The last decade of college football can best be summed up as Alabama at the top followed by a bunch of other teams lagging behind.
It’s true that Clemson has won two of the last three national championships, but that’s done little to change the pecking order over the last 10 years. Without any opinion included, here are the 10 best combined win totals in college football since 2009:
Alabama 127, Ohio State 114, Clemson 112, Boise State 109, Oklahoma 105, Stanford 102, Wisconsin 102, Oregon 99, LSU 97 and Florida State 97. The most eye-popping part of the list is that No. 2 Ohio State is closer to No. 7 Wisconsin than No. 1 Alabama.
To average 12.7 wins per season over that long of a time period is beyond remarkable. Can the Tide keep that level of success going this season?
That question leads us into one of the great annual exercises for college football fans. Oddsmakers have set the betting line for how many games every team will win during this college football regular season. The odds slightly vary from one book to the next, but for our purposes, let’s consider the lines currently available at MGM.
Alabama’s regular-season win total is currently at 11 games, Auburn is at eight games and South Alabama is at 2.5 games. As we reach the start of the season, let’s study the wisdom of those three betting lines as well as one bonus pick just for fun.
Alabama: With a line of 11, the question essentially becomes will the Tide go undefeated or not? The answer to that question – for any college football team – should be no. Even if Alabama is a double-digit favorite in every game, there is always a chance for a single slip-up.
But the real question is whether the Tide is more likely to go undefeated compared to the odds the Tide will lose two or more in the regular season. As the 12.7 average over the last decade indicates, the Tide simply doesn’t lose to bad teams. Even the example of back-to-back losses to Ole Miss came against a dangerous team. The 2010 stunner at South Carolina was to a team ranked No. 19 in the country at the time. While it might sound absurd, all the smart money will be on Alabama over 11 wins.
Auburn: It’s easy to find nine games the Tigers could win this season. But there is a problem with the line of eight for Auburn. According to the same Las Vegas oddsmakers, Auburn is scheduled to win seven games and lose five. The Tigers are currently favored over Oregon, Tulane, Kent State, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Samford. They are underdogs against Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. So, that would seem to make the under eight games the easy play.
But let’s look at it another way. Auburn will be a solid favorite in five games (Tulane, Kent State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Samford). It would take a fairly substantial upset to beat LSU, Georgia and Alabama. So, without a major upset, that’s 5-3. The four tossup games are Oregon, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Florida. The Tigers would have to win all four of those tossup games in order to get to nine wins. That seems like a lot to ask of a team playing a freshman quarterback against one of the three toughest schedules in college football. Therefore, I’ll take the under as I remain skeptical that the offensive line will be much improved just because all the starters are returning a year older.
South Alabama: Last year was a complete reboot for the Jaguars under first-year coach Steve Campbell. The 3-9 record didn’t meet anyone’s expectations, but it’s worth noting that the Jags played their best game of the season in beating Coastal Carolina 31-28 in the season finale. If they can shore up the letdowns they had last season in the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half then the record could improve drastically. The schedule sets up for a likely 1-2 start against Nebraska, Jackson State and Memphis. UAB is the fourth non-conference game, which will also be a major challenge. But the Jags can be competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.
South Alabama will be better this season. So, there’s no reason to believe the record will be worse that last year’s 3-9 mark. Therefore, over 2.5 is the easy play.
Bonus pick: The easiest pick of the year is Army over 9.5 games. Because they play Hawaii, Army will play 13 regular-season games. They will be a solid favorite in 12 of those, with the lone exception being at Michigan. Assuming a loss at the Big House, the Cadets would still have to be upset three times to not cover the over. That’s not going to happen.
Let the season begin.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. He has been a daily fixture on the Mobile sports scene since 2002. Follow him on Twitter: @kennedy_randy.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).