Finding Betting Value in College Football's Biggest Underdogs

Matthew Jordan

Friday, August 8, 2014 6:46 AM GMT

There's nothing more embarrassing  for a college football program than to go winless in conference play. Six teams from Power 5 conferences "accomplished" that feat in 2013. Here's a look at the NCAA football win total odds for each this season.

NC State (5.5 wins, 'Over' a -130 favorite on NCAA football odds)
The first season under Coach Dave Doeren definitely didn't go as expected as the Wolfpack dropped from seven wins and a bowl appearance in Tom O'Brien's final season to the school's worst record (3-9 overall, 0-8 ACC) since 2006, the final year under Coach Chuck Amato. NC State went winless in the ACC for the first time since 1959. Really NC State only played terribly in two of those eight ACC defeats. That club didn't have a legit No. 1 quarterback, but this year's should in Florida transfer and former top recruit Jacoby Brissett. Leading rusher Shadrach Thornton is back. He was recently reinstated to the team following an indefinite suspension. Frankly, NC State might start 4-0. Here's the Wolfpack's non-conference schedule: Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, at South Florida, Presbyterian. That has to rank as one of the most ridiculous non-conference schedules in the nation. Win all those and NC State only needs to win two in conference to go 'over.' It should beat Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in Raleigh.
College Football Pick: 'Over.'

 

Virginia (3.5 wins, 'Under' a -140 favorite at sportsbooks)
This program looked on the rise in 2011 when it improved from four wins to eight in Coach Mike London's second season. However, another four-win season followed in 2012 and then just two last year (fewest since 1982), including 0-8 in the ACC. London probably is on the hottest seat in the conference entering 2014. The good news is that 16 starters are back, including leading rusher Kevin Parks (1,031 yards, 11 TDs). David Watford was lousy at QB last year, now it's top recruit Grayson Lambert's job. UVA is likely to go 2-2 out of conference: lose to UCLA and at BYU but win at home vs. Richmond and Kent State. Are there two wins in the ACC? Maybe home vs. Pittsburgh, but other than that? College Football Pick: 'Under.'

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Purdue (3.5 wins, 'Over' a -140 favorite on NCAA football odds)
The Boilermakers were never a powerhouse, but it was surprising to see them sink to a school-worst 1-11 record last season under first-year head coach Darrell Hazell. The defense allowed a school-record 456 points and the offense's 179 were the fewest in a 12-game season. That scoring differential of minus-277 was one of the worst in Big Ten history. Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? A total of 13 starters are due back, led by sophomore QB Danny Etling, who showed some promise being thrown to the wolves in 2013. The schedule is nice in that Purdue won't play a true road game until its sixth game -- the Sept. 13 matchup vs. Notre Dame is in Indianapolis. The Boilers will be favored in three of those four: Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Southern Illinois (Iowa is the other). Assuming the Boilers win those three, is there a Big Ten win in there? Most likely yes, perhaps at Illinois, home to Northwestern or at Indiana.
College Football Pick: 'Over.'

 

California (2.5 wins, 'Over' -140 favorite at sportsbooks)
Remember when Cal used to be a pretty good team under Jeff Tedford? Those days are long gone. The Bears finished 1-11 last season under first-year coach Sonny Dykes -- 10 of those losses were by at least two touchdowns and the lone win was against little Portland State. The defense was the worst in school history, allowing 45.9 points per game, 125th in the nation. Every team scored at least 30. The passing game under QB Jared Goff was actually good (No. 11 nationally), and he's one of eight offensive starters back. Cal likely will open with a loss at Northwestern but then beat Sacramento State before starting Pac-12 play. I only see one victory there: Sept. 27 against Colorado. The season ends with a non-conference game at home vs. BYU. That could be the swing game for the 'over/under' 2.5.
College Football Pick: 'Under' at +110.

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Kentucky (3.5 wins, 'Over' -175 favorite on NCAA football odds)
When is basketball season? If coach Mark Stoops keeps recruiting as he has, this program won't be terrible too much longer. Only two of UK's eight conference losses in 2013 were by a touchdown or less. The Cats just have the misfortune of playing in the nation's toughest league. Stoops welcomes back 16 starters, eight on each side of the ball. Stoops still has to settle on a quarterback. Incumbent Maxwell Smith missed the spring after offseason shoulder surgery. UK does have a nice stable of backs in Braylon Heard, Jojo Kemp, Josh Clemons and Mikel Horton but the team wants to run an up-tempo offense. Kentucky will open with back-to-back home wins over UT Martin and Ohio before visiting Florida on Sept. 13. The Cats also have a home non-conference game Oct. 11 against UL Monroe, so that's three wins. Is there a fourth? Probably has to be at home vs. Vanderbilt on Sept. 27.
College Football Pick: 'Over.'

 

Arkansas (4.5 wins, 'Over' -130 favorite at sportsbooks)
If these six teams faced off in a round-robin tournament, the Hogs would win it. I guarantee you that the other SEC coaches got a kick out of the Razorbacks' 0-8 league mark last year because coach Bret Bielema used to whine about the SEC when he was at Wisconsin. He got a rude awakening to how much better the SEC is than the Big Ten last year in his first season as the Arkansas coach. The Hogs did play better toward the end of the season, losing by a touchdown or less to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and at LSU. The Razorbacks have one of the SEC's best backfields with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams returning. QB Brandon Allen also is back, but he was inconsistent in 2013. The Hogs open  at Auburn and could give the Tigers trouble depending on how long Auburn QB Nick Marshall is suspended. Right now we only know he won't start. I project a 3-1 record in non-conference play: win  vs. Nicholls State, loss at Texas Tech, win vs. Northern Illinois, win vs. UAB. So are there two SEC victories on the schedule? I don't see it. The other three non-home games are Texas A&M (Arlington), at Mississippi State and at Missouri. Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss all visit Fayetteville. Four very good teams.
College Football Pick: 'Under' at +100.