College Football – Pre-Season Magazines Offer Betting Insights

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An annual right of summer is to gather the various college football magazines and go over the predictions from each conference. As a writer and sports handicapper, I have been pouring over data for months now and have strong feelings and opinions about how the various conferences races could play out. Part of winning college football wagers is having the necessary information to place yourself into a position to win. This is why I annually make pilgrimages to the various book stores to purchase all the magazines containing college football material.

The reasons for doing this are attaining knowledge and giving myself the best chance to win. First, I’m seeking information on the coaches and teams I may have missed in my own personal research. No matter how hard or far you dig, you will always find other useful nuggets. Next is learning about all the players, particularly the difference-makers on each team, which is a powerful tool to understand if a team may be over or underrated before the season starts. Lastly, just to see what other experts believe in making predictions. For example, in the Sun Belt Conference, FOUR DIFFERENT teams have been chosen to finish first, talk about a difference of opinion! This is worth reading to understand why these publications would have such varying of beliefs. You can judge for yourself if the points are valid or just nonsense. Plus, this allows one to find strong situations to place futures wagers at on particular teams.

Let’s get started!

 American Athletic Conference

Louisville Cardinals football
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY SportAmerican Athletic Conference

1)      Louisville

2)      Cincinnati

3)      Rutgers

4)      Central Florida

5)      Houston

6)      SMU

7)      Connecticut

8)      South Florida

9)      Memphis

10)   Temple

3DW Analysis – Big East football is no more and has been replaced by a less compelling and watered-down brand of football with the new AAC. One constant from last season is Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. The Cardinals are a unanimous choice to win in their first and only year in this conference before moving to a league with similar initials. Last year they were 11-2 and flushed Florida in the Sugar Bowl and are given a chance to make the BCS title game if they are 12-0. With the exception of the USA Today magazine (4th place), Cincinnati was chosen either second or third in the conference with Tommy Tuberville exciting the fan base with his previous records and not his personality. Rutgers was tied with Cincy for the second-most second place votes, but was not as highly thought of in places like Phil Steele’s magazine (6th). While it’s not the Big East, Central Florida is thrilled to move up and has a very good offense led by QB Blake Bortles. The UCF defense is suspect and their schedule is the toughest in school history. Houston was a disappointing 5-7 last year and is being called to finish anywhere from 5th to last! It is a sad state of affairs for USF and UConn when Houston and SMU are figured to finish higher in the standings than they are. Memphis will still be Memphis and Temple might want to reconsider and go back to the MAC.

ACC

Louisville Cardinals footballAtlantic Division

1)      Clemson

2)      Florida State

3)     N.C.State

4)      Maryland

5)      Wake Forest

6)      Syracuse

7)      Boston College

Coastal Division

1)      Miami

2)      Virginia Tech

3)     North Carolina

4)      Georgia Tech

5)      Pittsburgh

6)      Virginia

7)      Duke

3DW AnalysisIn the Atlantic Division, Clemson occupied six of the eight opinions on who will be on top, with Florida State garnering the other two. The eventual champion in this division is likely to come down to who wins the Oct. 19 showdown in Clemson. Both Maryland and N.C. State received three 3rd place votes, but the Terps landed in fourth because StatFox’s publication listed them seventh. We think Maryland’s luck will turn enough to finish third.

Virginia Tech is a “love them or hate them” club with two first place votes and two fourth place seating’s. The Hokies have changed offenses and need a more polished Logan Thomas at quarterback. After two years, Miami fans are starting to think they can return close to the “U” status again, with a quality offense and defense this season. North Carolina actually picked up one top spot vote (GamePlan) because of the offensive acumen of head coach Larry Fedora. How the defense performs especially in the secondary will forecast the Tar Heels fate. Georgia Tech could move up and surprise with talented defensive players and by not turning the ball over on offense.

Mountain West

West Division

1) Fresno State

2) San Diego State

3) San Jose State

4) Nevada

5) Hawaii

6) UNLV

East Division

1)      Boise State

2)      Utah State

3)      Air Force

4)      Colorado State

5)      Wyoming

6)      New Mexico

3DW Analysis – Just 12 months ago, the Mountain West Conference looked in serious decline, but with the demise of the Big East, Boise State and San Diego State returned to the fold and nice additions of San Jose State, Nevada and Utah State makes this a much better league, now with their own title game. This conference could really shine, with five quarterbacks who finished in the top 17 of total offense a year ago. With Derek Carr back, Fresno State gobbled up seven of the eight first place votes. The Aztecs have a deeper squad than the Spartans in the West Division; however, David Fales has first-round NFL potential and an outstanding group of receivers. QB Cody Fajardo will have to adjust to a new coaching staff for Nevada.

Boise State nabbed every first place vote in the East and Utah State did the same for second place. The Broncos talent level is down from two years ago and they will need QB Joe Southwick to improve with a treacherous road schedule. Utah State has one of the best dual-threat signal callers west of the Mississippi in Chuckie Keeton. Wyoming might finish higher in the standings if Brett Smith has time to chuck the pigskin behind a revamped offensive line.

Big 12

Oklahoma State Cowboys1)      Oklahoma State

2)      Texas

3)      Oklahoma

4)      TCU

5)      Baylor

6)      Kansas State

7)      Texas Tech

8)      West Virginia

9)      Iowa State

10)   Kansas

3DW Analysis – Every year there is the preseason search where underdogs could be in vogue and this season the Big 12 could be such a conference. Three different squads were picked to earn a BCS berth (not Oklahoma), yet all have enough flaws coming into the year to cause consternation. Oklahoma State had the most top spot picks and it is a given the offense will produce big numbers. The Cowboys defense had been reliant on turnovers, but last year they did not come and they went to Greg Hudson as the new defensive coordinator. The hope is steadier play overall for Okie State. Texas has 19 starters returning and Mack Brown has proclaimed, “We are back where we want to be”. The conundrum for the Longhorns is doing it on the field. Oklahoma will have a new look with Blake “Belldozer” Bell the first running quarterback to start at OU in a dozen seasons. The Sooners did not pick up one first place vote and Bob Stoops is being questioned as a recruiter. TCU was extremely young in 2012 and coach Gary Patterson has stated he’s very pleased with the feel of this squad and was chosen to finish first by one prognosticator (Statfox). QB Casey Pachall has the talent; he just has to be a team player as a senior. Kansas State will decline, Texas Tech is starting fresh and one cannot help but wonder if West Virginia made the wrong move in joining this league.

Conference USA

East Division

1)     East Carolina

2)      Marshall

3)      Mid. Tennessee State

4)      UAB

5)      Southern Miss

6)      Florida Atlantic

7)      Florida International

West Division

1)      Tulsa

2)      Rice

3)      Louisiana Tech

4)      UTEP

5)      Tulane

6)      North Texas

7)      Texas – San Antonio

3DW Analysis– Conference USA will remain a revolving door at least for one more season, yet the old guard is presumed to rule in 2013. East Carolina and Tulsa have been chosen to win their respective divisions. The Pirates might have the more arduous task to win the East because Marshall has QB Rakeem Cato at the controls running the league’s most potent offense. Middle Tennessee State is bit unknown coming from the Sun Belt, but they have 17 returning starters and were chosen to finish second by The Sporting News and Lindy’s.

The Golden Hurricane has senior Cody Green at quarterback and a fabulous running game. The bad news is only three defenders are back from one of Tulsa’s better defenses in years. Rice has 19 starters taking the field again and was chosen by everyone to be right behind Tulsa in the West. Skip Holtz makes his way back to C-USA at Louisiana Tech with the second-fewest starters available.

Independents

1)      Notre Dame

2)      BYU

3)      Navy

4)      Army

5)      Idaho

6)      New Mexico State

7)      Old Dominion

3DW AnalysisNo doubt the BCS championship thumping left a mark; nevertheless, Notre Dame was relevant again and has a solid defensive core in place to help the offense gel in the first part of the season. Tommy Rees takes over as the starting quarterback and he could lead the Irish to 11-1 or 8-4. BYU is putting in high-tempo offense, the question is do they have the right players to execute? The Cougars defense will be stout, led by Kyle Van Noy. Navy and Army each return a high number (for them) of starters (15) and will be competitive. Idaho and New Mexico State are WAC refugees and Old Dominion begins the transformation from FCS football to C-USA next season.

Big Ten

Ohio State BuckeyesLeaders Division

1)      Ohio State

2)      Wisconsin

3)      Penn State

4)      Indiana

5)      Purdue

6)      Illinois

Legends Division

1)      Nebraska

2)      Michigan

3)      Michigan State

4)      Northwestern

5)      Minnesota

6)      Iowa

3DW Analysis– In normal years, Ohio State being 12-0 would be cause for celebration. While nobody expected the Buckeyes to be unblemished in 2012, Urban Meyer worked his magic with a squad that was not dominating. With something to play for besides school and personal pride, Ohio State is everyone’s choice to be Leaders (thank goodness this ends after 2013) division champs. New coach Gary Anderson walks into a fantastic situation which has 23 seniors for leadership at Wisconsin, seeking a fourth consecutive Rose Bowl trip. The rest of the division was almost in perfect order from every preseason periodical.

This was not the case of the Legends Division. Michigan actually had the most first place votes, yet came in second, with uncertainty about how quickly this unit will come together. The Wolverines have both Nebraska and Ohio State at Ann Arbor and miss the Badgers this year. The Cornhuskers have a vast number of players to replace on defense, which has not been that stellar under defensive-minded Bo Pelini. Reports have very good JC transfers taking spots; nonetheless, this is a major step up. Michigan State linebackers and secondary will be as good if not better than anyone in the Big Ten, what everyone wants to know can the Spartans rush the passer and move the ball on offense. While Northwestern is stuck at 4th, nobody is selling this program short anymore with Pat Fitzgerald as coach. Iowa has run out energy with 14 years of Kirk Ferentz.

Pac-12

South Division

1)      Arizona State

2)      UCLA

3)      USC

4)      Arizona

5)      Utah

6)      Colorado

North Division

1)      Oregon

2)      Stanford

3)      Oregon State

4)      Washington

5)      California

6)      Washington State

3DW Analysis – Oregon, Stanford or Cardinal and Beavers, it depends on what magazine is purchased, but either way these are the two best teams in the Pac-12 North by a clear margin. One question surrounds each club, how much will Chip Kelly be missed in Eugene and does Stanford have enough perimeter weapons to overcome dull offensive periods? Oregon State has loads of experience, nevertheless, has to decide on a quarterback. This is Washington’s best squad under Steve Sarkisian. A good recruiting class is coming in for Cal, but they two years away at least and Mike Leach needs less turbulence in Pullman.

The top three teams all caught first place votes in the Pac-12 South. USC has the most talented players and the worst head coach of the contenders. Because of scholarship reductions, the Trojans have little depth. Arizona State was chosen for first place most often, yet has to play like they belong with the big boys in the conference to be taken seriously. Watch DT Will Sutton, he’s a player. UCLA players immediately bought into Jim Mora’s enthusiasm and NFL coaching experience last season. The Bruins can win the South if the secondary is at least ordinary. Arizona has some elite Pac-12 talent, just not a roster full. Do think Utah and Colorado wish they would have stayed in their previous conferences?

SEC

Georgia Bulldogs footballEast Division

1)      Georgia

2)      South Carolina

3)      Florida

4)      Vanderbilt

5)      Tennessee

6)      Missouri

7)      Kentucky

West Division

1)      Alabama

2)      Texas A&M

3)      LSU

4)      Ole Miss

5)      Mississippi State

6)      Arkansas

7)      Auburn

3DW Analysis – There is no discussion necessary about Alabama, as they chase history; after a fourth national championship in five years. Johnny Football might turn into “Johnny Outlaw” with the eligibility of Johnny Manziel to be determined by the NCAA for potential violations. This could pave the way for LSU to leap at least one spot in the West. Ole Miss surprised a year with first-year coach High Freeze, which will lead to higher expectations. Mississippi State has reached a plateau and breaking into the upper level of this grouping is not in the foreseeable future. Arkansas and Auburn are reconstructing and the task is formidable.

Of the major preseason magazines, only the Sporting News did not choose Georgia to repeat in the East. The Bulldogs offense should be outstanding, but Mark Richt has ample defensive stalwarts to replace. South Carolina has Georgia on Sept. 7 on the road and reportedly will play two quarterbacks by choice for Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks could move up if superstar Jadeveon Clowney and the secondary can cover up inexperienced linebackers. Florida is presumed strong on both sides of the line, while lacking perimeter difference-makers. Vandy is looking dandy under coach James Franklin, it is just not ready to move up. Tennessee is on their fourth new coach since 2008 and Missouri is learning about the speed of SEC defenses.

Mid-American Conference

East Division

1)      Bowling Green

2)      Ohio U.

3)      Kent State

4)      Buffalo

5)      Miami-O

6)      Akron

7)      Massachusetts

West Division

1)      Northern Illinois

2)      Toledo

3)      Ball State

4)      Western Michigan

5)      Central Michigan

6)      Eastern Michigan

3DW AnalysisNorthern Illinois ended up in a BCS game last season and has Jordan Lynch at quarterback along with a veteran offensive line and is everyone’s pick to repeat as MAC West champions. Toledo and Ball State are next, with the Rockets receiving more second place predictions than the Cardinals. Each team has a senior quarterback and will score points, with the question being how the defenses hold up. Western Michigan is thought be the best of the directional Michigan schools.

Bowling Green secured the majority of first place votes because they should have the league’s best defense and nine starters back on offense. After a 7-0 start, Ohio U. faded down the stretch, losing four times before rebounding with an impressive Independence Bowl triumph. With Tyler Tettleton back as field general, the Bobcats will make a push to be the East leader, but how the defense plays will matter most. Kent State lost their coach and a slew of players, yet at least has multi-skilled Dri Archer back. Of the rest of the clubs in the MAC East, Buffalo is the best of the bunch with a wealth of offensive experience.

Sun Belt Conference

1)      Louisiana

2)      UL-Monroe

3)      Western Kentucky

4)      Arkansas State

5)      Troy

6)      Texas State

7)      South Alabama

8)      Georgia State

3DW AnalysisAfter years of tranquility, the Sun Belt was raided of several members and had to reload with lesser lights. This suggests a top heavy conference and as mentioned, four different programs had first place votes. Louisiana garnered the most votes, yet they have massive holes to fill in the offensive line and the defense is switching schemes. UL-Monroe has a veteran club and a four-year starting QB in Kolton Browning. Injuries kept the Warhawks from better seasons each of the last two years, but coach Todd Berry thinks his team is better prepared this time. Arkansas State has a great deal of experience everywhere but under center. Western Kentucky has Bobby Petrino as coach and a top notch running attack. Troy was not picked to finish on top of the SBC, but still should have a productive offense with QB Corey Robinson. 

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