These win totals were released on August 22nd, 2017. The market values are from Bookmaker.
Alabama under 11, -126
I’ve already written about Alabama and the one thing that will go wrong for them this season (no chance they score 15 touchdowns on defense and special teams again this season.)
However, when I was writing that piece, I noticed that my preseason numbers tend to underrate Alabama each season. The model assumes regression to the mean, and this affects a top ranked team Alabama the most. However, Nick Saban usually defies this statistical law.
I hesitated a bit on Alabama under 11 because of this. Still, I like under 11 wins since a team has zero room for error in going over; they must win all 12 of their games.
So, I raised Alabama’s rating above my the prediction of my preseason model to assume the best possible case for the Crimson Tide. Then I used the implied win probabilities in each game to simulate the season.
When you assume Alabama is 2.5 points better than my preseason model expects, they go over 11 wins on 19.3% of simulations but under 11 wins 45.3% of the time. There’s a 35.4% chance of 11 wins, which strongly suggests a good chance to push.
When you assume Alabama is 4.5 points better than my preseason model expects, now they go over 11 wins on 26.1% of simulations but under 11 wins 35.5% of the time. There’s a 38.4% chance of 11 wins.
Even with some drastic assumptions of good luck for Alabama this season, it will be difficult for them win all of their games. They have Florida State to open the season, and they play a SEC schedule that ends with a trip to Auburn.
I see value in Alabama under 11 wins, but there is a good chance of a push.
LSU under 9, -118
With LSU at 9 wins in the markets and expected wins of 7.8 by my model, this looks a good situation to take the under.
Looking at the schedule also seems to favor the under. They travel to Alabama, a place they’re unlikely to win. Then they have another 7 games in the toss up category (at Mississippi State, at Florida, Auburn, at Ole Miss, at Tennessee and Texas A&M). They would need to win 5 of these 7 games and not drop another game to win 9 games, a tall order.
You should also consider factors that the model doesn’t consider, like coaching changes or the quality of players who have left. If these also suggest under, then it should give you more confidence. Let’s look at these factors for LSU.
First, they have an iffy quarterback situation. Purdue transfer Danny Etling took over from Brandon Harris but only completed 59.5% of his passes, just below FBS average. We’ll see how new OC Matt Canada, who had an amazing year with Pittsburgh last season, handles the QB.
Second, LSU lost 8 of their top 9 tackles for loss guys on defense, which suggests a mass exodus of talent on that side of the ball. LSU recruits well and should find suitable replacements, but this is a cause for worry on a defense that has been elite.
Last, LSU hired coach Ed Orgeron, a baffling choice given his 3-21 record in SEC games as head coach at Ole Miss. Can he sustain the level of this program? I have my doubts.
Michigan State under 6, -132
The Spartans had an awful 3-9 season in 2016, and this year looks even worse. They return only 9 starters, and also lost another 3 players due to sexual assault charges. One of those players, Donnie Corley, would have been the primary receiving target this season.
In the most optimistic scenario, let’s say they beat Bowling Green. They have about a 60% chance to beat Maryland and Rutgers, so they probably win one of these games.
Indiana and Western Michigan look like 50-50 type games, so we’ll give them one of two, which brings us to 3 wins. Their win probability for another 5 games ranges from 22% to 36% (Notre Dame, Iowa, at Minnesota, at Northwestern, Penn State). They’d have to win three of those five to get to 6 wins.
If you think Michigan State will win 6 games, you strongly believe in coach Mark Dantonio. I respect the man’s coaching abilities, but we do need to put his successful seasons in perspective.
Michigan State had a great run from 2013 to 2015. They won 36 games, a Rose Bowl and made a college football playoff. But these teams were led by the best QB and offensive tackle in program history (Connor Cook and Jack Conklin respectively), neither of who came in as a big recruit.
For Michigan State to rise to the top 10 again, they’ll need a similar injection of talent. This is easier to do when you recruit like Ohio State. It’s harder to rebuild with Michigan State’s recruiting, whose best class was 18th in 2016 according to Rivals.
For 2017, Michigan State would be thrilled to crack the top 40 in the nation. They’ll need to do so in order to win 6 games.