As we step further in the summer, it looks increasingly likely there will be a college football season — as long as the plans in place ensure health and safety for both players and fans alike.
It feels like time to go over some season projects and compare them to team win totals currently offered by sportsbooks. It can be tough to find a variety of lines at this stage, especially because an abbreviated or adjusted season will lead to all of these bets being returned altogether. But it's still important to measure our expectation against the public's and see where there's a winning edge to exploit.
Here are my three over bets for college football programs in 2020 with the most riding on them, and why I think those are the best figures to attack this year.
Tennessee: OVER 7.5
Woe is the man who relies on Tennessee in the last decade. The Volunteers haven't put up double-digit regular-season wins since 2003 and are on their fourth head coach since. Jeremy Pruitt did well to push Tennessee to seven wins last season, though the Vols ended the year a much better team than that record would indicate. Things were dark after an opening-season faceplant against Georgia State and the subsequent last-minute choke against BYU. But the Vols ended the season going 7-3, rallying through the nightmare stretch of Florida, Georgia and Alabama to win their last four SEC games and qualify for a bowl.
The offense lost starting receivers in Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings, but they didn't succeed during that final stretch through the air. They did it on the ground with runners Ty Chandler, Eric Gray and Tim Jordan all grabbing 100 carries apiece; all three are returning for the 2020 season. Jarrett Guarantano, an experienced redshirt senior quarterback, is also a threat with his legs and, if he stays healthier across 2020, will provide more value as a runner. The offensive line also has a good shot of stepping forward with the running game as a whole with transfer Cade Mays likely to win a starting job on the inside and star guard Trey Smith hopefully healthy for an entire offseason.
If you trust Pruitt's leadership and defense and the rushing attack, Tennessee figures to be exactly what it was last season — just without the knucklehead early losses. The Vols catch Alabama and Florida at home this year with Georgia on the road late and Oklahoma on the road early as a gnarly out of conference game. Of course, the SEC is 13-6 against the Big 12 this decade, and Tennessee has the size and strength on offense to keep Oklahoma's offense on the sideline. I wouldn't count that one as an easy loss nor would I be quick to count Tennessee out of the Florida or Alabama games.
But even if you did, the Volunteers get Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Vanderbilt on their SEC slate. The Vols should be good for eight wins this season even if they underachieve, and if they take a step forward, they should be competitive with their top opponents as well.
Ohio Bobcats: OVER 5.5
In 2019, Frank Solich completed his fifteenth season as the coach at Ohio. It wasn't the MAC-winning season that many had hoped for, but it was a 6-6 performance and a bowl berth — a fifth consecutive bowl berth and 10th in the last 11 seasons.
That's right: Ohio has been to bowls in every season since 2009 save for one year, which was 2014. In that year, they went 6-6 in the regular season. The last time a Solich-led Bobcat team failed to hit six wins was in 2008, his fourth year on the job. It's only happened twice in his entire tenure.
There's reason to trust Solich on this number just by virtue of his long-standing success. But the context this year is good as well. The MAC isn't particularly scary looking into 2020, with the largest win total sitting at 7.5 for Buffalo, which Ohio gets at home this year. Ohio also catches an average Marshall team, a bad Texas State team and NC Central on its out-of-conference schedule with a Week 2 meeting against Power 5 Boston College — sporting a new head coach and quarterback — not looking particularly fearsome either.
With NC Central, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Texas State and Bowling Green all on the schedule, it's tough to see Ohio at anywhere less than five wins. The team returns almost all of its starters on defense, the primary ball-carriers and most of its leading receivers from last season. The only significant departure is quarterback Nathan Rourke, who was about as fun as Tuesday night football got for multiple seasons starting for Solich. The main thing they need is an equivalent running threat, and freshman C.J. Harris has the legs for the job, should he win the starting role.
Ride the history of Solich here.
Georgia Tech: OVER 2.5
This is an extremely disrespectful line, but that just means there’s money to be made.
No, Georgia Tech has not been good in recent years. But Geoff Collins has been a successful builder of defenses for many seasons now, and that starts not with tremendous on-field designs, which he has, but with recruiting. Collins brought in a top-30 class for Georgia Tech this past season, making it one of the best classes Georgia Tech football has ever seen. The headliner: 4-star running Jahmyr Gibbs, who joins an already talented backfield to help give the Yellow Jackets some consistency on offense.
Tech will be in its second year in a non-triple option offense, and the lack of a traditional spring ball schedule hurts that transition. But the offense will still be leaps and bounds better in Year 2 than in Year 1, with returning starters at basically every position (though they need to pick a starting quarterback and stick with him), and the defense showed in flashes what they can do if they just got more talent.
Georgia Tech's line is enticing, but its schedule is scary. It brings in UCF and Notre Dame for out of conference games and faces an ever-weird ACC heavy on early road games against UNC, Virginia Tech, Pitt and Syracuse. With one gimme win over Gardner-Webb, Tech needs to pull two conference wins out, or surprise UCF, to hit at least three wins.
But nobody below Clemson in the ACC looks particularly fearsome this year, and with Tech expected to take a step forward, grabbing a few wins out of the tangled mess of middling ACC teams shouldn't be that difficult, especially when you consider the flexible game planning and high-energy underdogs of Geoff Collins and the programs/units he's ran. There's a reason for hope in Atlanta.