first-round selections in the 2021 NFL draft and the Tigers lost No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence. But oddsmakers don’t expect the perennial powerhouses to miss a beat this season.

BetMGM sportsbook has posted regular-season win totals on 115 FBS schools, and Alabama and Clemson top the list with 11½ wins each.

Ohio State and Oklahoma are tied for third at 11 wins apiece, and Georgia is fifth at 10½.

On the flip side, UNLV is tied with Kansas and Louisiana-Monroe for the lowest win total on the board at 1½ each.

Sharp plays

“Most of the action is from professionals,” MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback said. “If you take significant action on a smaller school, that’s usually not a good sign. We don’t get a lot of public play on them.”

Stoneback said MGM has taken sharp bets on a handful of teams, including Buffalo to go under its total, which has dropped from 8 (under -110) to 7½ (u-120).

MGM also has taken sharp money on Miami, Florida, under 9½ (-115 to -145); Oregon State over 4½ (even to -120); Texas-El Paso over 2½ (-110 to -125); Stanford over 4 (-120 to -130); and Kentucky over 7 (-115 to -125).

Best bets

Here are the seven best bets on the board, per pro sports bettor Paul Stone and handicappers Bruce Marshall and Christopher Smith.

Stone recommends going under the totals posted for two Power Five schools.

Tennessee under 6

“Tennessee has reportedly lost 25 players to the transfer portal, faces potential NCAA sanctions and has a first-year coach in Josh Heupel,” said Stone (@PaulStoneSports). “The Vols do have three gimmes on their nonconference schedule in Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech and South Alabama, but they will only be favored in two other games, in my opinion.”

Colorado under 4½

Colorado will face one of college football’s most difficult schedules, according to Stone.

“Other than a season-opening slam dunk against Northern Colorado, the Buffaloes may only be favored in two other games, at home against Arizona and Oregon State,” he said. “I didn’t think Colorado was reaching five wins before the summer, and now last year’s starting quarterback, Sam Noyer, has announced that he is transferring to Oregon State. It’s really difficult to see five wins on its schedule.”

Marshall likes three teams to surpass their totals.

Texas over 8

“Texas is too low at 8. Their nonconference schedule is not that difficult, and (new coach Steve) Sarkisian will do fine,” said Marshall (Goldsheet.com). “They were a couple plays from being unbeaten last year.”

Air Force over 6½

“I respect coach Troy Calhoun. They were OK last year in a compressed season, and their whole defense was out because of military turnbacks,” Marshall said. “Almost all of their guys that were projected to start last year are back, plus the guys that did start are back on defense. That’s usually a good recipe for a good Air Force team, when their defense is solid.

“They led the nation in rushing again last year, and I don’t think the Mountain West is that strong.”

Rice over 6

Marshall praised Owls coach Mike Bloomgren and noted that former Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey, Christian McCaffrey’s younger brother, has transferred to Rice.

“They were really close to winning every game last year. They went to Marshall and threw a shutout,” Marshall said. “This is the best Rice defense I’ve seen in 40 years, and (Conference USA) is not all that good. I think they’ll win seven or eight games.”

Smith likes two Power Five teams to go over their total.

Texas Christian over 7½

“The Horned Frogs will challenge for a spot in the Big 12 title game behind quarterback Max Duggan and a resurgent defense led by a strong pass rush,” said Smith (@CFBlocksmith). “If a few skill players emerge, I think nine or 10 wins is very possible.”

Louisville over 6½

“The Cardinals were unlucky in 2020, losing all four of their one-possession games, sporting a -12 turnover margin and ranking near the bottom in field position,” Smith said. “Then Louisville lost a lot of players and watched its head coach talk to South Carolina. I think they’re now undervalued in the market.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.