After detailing the five teams I expect to go over their 2021 season win totals in Thursday’s Bet Smart, here’s the flip side (odds by BetMGM and DraftKings).
Buffalo Under 8.5: After six successful seasons, coach Lance Leipold has left for Kansas and the Big 12. I wouldn’t say he left the wardrobe in place for Maurice Linquist, but this year is going to be a lot different about the Bulls. While QB Kyle Vantridge returns as quarterback, only nine others make starts, and MAC is packed into 2021 with experienced teams, many with at least 20 starters. He also lost last year’s offense bell cow to RB Jarrett Patterson. This program is known to get more out of its recruits than almost everyone else. How does this change under the new coach?
marshal under 8: After a 7–0 start in 2020 and scoring 37.4 PPG, Herd hit the offense wall, collecting only 23 points to lead the rest 0–3. The collapse led to the loss of the job of Doc Holiday, who was replaced by Charles Huff, and a new defensive coordinator joined in. There are 16 starters, including QB Grant Wells, but it is appropriate to express concern over the offense’s confidence level after late season. Also, Marshall’s last two recruiting classes were the worst on my record. I would call Heard missing a bowl game this season for the second time since 2012.
Northwestern Under 6.5 Under: I believe coach Pat Fitzgerald will pay the price for last year’s success now, as 14 starters have been lost to that overpriced group, including QB Peyton Ramsey. The 2020 team was extremely gritty, going 8-1 against Spread and taking care of Auburn 35-19 in the Citrus Bowl. Grit doesn’t come back easily when experience is lost. Keep in mind that only four teams in the country make less than 10 starts. My estimated conference standings based on recent recruit scores showed Northwestern as the 11th best team in the Big Ten. This will purge a sub-.500 record.
notre dame under 9: In a year when experience is going to be a big plus for teams that haven’t been devastated by the NFL draft or transfers, the Irish have just nine starts to pull off the fact. The 2021 schedule is as tough as ever, and is worsened by the Irish playing with six teams who have their first week off. Games against Wisconsin, Cincinnati, USC and North Carolina will be a huge test for this inexperienced team. My Precision Power rating for coach Brian Kelly’s team is probably generous, and I still project it to about nine wins. Those estimates do not account for that additional schedule difficulty. I believe the loss to QB Ian Book is being underestimated, and it will affect the Irish big time, possibly as early as Week 1 at Florida State.
Tennessee Under 6: Over the past four years, Tennessee has a 20–27 record, averaging five wins per season. Now, with one of the lowest stability scores on my scale (2), volunteers are asked to win six games to complete their DraftKings win prop. Not only because of a coaching change, but also because they’ll be breaking into a new quarterback and have just 12 starting players, they fit into many of the play-against systems I’ve used for off-season personnel. Tracked for change. I like the idea of new coach Josh Huepel taking over for a longer period, and the inclusion of QB Joe Milton from Michigan is favorable, but I don’t see it coming together this season.