The various sportsbooks won't release college football win totals for the 2015 season for several months, but that doesn't mean we at SBR can't project for some contenders. Here a guesstimate on six big-time programs and their NCAA title odds.
Ohio State: 11.5 Wins
It's important to remember that when win totals are released, they are for regular-season games only, not conference title games or bowls. So let's start with defending national champion Ohio State, which is the +400 favorite on NCAA football odds to repeat next season at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Let's hope next season's NCAA title game there is as good as the Super Bowl was. Coach Urban Meyer brings back 15 starters, led by his three quarterbacks (technically Braxton Miller wouldn't be considered a starter) and star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State will be a favorite in all 12 regular-season games without question. I only see three that could be a potential loss (barring major injury): Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech, Nov. 21 vs. Michigan State and Nov. 28 at Michigan.
NCAAF Free Pick: I'd go 'under' here. I can see OSU losing a game, but even 11-1 and winning the Big Ten Championship Game should be enough to get the Buckeyes back to the College Football Playoff.
Oregon: 10.5 Wins
The Ducks have the biggest single hole to fill in college football, that of departed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. Know this now: I would change my prediction of Oregon's 2015 season if Ohio State's Braxton Miller does transfer there, which has been rumored (among a few other spots). The Ducks bring back 12 starters in all, seven on offense. There's still a ton of talent at receiver and running back on that side of the ball and the system seems to make good quarterbacks as opposed to vice versa. I see five potential losses on the Oregon schedule: Sept. 12 at Michigan State, Oct. 17 at Washington, Oct. 29 at Arizona State, Nov. 14 at Stanford and Nov. 21 vs. USC. That's a tough slate. Oregon is +2700 at sportsbooks to win the 2015 College Football Playoff.
NCAAF Free Pick: I like 'under' here, with losses at Michigan State and Stanford at a minimum.
Alabama: 10.5 Wins
The Tide just welcomed the top-rated recruiting class for the fourth straight season on Wednesday's National Signing Day, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment. So this program isn't going anywhere anytime soon unless Nick Saban retires or tries the NFL again. Alabama brings back just 11 starters and only four on offense. Star receiver Amari Cooper, quarterback Blake Sims and running back T.Y. Yeldon are the significant losses on that side of the ball. Go ahead and mark down a 4-0 record for Alabama out of conference (sorry, Wisconsin isn't upsetting the Tide in the opener). What SEC games could the Tide lose? I would say Oct. 10 at Georgia, Nov. 7 vs. LSU and Nov. 28 at Auburn. Maybe Oct. 17 at Texas A&M. Alabama is +800 on NCAA football odds to win the playoff.
NCAAF Free Pick: I hope this isn't listed at 10 because I'd push there as I expect a 10-2 record. Thus if it's 10.5 I would go 'under.'
Florida State: 10 Wins
The Seminoles have to replace one of the best quarterbacks in school history in Jameis Winston plus one of the best receivers in Rashad Greene. In total, 11 starters are back and only four on offense. FSU also has been rumored as a possible transfer location for Miller and that would alter my outlook on the Noles. For now let's assume it's Sean Maguire under center. Non-conference, FSU has three sure wins against cupcakes and a potential test to close the regular season at Florida. Potential ACC losses are Oct. 10 vs. Miami. Oct. 24 at Georgia Tech and Nov. 7 at Clemson. FSU is +3500 on NCAA football odds for the national title.
NCAAF Free Pick: It looks like a slight rebuilding year. I see a 9-3 record so go 'under.'
TCU: 11 Wins
The Frogs of course have the biggest beef for being left out of the playoff and they made their case to the committee by wiping out Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. TCU is bringing back 14 starters, led by the preseason Heisman favorite in quarterback Trevone Boykin. I fully expect an unbeaten non-conference schedule as the only slight test is the opener at Minnesota. So possible Big 12 losses are: Oct. 10 at Kansas State, Nov. 7 at Oklahoma State, Nov. 21 vs. at Oklahoma and Nov. 27 vs. Baylor. TCU is +800 on NCAA football odds to win the playoff.
NCAAF Free Pick: I think the Big 12 was overrated this past season so TCU's success was too. Still a very good team and likely to be ranked No. 2 in the polls, but I don't see more than 10 wins and possibly a 9-3 mark. So 'under.'
Michigan: 8.5 Wins
Why include the Wolverines with five national title contenders? Because this total already has been posted. The good news is Michigan is expecting back 16 starters and now has one of the best football coaches on the planet in Jim Harbaugh. The bad news is that you might not want 16 starters back from a team that went 5-7 and was one of the worst in the nation offensively. As for the schedule, I expect these losses: Sept. 3 at Utah, Oct. 17 vs. Michigan State, Nov. 21 at Penn State and Nov. 28 vs. Ohio State. I could see a loss at Maryland and/or Minnesota.
NCAAF Free Pick: Harbaugh will get UM to title contention, but it will take a few years. Go 'under.'