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Handicappers take early look at college win totals

In a normal year, sportsbooks wouldn’t have released college football season win totals yet. But this is far from a normal year.

Caesars Entertainment posted regular-season totals this week for all Football Bowl Subdivision teams, giving college football bettors something to chew on as they wait out the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve been working on these for the better part of two weeks,” Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis said via email. “We generally release in July, but with no sports, we wanted to put something out.”

Familiar faces have the highest totals. Clemson, which lost to Louisiana State in last season’s title game, is listed at 11½ (over -120). Ohio State, which lost to Clemson in the semifinals, is at 11 (over -135).

Alabama, which missed the College Football Playoff for the first time last season, is at 10½ (over -140). Quarterback Mac Jones is expected to start after leading the Crimson Tide through the end of last season after Tua Tagovailoa was injured.

Davis said that though Clemson has the higher win total, he rates the Tigers behind Ohio State and Alabama.

“Season win totals are a reflection of each team’s schedule,” he said, with the expectation that Clemson will romp through a relatively easy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Defending champion LSU is listed at 9 (under -130) as it tries to replace quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner and presumed No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Four Southeastern Conference teams have higher win totals than the Tigers: Alabama, Florida (10, over -135), Georgia (10, under -125) and Texas A&M (9½, under -155).

Handicapper Paul Stone (@PaulStoneSports) said A&M was the first team that caught his eye. He likes the Aggies to go under, starting with one simple fact: They have won 10 games or more only once in 21 seasons.

“The last time I checked, they still play in the SEC West,” Stone said.

Stone also likes Baylor to go under 8 (-120), though Caesars has since moved from that opening number to 7½ (over -135). He said departed coach Matt Rhule was a “miracle worker” who will be difficult to replace.

Davis said some of the heaviest early action at Caesars had been on the Baylor under, along with North Carolina State over (going from 4½ over -145 to 5 over -115) and Wake Forest under (from 7 over -165 to 6½ under -120).

Stone also expects Purdue to go over 5 (-105) after suffering through an injury-plagued season.

Handicapper Brian Edwards (@vegasbedwards, Majorwager.com) said he likes Boise State to go over 9½ (over -115). The Broncos have won 10 games or more in four of coach Bryan Harsin’s six seasons.

UNLV is expected to struggle under first-year coach Marcus Arroyo. The Rebels opened at 3½ (under -185) but are now at 3 (over -125).

“Their schedule is ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL,” Davis said via email. “I think there are some positives but, again, it is hard to find four wins on the schedule.”

All teams must play their full schedule for action. Caesars also stipulates that all games must be played by March 1, 2021, allowing for the possibility of a late start to the season.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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