College Football Betting Preview: Conference USA Season Win Totals, Play Over or Under?

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It is really too bad that Conference USA is breaking up from present form after this season. The conference is coming off arguably its finest football season ever, with Houston undefeated until the league’s title game and they still closed the season in fine fashion by whipping Penn State. C-USA champion Southern Miss went to the Islands and won the Hawaii Bowl, which was part of the conference posting an impressive 4-1 record in the postseason. Though the Cougars and Golden Eagles might not be quite as strong in 2012, Tulsa and Central Florida appear improved and SMU and East Carolina should be contenders in what should be two competitive division races. Here is a look at each teams current odds to win C-USA title and their projection for season wins.

West Division

Houston +450 – (odds to win the conference) Projected win total Un9.5

After almost completing a perfect season, there has been a lot of change around the Houston football program. Record-setting QB Case Keenum and head coach Kevin Sumlin are no longer with the program and just a dozen starters return. At least new coach Tony Levine has sophomore David Piland to take over for Keenum, having played eight games in 2010 when the Houston stud blew out his knee. The non-conference slate is manageable, with at UCLA the toughest task. The offense might not be as dynamic, but will still move the ball and score and if anything, the defense could be better. Reaching 10 wins is not a certainty, but if the players buy into Levine’s teaching, it is a possibility. 3DW Position – Play Under

Tulsa +500 – Ov7.5

The Golden Hurricane again is the main threat to knocking off Houston in the West Division. Tulsa should enter league play feeling much better about itself after facing three Top 8 non-conference squads a year ago in their first four contests. Trips to Iowa State and Arkansas will not necessarily be vacations, but hosting Nicholls State and Fresno State should amount to at least two victories. Tulsa has the right players to win eight or more times, but in order for that to occur, Nebraska transfer quarterback Cody Green has to be the big man on campus. Against a manageable September schedule, Green will have the benefit of a running game that can chew up yardage, allowing him to settle in. The last month is brutal (besides the Razorbacks, at Houston, UCF and at SMU), but this is when winners stand up. 3DW Position – Play Over

SMU +500 – Ov6.5

SMU footballKudos to June Jones for altering SMU’s fortunes, but Mustangs fans are thinking TCU, Boise State and even what Jones did in Hawaii looking ahead. With just three starting players returning on offense, that track will not be reached this season, though the Ponies are dark horses if everything falls into place. With Zach Line presumably healthy, the power running game should function even with an inexperienced offensive line. How quickly former Longhorn QB Garrett Gilbert adjusts to the new offense could determine the season. SMU is slowish on defense and has to rely on gang tackling. To win the West, the Mustangs have to conquer Houston, Tulsa and Southern Miss at Ford Stadium. Too tall an order.  3DW Position – Play Under

UTEP +1500 – Uv.4.5

Remember when coach Mike Price went 8-4 in 2004 and 2005 and was rewarded with big contract, well that was the last time the UTEP has enjoyed a winning season. This is the final year of Price’s contract and it is extremely unlikely another will be tendered to the 66-year old head man. Last season was supposed to be a complete rebuilding year and he did manage five wins, exceeding expectations. The offense will be the strength with eight starters back, including QB Nick Lamaison. The Miners are more likely to cover spreads than accumulate wins with road trips to Ole Miss, Wisconsin, ECU, Tulsa, Houston and Southern Miss. 3DW Position – Play Under

Rice +2500 – Un3.5

Everyone agrees, David Bailiff can coach, but unless he can get lucky and find a diamond in the rough pigskin chucker and speedy receivers to score quickly, nobody can recruit well enough to sustain a winning tradition at Rice. With just 10 players who started a year ago, 2012 is not setting up as a very prosperous season. The one way the Owls reach four or more wins is if the leadership of its mostly senior-laden returnees wants to end their collegiate careers by giving their all and set the tone thru example. Maybe. 3DW Position – Play Under

Tulane +3000 – Un.2.5

The stench of the Bob Toledo era is gone and new head whistle-blower Curtis Johnson will attempt to transition out of a losing culture at Tulane. At least Johnson has experience (14 starters back) if not a plethora of talent. Orleans Darkwa is all C-USA material at running back and Ryan Griffin has three years under his belt at under center. The linebackers are the biggest reason why the defense could improve. It is not like the Green Wave is loaded, but a pretty veteran group with an excited new coach allows Tulane to take baby steps and eclipse oddsmakers beliefs. 3DW Position – Play Over

East Division

Central Florida +250 –  Ov8

Central Florida footballTo a man, Central Florida players and coaches thought they underachieved last season with a 5-7 mark. The Knights led the conference in total defense, but because of a lack of pass rush (95th in the country), they ended up losing six games by a touchdown or less. Coach George O’Leary made defensive staff changes and believes the offense will be more stable with sophomore Blake Bortles under center. Chances are UCF will lose to Ohio State and Missouri, but if they take care of business in Orlando and triumph in winnable road games at Memphis, Marshall and UTEP, nine wins should be the right number for the Knights. 3DW Position – Play Over

Southern Miss +500 – Un8.5

Southern Miss had a terrific 2011 campaign with just two away losses by a total of nine points and upsetting undefeated Houston on the road to win the conference crown. However, the shoes of QB Austin Davis and coach Larry Fedora will not be easy to fill with only 10 returning starters. New coach Ellis Johnson expertise is on defense and he will be tested with just four starters in the fold. Offensively, the situation is unsettled and it will lean on its four returning offense linemen until the skill position players are in place. The Golden Eagles might have been able to win nine games against their treacherous slate with last year’s roster, but the challenge will prove too difficult this season. 3DW Position – Play Under

East Carolina +850 – Ov5.5

Greenville, N.C. fans that follow the Pirates expect to go bowling, making last year’s 5-7 campaign an unwelcome development. Collectively, they were willing to give then second year coach Ruffin McNeill a pass, but not this season. Oddsmakers are predicting ECU will again be home for the holidays, not sure the defense will continue to improve and wondering who will be the quarterback.  Additionally, the offensive line was shakier Facebook’s satisfaction ratings and anything close to -14 turnover margin again is a deal breaker. With their first four road conflicts at So. Carolina, Southern Miss, No. Carolina and UCF, the last game of the season hosting Marshall should be the difference between a losing or non-losing year. 3DW Position – Play Under

Marshall +1000 – Un6.5

This is easily the biggest mystery team in the East Division. Coach Doc Holiday has recruited well and the increase in talent and athleticism is apparent everywhere. The return of receiver Aaron Dobson only furthers the growth of sophomore QB Rakeem Cato, to go along with an improving O-Line. Despite the loss C-USA Defense Player of the Year Vinny Curry, even opposing coaches are expecting the Thundering Herd defense to be step up and be better. What could prevent Marshall from winning at least seven times again in 2012? The Herd does lack experience at key spots and will this team have the mental maturity to work and keep improving? The schedule is daunting, which suggests surpassing the line makers number is no simple task. 3DW Position – Play Over

UAB +2500 – Ov3.5

Last year, the Blazers began 0-6 and never recovered, finishing 3-9. One could make the case, UAB’s skill players are as good as any in the league, but that offensive line, they deserves a Keith Jackson “Woo Nellie” after the previous season’s woeful showing. If the O-Line is even ordinary by conference standards, they should beat Troy and SE Louisiana among its first six outings. The Blazers should have a shot at ECU, Marshall and Memphis at Legion Field and at Tulane is winnable. How quickly first year coach Garrick McGee can mold this group together will determine if four or more wins is possible, for what is considered the worst off-field facilities in FBS football. 3DW Position – Play Over

Memphis +4000 – Ov2.5

If only the Memphis faithful cared as much about football like they do basketball. With a 5-31 record since 2009, the Tigers are on their third head coach in Justin Fuente in this span. The program is in shambles after going to bowl games five times from 2003 to 2008. The talent level is low and the depth is best described as –feeble. This one possible saving grace is even the other staffs in the league think Fuente is such a solid coach ehat with a manageable schedule, most surmise the Tigers can claw their way to four W’s. 3DW Position – Play Over

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