Don't look now, but the college-football season is only a few weeks away, and the only thing that I can think of more popular than football is gambling.
As the 2012 season draws closer, Vegas is starting to get a feel for how the season will play out and has begun to release various lines and bets that are open for action.
One popular bet for college teams is the over-under on how many wins a team will have during the regular season. According the numbers provided by Bovada Sportsbook, here's a look at what I would be doing with my money based on the number set for each BCS team.
With the number set at 5.5, the Wildcats' schedule continues to be unforgiving. Along with a tough schedule, Arizona is transitioning to a new coach and a new quarterback and will likely be a five-win team in 2012.
Take the under.
Arizona State suffered losses on both sides of the ball and failed to cash in on the talent it had in 2011. This year, Todd Graham takes over a program that needs to reload.
Despite the turnover, look for this to be a push, as there are enough winnable games on the Sun Devils' schedule to get them to five wins.
While Cal may be on a decline, it is still good enough to win seven games based on its schedule this year. The defense is solid and can cause issues for some of the inferior teams in the Pac-12, but don't be surprised if Jeff Tedford still gets the ax.
While the line is currently not available, that doesn't mean there's no advice on the Buffaloes. Last year, Colorado struggled in the Pac-12, and not much will change in 2012. Not only is the conference schedule tough, but they don't have the easiest road out of conference.
I am going to set the line at 2.5 and if that ends up being the case, take the under.
This is a well-placed line because many believe the Ducks' only regular-season loss will be to USC. Oregon has some questions to answer at quarterback, and while the team has been able to transition well, it is always scary until you see how it performs on the field.
With a strong defense and a proven system on offense, take the over despite the changes—and don't be surprised if the Ducks find a way to defeat USC on the road.
In my opinion, this number is set way too high. The Beavers are still looking for answers on both sides of the ball and are not ready to be a five-win team. Take the under, and do not be surprised if the Beavers finish with less than two or three wins.
While many people in the media appear to be sold on Stanford being okay without Andrew Luck, Vegas clearly is not. The Cardinals will have to win a big road game to reach more than seven wins, and I tend to agree with Vegas in believing that the defense is not good enough to help this team make it there. Take the under.
In 2012, Jim Mora is taking over and the fans at UCLA are hoping things will begin to change. The Bruins earned themselves six wins last year, but don't expect that again in Mora's first season.
Take the under, and understand that Mora will need more than a few months to turn this program around.
Many believe the only chance of a loss in the regular season will be against Oregon. What Vegas is asking you is whether the Trojans can lose twice this year.
Unless the Trojans lose focus against a lesser team, 10.5 should be no issue. Take the over.
Utah appears to be the only strong contender in the Pac-12 South. While the number has not been set, I would place it at 8.5.
Utah enters the year with solid play on both sides of the ball and should be a team that can pull off a nine-win season unless it gets off to another slow start—like 2011.
Washington has the offense to get the job done in 2012, but the defense looks to be just as bad as it was last year. Due to the fact that the Huskies will have to lean on the offense all year long, look for Washington to push on a seven-win line.
This is the year the Cougars are bowl bound, and yes, that means they will cover this number. With new head coach Mike Leach running the offense and Jeff Tuel under center, the Cougars should ride an easy out-of-conference schedule to a six-win season.
Boston College is slowly taking steps backwards, and after losing some key players from the defense last year, this season will be another step in the wrong direction for the Eagles. Based on their schedule, the line of 5.5 wins appears to be high, so take the under and cheer on the rest of the ACC.
Lines like this make you wonder what Vegas knows that you don't. Clemson has the talent and ability to clear this number without issues. With a potent offense and solid defense, expect to see Clemson above the nine-win mark and back in the ACC title game.
Duke is a team that can get streaky, but does not have the talent to maintain it for more than two or three games. Based on the out-of-conference schedule, the Blue Devils are in for another long season.
Counting on Duke winning four games is a stretch. Take the under.
For the past couple of years, Florida State has come into the season with high expectations and failed to deliver. While the talent is still there, a gut feeling tells me the Seminoles are heading for a nine-win season.
Take the under based on past failures.
Georgia Tech has a rough road ahead of it in 2012. Along with their conference schedule, the Yellow Jackets play Georgia in their rivalry game at the end of the year. With the way that the Georgia Tech offense is set up, if they fall behind teams like Clemson and Virginia Tech, they'll be in trouble.
Eight seems to be an appropriate number based on the schedule, so look for a push in 2012.
Losing Danny O'Brien is something that will hurt for a while this year. Randy Edsall is in his second year with Maryland, and as bad as 2011 went, expect more of the same in 2012. Take the under, as the Terps may struggle to even get three wins.
Miami is a team that is going to live and die with its defense in 2012. The out-of-conference schedule includes Notre Dame and Kansas State, as well as in-conference games against Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Don't expect a great year from the Hurricanes, as they'll likely finish below the seven-win mark.
Another team currently without a line for the season is NC State. Last year, new starter Mike Glennon led the offense and had a good year filling in for Russell Wilson.
In 2012, the Wolfpack should have a good offense and a strong defense, so look for them to finish the season with eight wins. Adjust your bets accordingly.
Larry Fedora has been brought on as head coach this year and needs to work on building the depth of the Tar Heel roster. This year, the offense and defense could struggle due to the lack of depth, and this will result in them coming in below the 7.5-win line—and maybe even missing out on a bowl game.
Despite a strong showing in 2011, the Cavaliers are starting the season with a 6.5-win line. Mike London is doing a great job at Virginia, but their out-of-conference schedule includes games against Penn State, TCU and Louisiana Tech.
While the schedule is a lot tougher this year, look for Virginia to slide in at about seven wins—right over the line.
The two games on the schedule that appear to be a challenge for Virginia Tech will be against Florida State and Clemson. Beyond those two games, the Hokies should have no issues sweeping through the rest of their schedule and finishing the season with a minimum of 10 wins—and covering the line.
In 2011, Wake Forest got off to a quick start and reached five wins. This year, the schedule is not going to allow that to happen again. While there currently is no line, the Demon Deacons should finish around the five- or six-win mark. So if they set the line at 5.5, it will be time to break out your lucky coin.
Nobody, including Vegas, knows what to expect out of Baylor this year. Last year, the success of the team largely depended on the play of Robert Griffin III, but he's in the NFL now. Based on the schedule, it would be hard to imagine the Bears finishing the year with more than six wins, so take the under even if it's set at 5.5.
Iowa State is another team that does not have a current line on it. This year, the Big 12 got a lot stronger with the addition of TCU and West Virginia, pushing teams like Iowa State further down.
Based on the schedule and returning talent—or lack thereof—the Cyclones' best-case scenario this year would be a five-win season, but it's more likely to be four.
To put it simply, Kansas was dreadful last year. The Jayhawks don't have a line right now, but Vegas would have to set it at 1.5 to get any sort of action.
They start the season against South Dakota State—a winnable game—but beyond that, there isn't a whole lot for their fans to look forward to in 2012.
Last year, Collin Klein led the Wildcats to a breakout season. Despite the Big 12 picking up two new teams this year, Kansas State should remain in the thick of things in the conference.
Cushioned by their relatively easy out-of-conference schedule, the Wildcats should have little issue getting to eight wins this year.
Coming into this season, Oklahoma is receiving a lot of national attention. While the Sooners should be a great team this year, the way things ended in 2011 and their offensive struggles are concerning.
With the addition of West Virginia and TCU to the conference schedule, look for the Sooners to have a great season, but end up pushing the 10-win line.
After last year's amazing run that came up just short, Oklahoma State lost a lot of talent that needs to be replaced this year. With the losses on offense, the Vegas experts have set the line at 8.5.
The talent is still there, but winning games against TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and West Virginia will be tough. Take the under.
While the Horned Frogs will have some time to ease into their new conference, the last month and a half will be brutal for a team that is not used to this kind of week-in and week-out competition.
Despite the talent that TCU has, look for the grind of the Big 12 to wear them down and cause them to slip up against a team they shouldn't, thus finishing with less than nine wins.
The expectations down in Texas are starting to ratchet back up, as the team looks to rebound from a couple of down years. Despite how good the Longhorns defense may be, there are still too many questions on offense to believe that this team will finish with nine wins or more.
Take the under, as Texas is still not quite back where it wants to be.
Texas Tech struggled after a ton of injuries last year. This year, the Red Raiders are healthy and the offense appears to be potent. While Texas Tech is not in the top tier of the conference quite yet, it should clear the 6.5-win line set in Vegas.
West Virginia may be the most interesting team to switch conferences in 2012. The Mountaineers appear to have one of the best offenses in the nation, but it remains to be seen whether the travel becomes too much for them over the course of the season.
While they may fall short of the conference title, the Mountaineers should get to at least nine wins.
If you are betting on teams in the Big East, good luck. With the departure of West Virginia, this conference is wide open, and teams that appear to be ready to take control always seem to falter.
For Cincinnati, eight wins doesn't appear to be out of the question. If you have to bet, take the over.
Currently, there is no line on Connecticut for the upcoming season. Based on the talent and schedule ahead of UConn, the line would likely be around 4.5 wins. If that turns out to be the case, the Huskies simply do not have the talent to get to five wins. Take the under.
If you were going to pick a team as the front-runner in the Big East, you would have to go with Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville.
Last year, Louisville earned a share of the conference title, and with the returning talent the Cardinals have on offense, look for them to finish with nine wins.
Take the over.
Despite the experience Pitt has on offense, the out-of-conference schedule presents some issues with games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
When you take a look at the schedule, the Panthers will likely finish with six wins.
Bet the under.
With the losses to the roster and Greg Schiano now in Tampa, the Scarlet Knights have had a lot of change during the offseason.
There currently isn't a line on Rutgers' upcoming season, but with a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule, Rutgers should have no issue getting to at least six wins.
South Florida has the talent to clear this win total without a problem, but last year, it fell apart after a hot start. With B.J. Daniels under center, the Bulls should eclipse this win total and get to eight or nine wins.
Having Missouri and USC on its out-of-conference schedule makes it much more difficult for Syracuse to become bowl eligible.
While the offense can hold its own in the Big East, the defense will struggle and the Orange will finish on the outside looking in during bowl season.
Take the under.
Temple is taking a step up this year by competing in the Big East. While there is no line set on the Owls just yet, they have the talent to get to five wins and just miss the bowl season. Expect five wins and bet accordingly.
Last year, Illinois jumped out to a 6-0 start—then lost six straight. This year, the Illini will not get off to the same quick start and will not be able to eclipse the 6.5-win mark set for them.
Take the under.
Vegas is staying away from setting a line for Indiana because of how awful it was last season. This year, the Hoosiers start the season against Indiana State and UMass, giving them a decent chance of starting the year 2-0.
Based on the easy start, the line would likely be at 2.5. Then you must decide if they can pull out one win in the Big Ten.
Iowa comes into the year looking to break into the top of the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes' offense will struggle to get them there. This year's Iowa defense will be strong, but the loss of Marcus Coker at running back will cause Iowa to struggle and fall just short of this line.
Michigan is a victim of its own success from last year. Not only do they start the season against Alabama, but the Wolverines have a rough schedule throughout. Combine this with the inability of Denard Robinson to be an effective passer, and Michigan will finish under nine wins.
Despite the losses Michigan State has had on offense, the defense will be one of the best in the conference. Behind this strength, the Spartans will once again compete for a conference title and eclipse the nine-win mark.
Despite not really improving last year, the Gophers have a chance of getting better this year simply based on their schedule. To start the year, Minnesota plays UNLV, New Hampshire and Western Michigan.
The Gophers may end up with four wins, but even that may be a stretch.
As Nebraska enters its second season in the Big Ten, it's hoping to improve on last year's performance. While the out-of-conference schedule is not that taxing, the conference schedule is, and the Huskers are likely to finish up with eight wins.
Take the under.
The loss of Dan Persa seems to have left the people in Vegas at a loss for words regarding Northwestern. While Persa was a good quarterback, he was still unable to earn the Wildcats a bowl victory.
This year, the Wildcats will be looking for answers on offense, and anything above five wins would be a truly successful year.
Despite the NCAA penalties preventing Ohio State from going to the postseason, the schedule sets up nicely for Urban Meyer in his first year. With a relatively light out-of-conference schedule and some big games at home, the Buckeyes should hit the 10-win mark.
I am not sure anyone knows what Penn State will look like this year, and clearly, Vegas is not comfortable with this team, either. With everything that the Nittany Lions have gone through this offseason, it's anyone's guess as to how well they will do.
Should a line come up on Penn State, base your bet on them winning six games.
Another team from the Big Ten that Vegas has avoided so far is Purdue. Purdue has a light schedule to start off, but things pick up quickly at the start of October.
My guess would be that Purdue will finish the year with six wins because of the Boilermakers' out-of-conference schedule.
While the 9.5-win total is high, a lot will depend on how quickly Montee Ball can rebound from his injury sustained outside of football. This year, the Badgers are replacing Russell Wilson with Danny O'Brien, so as long as the running game remains strong, the Badgers should hit the over and earn a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl.
This bet comes down to one thing: Do you believe Alabama can win the games it's supposed to, as well as at least one game between Arkansas and LSU?
Nick Saban always seems to have his team ready and prepared, so my belief is the Crimson Tide can beat Arkansas on the road and finish 11-1.
While Arkansas has its big games at home, that doesn't change the difficult road schedule it still faces.
The Razorbacks have a solid defense, and with Knile Davis back, the offense should be more balanced. They will clear the 8.5-win line.
2010 probably seems like a long time ago for Auburn fans. This offseason, they lost Michael Dyer to transfer and now face another gruelling season in the SEC.
While the line of 7.5 wins may seem low, looking at the schedule helps explain the number a lot more. Unless the Tigers can pull off a big win or two, seven wins may be the ceiling.
Since losing Tim Tebow, Florida has really struggled to return to the top of the SEC. This year appears to be no different, as the Gators don't seem to be in position to compete for a conference title.
While looking at the school name and eight-win number, it may be hard to say under, but that is where the smart money should be this year.
Last year, the Bulldogs started the year at 0-2, but finished with 10 straight wins. This year, the schedule is not as difficult, and the Bulldogs should be able to ride their young and talented offense to another 10-win season—and possibly another birth in the SEC title game.
While Kentucky basketball is alive and well, the football program continues to struggle. This year, Vegas has set the number at 5.5, and to be honest, it could have probably put it at 4.5. With a lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, take the under.
While LSU is in the driver's seat in the first national poll, this year just got more challenging, as the Tigers had to let Tyrann Mathieu go for a third violation of team rules.
Along with the loss of Mathieu, the Tigers have a tough road schedule, playing Arkansas, Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida all away from Louisiana.
Despite the high number, take the over, as the Tigers should be one of the most motivated teams in the nation.
Mississippi State's schedule is almost laughable, but what is even funnier is that it will fall short of the 7.5-win total.
Out of conference, the Bulldogs play Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee. While all these games should result in wins, the Bulldogs are still going to fall short of eight wins thanks to a tough conference schedule.
Missouri is entering its first year in the SEC and will have its hands full. In their first season, the Tigers have to take on some of the SEC's best.
It will take Missouri a couple of years to adjust and become competitive, so look for them to come up short of the seven-win mark and finish the year with only six.
In my opinion, Ole Miss is not going to come even close to this number. While they are transitioning to a new coach in 2012, the Rebels are still a ways away from being a bowl team. Take the under, and sleep easy on this bet.
South Carolina comes into the year ready to make a run at winning the division and heading to the SEC title game. Standing in its way will likely be Georgia again.
As long as Marcus Lattimore returns healthy and ready to go, the Gamecocks will get over the 8.5-win total set for them.
Tennessee has the talent to be one of the surprise teams in 2012. With a healthy Tyler Bray and a solid defense, the Vols are set to turn some heads.
With the line set at only 7.5 wins, take the over. As long as Bray stays healthy, you will be fine.
Another newcomer to the SEC is Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off of a season of blown leads, and then they lost Ryan Tannehill to the NFL.
While the Aggies may end up doing better than Missouri, it won't be by much. Look for the Aggies to finish with exactly seven wins and end up being a push.
Another well-placed number by Vegas is the 6.5 wins for Vanderbilt this year. While coach James Franklin has this team moving in the right direction, it's uncertain if the Commodores are ready to take the next step.
Even though six wins is a good possibility, I will take the under, as this team may still be a year away from taking its next step in development.
Before looking at the number, my guess for Notre Dame this year was eight wins. Since the line matched the prediction, I would obviously go with a push here unless you believe that Notre Dame will beat one of the Michigan teams, Oklahoma or USC.