8/1, 9:35pm: 2018 Sun Belt Win Total Bets and Futures
It's time to start filling up the basket. I'll start with the conference that, despite it's entertaining nickname, people care the least about. I don't have as many strong opinions here, because the predictions about this conference are pretty spot-on. So many teams are in the midst of rebuilds, and the 3 elite teams in the conference either kept a lot of their non-QB talent, or in Arkansas State's case, their QB but not half of their defense. Those 3 teams are going to be the 3 best teams again a LOT of the time, and they are rated as such. The Sun Belt also booted Idaho and New Mexico State, and added a 2-division conference title game at the end of the year. This matters significantly in terms of how you should bet these futures.
Arkansas State to win Sun Belt +130 (2x) (5D)
Might as well fill the basket with a 2-unit play to begin. The significant thing is not how good Arkansas State will be (their win total with current over juice may actually be too high, and a number they've only reached once in the past 5 years), but how bad their division is. The only advisable price on that side is MAYBE UL-Monroe because their offense is going to score a billion points. Their defense will most likely also allow a billion points, but shootouts can maybe lead to some dramatic turn of events where Monroe Cinderella's there way here. Barring that, this is Arkansas State almost all the rest of the time. Troy and App State are both breaking in new quarterbacks, so the potential for a rockier season is more likely, and those are their 2 title game opponents a lot of the time as well. Some are projecting 10 or 11-win seasons for the Red Wolves; I am much cooler on those predictions, because for whatever reason the team stinks in close games and may allow many more big plays this year than usual. They don't look like a super-dominant team to me. But they look like the clear winner of the division and if you can get me to the game with the (probably) most talented team at +130, that is a bet worth making.
Georgia State under 4.5 wins -105 (1x) (5D)
Another bet driven more by schedule than anything. Georgia State won't be that much worse than the middle/bottom of the Sun Belt this year, their front 7 may be excellent, and both of their coordinators are young guys with improving reputations who you'll probably read about at much bigger places in years to come. They are in Year 2 of this rebuild. I think next year could produce a bowl depending on a lot of factors, but this year's team will have a hard time getting there. When you eat 5 losses right off the bat, that's tough, and that's what Georgia State is looking at here. They have road non-cons at NC State and at Memphis, and they have to travel to the 3 toughest teams in the conference -- App State, Troy and Arkansas State. It's just awful. They also host Western Michigan in their 3rd non-con (play Kennesaw State in their 4th, so yay, there's 1 win!). You're talking about 1-6 in that group of games a crazy high percentage of the time. Sometimes they're going to upset a mediocre-to-above-average Western Michigan team, but that's not inspiring. That means against a slate of teams that are essentially their equals in a lot of metrics, Georgia State will have to go 4-1. The math is just not on their side, I'm afraid. Home games against UL Monroe and Georgia Southern are tricky because those are 2 teams who I expect to make bigger leaps than Georgia State this year. I don't see many wins here right now, and it's not even Georgia State's fault really. There's a rising tide in the middle of the Sun Belt, where a lot of the bottom-to-middle teams from last year should be improved.
Appalachian State over 8.5 wins +120 (1x) (Heritage)
Really can't beat the price on this, because I project a number just slightly higher than this, and I'm getting +120 on the over anyway. Valuetown. I also think the way a college football season works is going to help App State in this case. They open with Penn State, and they'll eat a bad loss, and that's fine. They key for this team is to find out who their quarterback is going to be for the meat of the season. They are replacing a 4-year starter, and the weapons around him are immense, as is the prowess of some of the defensive tiers. There's a lot to work with here, they just desperately need to discover a quarterback. The good news? They have 3 fairly easy games -- at Charlotte, vs Southern Miss (who lost EVERYONE talented off of last year's team) and vs Gardner-Webb -- to figure out who that QB will be. That gives them a nice buffer where they probably win all 3 games no matter who the QB is and get some cohesion going into conference play. They will spend a month at home without traveling during that time. Assuming they beat Southern Miss, conference play requires a 6-2 record to hit the over. They do draw at Arkansas State but have a bye the week before (that game begins the Fun Belt portion of the schedule, a Tuesday-night affair), and they host Troy. They avoid UL-Monroe out of the other half, who is the clear 2nd best team. The overall talent here is much better than the middle of the conference, and I consider 6 wins more likely than not. Over.