Welcome back to our series of articles going over the preseason win totals for all 131 FBS teams.
Thanks to Playoff Predictors for being a free site that allows each and every game to get picked. To ensure that we didn’t just blindly choose overs or unders, all 131 teams had their schedules picked.
Explaining the Math
All Power 5 win totals and odds are from June 13, so not all odds listed may be current. Group of 5 odds are not yet widely available at multiple sportsbooks, so those articles will get started whenever those odds are released, but the games have been picked.
Where sportsbooks had differing win totals, the combination of odds with the lowest hold was kept, because sports bettors usually look for the lowest holds before looking at any prices or numbers.
For those unaware, the hold is however much over 100% each side of the bet adds up to. It’s how the sportsbooks win bettors’ money in the long run.
A lower hold is better for bettors. Anything below 2% is considered good, and a negative hold is great because it means the bet is skewed in the bettor’s favor.
Plus odds (+) means that betting $100 will profit that much. Minus odds (-) means that to profit $100, a bettor must wager that much.
The sportsbooks considered — due to having all, or very nearly all, of the Power 5 teams — were PointsBet, FanDuel, DraftKings, and Barstool.
Special thanks to Kelley Ford. We’ll be referencing some of his models that he’s posted to his Twitter (@KFordRatings).
We’re able to take the odds and turn it into expected return. Expected return means how much profit should be expected per $1 wagered if the models are correct.
By his own admission, they’re not perfect. And as the old saying goes, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”
They’re an interesting piece of the puzzle worth considering, but do not take any of these opinions as gospel. It’s all in good fun and to acknowledge just how wrong we were at the end of the season.
We continue this series with the Big Ten West:
Image Credit: Kelley Ford, Twitter
Wisconsin — Over 8.5; Confidence: 1/10
At FanDuel and PointsBet, the over is -130, while the under at DraftKings is +125. So, the hold is approximately 1%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 47% chance that the Badgers go under. This gives an expected return of $0.06 per $1 put on the under at DraftKings.
Wisconsin opens with games it should win against Illinois State, Washington State, and New Mexico State.
But with Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa, the Badgers face the toughest stretch on the road.
That being said, 9-3 seems likely enough in comparison to 8-4; we’re narrowly going with the over.
Minnesota — Under 7.5; Confidence: 2/10
At DraftKings and PointsBet, the over is +100, while the under at FanDuel is -115. So, the hold is approximately 3.5% — a pretty rough number.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 65% chance that the Golden Gophers go over. This gives an expected return of $0.30 per $1 put on the over at DraftKings or PointsBet.
Minnesota has a pretty good schedule, avoiding the likes of Ohio State and Michigan. It does, however, include road trips against Michigan State, Illinois, Penn State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
Games against New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and Colorado should all be wins.
As consistent as Minnesota has been under P.J. Fleck, we think that 6-6 or 7-5 is more likely than 8-4.
If Minnesota is going to get to eight wins, it is going to need win one of those games above and go unbeaten at home. That would mean a win against Iowa in Week 12.
Illinois — Over 4.5; Confidence: 2/10
At DraftKings, the over is -125, while the under at FanDuel is +120. So, the hold is just over 1%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 63% chance that the Fighting Illini don’t find five or more wins. This gives an expected return of $0.39 per $1 put on the under at FanDuel.
Illinois is one of the hardest teams to predict because it has primarily toss-up games.
Chattanooga is confidently a win. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa are confidently losses. But the rest could go either way.
Between Wyoming, Indiana, Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, and Northwestern, we think there’s a good enough chance for five wins.
Purdue — Under 7.5; Confidence: 3/10
At Barstool, the over is +120, while the under is -120 at DraftKings. So, the hold is 0%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 57% chance that the Boilermakers go under 7.5 wins. This gives an expected return of $0.05 per $1 put on the under at DraftKings.
Purdue is the only team in the Big Ten that plays an even number of home and road games, and that can make a difference in a decisive game or two.
The East teams that play Purdue are Penn State, Maryland, and Indiana. With the exception of swapping out Penn State for Rutgers, that’s as good of a draw as a team can get.
Indiana State, Syracuse, Florida Atlantic, Northwestern, and Indiana are confident wins. The Boilermakers just need three more wins somewhere.
Between Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Maryland, they’ll have some good opportunities down the stretch, but we’re just a little too bearish to have Purdue at 8-4 or better.
Nebraska — Under 7.5; Confidence: 5/10
At DraftKings, the over is -110, while the under is +120 at FanDuel. The hold is -2.2%.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 58% chance that the Cornhuskers go over 7.5 wins. This gives an expected return of $0.11 per $1 put on the over at DraftKings.
Nebraska opens with five home games and then a road contest against Rutgers. This should help with a good start.
But, even with giving Nebraska one out of four against Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, it still needs to be 7-1 in the other eight games.
North Dakota and Georgia Southern should comfortably be wins.
So, Nebraska needs to go 5-1 against Northwestern, Indiana, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois, and Minnesota. We feel pretty good that there’s at least five total losses on the schedule.
Northwestern — Under 4.5; Confidence: 5/10
At FanDuel and PointsBet, the over is +105, while the under is -125 at PointsBet. So, the hold is 4.34% — a pretty high number.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 71% chance that the Wildcats go under 4.5 wins. This gives an expected return of $0.28 per $1 put on the under at PointsBet.
Three of the first four games for Northwestern are Duke, Southern Illinois, and Miami University. There should be three wins right there, but let’s not take anything for granted.
The real issue for Northwestern is to find those last two wins.
Nebraska, Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois are all possibilities.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has gone from subpar to quality results in one year, but we’re going to side with this one going under and the Wildcats finishing 4-8.
Iowa — Over 7.5; Confidence: 7/10
At FanDuel, the over is +140, while the under is -115 at DraftKings. So, the hold is -4.84% — one of the best.
According to Ford’s ratings, there is a 44% chance that the Hawkeyes go over 7.5 wins. This gives an expected return of $0.08 per $1 put on the over at FanDuel.
As for who we’re most confident with for win totals in the West, Iowa earns that distinction.
Iowa has been incredibly consistent under Kirk Ferentz the last few years. With that in mind, it’s hard to find five losses on the schedule.
Traveling to Ohio State and hosting Wisconsin should be tough and games we mark as losses.
Hosting Michigan will also be a challenge and is a game we see as a toss-up.
The rivalry contest against Iowa State is also always challenging.
Then which other game, because there are only a couple of toss-up games on left on the schedule, is Iowa to lose?
Iowa not getting to eight wins with the schedule it has would require disproportionate ratio of bad breaks falling against the Hawkeyes.