Do you like making money? Do you like watching football? Would you like to do both at the same time? What if I told you that you are only one MWConnection blog away from a better life, all funded by gambling on Mountain West Conference win totals?! Wait...come back!
Gambling on football games falls somewhere between treasury bonds and multi-level marketing in terms of risk. Not unlike MLM schemes, typically the newest folks on the block take the majority of the losses and vow to never return. Luckily for you, I have created a handy ranking system to help you navigate around the essential oils of the MWC preseason win totals and steer towards the sure-fire winners.
To help convince you of this investment opportunity, I will be using projected win totals (FPI and S&P+), strength of schedule, five-year trailing win averages (regular season only, bowls don’t count for win totals), and a little bit of NARRATIVE FLAIR™ of my own design. Since I have already been using a scale from MLM scams up to T-bills, let’s go ahead and keep that motif rolling as we dive into the sexiest topic known to man...risk assessment.
For your reference, I am using the win totals that were released by FanDuel and are linked here.
If you have never bet on win totals before, the basic premise is that each team is assigned a number of wins that you must wager will be more or less than their actual number of wins. If you think that team will win more, you bet the over. If you think the team will win less, you bet the under. There is also a ratio of dollars gambled to dollars won for every team, usually expressed in terms of $100.
For example, San Jose State is projected to win 2.5 games. If you think SJSU will win at least 3 games, you bet the over. In this case, the over is set at -155, which means you must bet $155 to win an additional $100. If you think SJSU will win 2 games or fewer, you take the under at +130. A positive number, like +130, means that if you bet $100 you will win an additional $130.
LET’S MAKE SOME MONEY!
The Multi-Level Losers: AVOID AT ALL COSTS
I should probably mention before we get going that a team’s actual outlook for the season can be quite good and it can still be considered a loser for gambling. Speaking of which…
Boise State (SOS: 95th | PROJ: 10.0 | 5-YR AVG: 9.4 | FPI: 9.8 | S&P: 9.8)
Yes, the Broncos are probably going to be the best team in the MWC again this year. That doesn’t mean they are a smart bet at ten wins. There are various ways for the Broncos to get eleven or even twelve regular season wins, sure, but you could also see them losing some close games on the road (BYU, USU, Florida State all come to mind). I’m also not going to hold myself responsible if the Florida State game gets cancelled because of a hurricane (we’ve had games cancelled early in the season on the East Coast each of the last two years). Enjoy BSU as they compete for MWC and national attention, just don’t bet on them.
Fresno State (SOS: 90th | PROJ: 8.0 | 5-YR AVG: 5.8 | FPI: 7.3 | S&P: 8.3)
The Bulldogs have enjoyed two great years since Jeff Tedford returned as head coach. In each of those two years, they’ve played for the MWC Championship and have generally been the cream of the West Division crop. They will, in all likelihood, find themselves in a two-horse race for the West title with San Diego State.
So why wouldn’t you bet on a seemingly innocuous 8-win projection?
Fresno starts with USC and then hosts Minnesota the next week. How good are those two teams going to be? I have no idea, and neither do you. Fresno probably would have beaten USC last year, but they are replacing a lot of production. Minnesota was young and returns a lot of talent, but is it good enough to win on the road early in the season? I don’t know and neither do you. Stay away from Fresno (this is true both in gambling and vacation planning).
Wyoming (SOS: 91th | PROJ: 5.5 | 5-YR AVG: 5.4 | FPI: 5.7 | S&P: 5.6)
Air Force (SOS: 99th | PROJ: 6.5 | 5-YR AVG: 7.2 | FPI: 7.6 | S&P: 6.5)
One of these teams is going to win six games, and the other will win seven. If you guess correctly, you will cash out on both bets. If you guess incorrectly, you’ll spend a week sleeping on the couch while your spouse/significant other/bookie wonders what would possess you to wager on these win totals.
Hawaii (SOS: 88 | PROJ: 5.5 | 5-YR AVG: 4.8 | FPI: 6.7 | S&P: 5.9)
The best part of Nick Rolovich’s Hawaii is that they are completely unpredictable. The worst part of Nick Rolovich’s Hawaii is that they are completely unpredictable. Is Hawaii going to keep the momentum going in 2019 and challenge for the West Division? Maybe, I mean it couldn’t hurt that Cole McDonald isn’t dealing with, um, health issues anymore. On the other hand, Hawaii could just as easily implode like it did two years ago under Rolovich. Whatever happens, l will be up at 2:00 AM to find out. I just won’t be gambling on it and neither should you.
Complex Financial Instruments: HEDGE YOUR BETS
Hedging occurs when you make a bet that goes directly against another bet you have made. It reduces your potential winnings, sure, but it also eliminates the risk of losing money altogether. Each of these teams will probably need one more win in their final game of the regular season to hit the over, so make sure you bet against them if you take the over or for them if you take the under.
UNLV (SOS: 77th | PROJ: 4 | 5-YR AVG: 3.6 | FPI: 4.9 | S&P: 4.8)
I’m not going to lie to you, there is a scenario that exists where UNLV finally takes that last step under Tony Sanchez and becomes a bowl-eligible team. The Rebels were one Armani Rogers big toe away from a much different season last year. With Rogers leading the team, UNLV went 3-3 and even upset in-state rival Nevada. Without him, they lost seven of eight and looked disorganized. Either way, Sanchez has continued to build and could get a full season of Rogers to boost his chances of making a bowl game. Worst case scenario? The Rebels are 3-8 when they travel to Nevada and need another upset win to hit their win total.
Take the over and bet on the Wolf Pack if UNLV needs the win. At worst you’ll get your money back.
Utah State (SOS: 70th | PROJ: 7 | 5-YR AVG: 6.8 | FPI: 5.6 | S&P: 7.7)
Gary Andersen is back in charge, and this season could get weird for the Aggies. Is it so hard to believe that USU could start slow, build up to beating Boise State, and still finish off the season needing to beat New Mexico to hit eight wins? What if their losses are to Wake Forest, LSU, BYU, and either San Diego State or Fresno State? Maybe they lose to Boise, but beat one of those aforementioned teams. A brutal schedule calls for a tricky answer to make money on Big Blue.
Take the under and hedge it with a win over the Lobos to finish the season if needed.
San Diego State (SOS: 93th | PROJ: 8 | 5-YR AVG: 8.6 | FPI: 7 | S&P: 8.4)
Rocky Long has the pieces to challenge Fresno State for the West Division again this year. He technically challenged last year, until the Aztecs went 1-4 to finish the season. I don’t think we will see a repeat collapse on that level two years in a row, but SDSU could still have some late-season shakies. They finish up the season hosting Fresno, visiting Hawaii, and finally hosting a good BYU team. Add in an early game against UCLA, and there is plenty of uncertainty for the Aztecs.
Go ahead and take the over for SDSU. They will probably have eight wins sewn up before the BYU game. If they don’t, you’ll need to assume a second consecutive November collapse and bet on BYU.
T-Bills That Pay Bills: MORTGAGE YOUR HOME (don’t really)
Sometimes Vegas just gets things wrong. I’m here to tell you that there are four such examples of that here with these win totals. Go ahead and pawn everything you own (seriously though, don’t do this) and lay large sums of money (or, like, a reasonable amount for your budget) on these winners.
Nevada (SOS: 100th | PROJ: 6.5 | 5-YR AVG: 5.6 | FPI: 5.7 | S&P: 6.7)
But wait, doesn’t Nevada have the easiest schedule in the Mountain West? Weren’t they actually pretty good last year?
These are questions that you aren’t asking because you are smart. That soft schedule? It’s full of easy wins, but also very likely losses (Purdue, Oregon, Utah State). It’s also hinging on Nevada competing for the West Division, which seems sort of unlikely with all the turnover they’ve had (Gangi graduated, Mannix transferred, and the defense lost almost everyone). Nevada is trending in the right direction, but they won’t win seven games unless something surprising happens (like Malik Henry fulfilling his potential and stepping in at QB).
I’ll take my chances, and so should you. Nevada under 6.5.
San Jose State (SOS: 80th | PROJ: 2.5 | 5-YR AVG: 3 | FPI: 4 | S&P: 3.1)
No, seriously. FPI likes them, S&P+ likes them, they’ve survived the worst of the Caragher era, and Brent Brennan is actually doing the right things to make SJSU somewhat respectable again. Somehow, even their five-year average is above 2.5 wins. You wanna hear the craziest part? The Spartans could start the season 2-0! Northern Colorado should be a win (if it’s not, forget you ever read this article), and Tulsa at home is winnable, baby! The Spartans could have their third win by October 4th when New Mexico visits the Bay Area! OCTOBER 4TH!
Spartans OVER 2.5.
New Mexico (SOS: 98 | PROJ: 5.0 | 5-YR AVG: 5 | FPI: 4.4 | S&P: 3.9)
Look at the state of New Mexico’s program and tell me if you think that the Lobos are likely to win five games this year. Bob Davie is somehow still the coach of this team despite issues both on and off the field, attendance has plummeted for home games, and New Mexico brought in basically an entire defense worth of junior college players. Even if the JUCO gamble pays off, how much better are they going to be than a year ago when they won just three games?
The non-conference schedule is friendly-ish at first glance, but NMSU beat the Lobos two years ago in Albuquerque and Liberty hired a well-known man of principles to provide them with immediately results (oh, and they beat UNM in Dreamstyle Stadim last year without Freeze). If the Lobos lose one of those two games, they would need to have multiple conference upsets just to hit five wins. Empty out your 401(k) and bet against Davies (please do not actually empty out your retirement funds for gambling).
Lobos UNDER 5.
Colorado State (SOS: 85th | PROJ: 3.5 | 5-YR AVG: 6.8 | FPI: 4.7 | S&P: 3.4)
I’m not saying that the Rams are going to turn things around after a genuinely bad season last year. I’m not even saying they are going to a bowl. But three and a half wins? Even when CSU fell apart last year they won three games. Assuming they beat Western Illinois, the Rams just need to win three out of eleven games for this bet to cash. Between New Mexico, UNLV, and Toledo (at home) you can probably squeeze out two wins. Then all they have to do is beat one of their three rivals (CU-Boulder, Air Force, or Wyoming) and they are a four-win team.
This is probably a good time to mention (and not for the first time) that CSU is 0-9 against these three teams in the last three years. Good thing the Rams got that nice, new stadium to lose more rivalry games in (and yes, I know they play the Buffs in Denver every year, just go with it). Maybe they should try winning these games once in a while. I think this year they will raise the bar and lose just 67% of their rivalry games!
Rams over 3.5. This is the easiest money you’ve ever made.