Friday Five: The best over/under value plays in college football for 2017


Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week we rank the five best value plays in early 2017 win totals.

Earlier this week, Bovada released its regular season win totals for some of the bigger schools within the Power Five conferences. Not every single one -- get on that, Bovada -- but for the most part, every team you expect to at least compete for a bowl bid has a total attached to it.

This was excellent news for me because it's early June and there isn't a whole lot happening in the world of college football right now. Spring practice is over and summer practices are yet to begin, so we're kind of in that dead zone right now, even if the season seems like it's just around the corner. So these win totals, even if I'm not actually planning on betting any of them, provide some fun mental exercises as I try to figure out how good every team is going to be this season.

It also provided a nice topic for this week's Friday Five.

I went through all the totals Bovada released in search of the five best value plays available to anybody who would be looking to lay some money on the line. Now, before we get to which five totals I've selected, there's something important you have to remember when it comes to looking for the best value plays.

None of these picks are me directly predicting Team A is going to win X amount of games. What I'm looking for are the best odds that Team A is going to win X amount of games in relation to what the payoff would be.

For example, Alabama didn't make the list. It's over/under is set at 10.5 wins, with the over paying -200 (for every $100 you risk you stand to win $50) and the under paying +160 (for every $100 you risk you could win $160). So what I have to ask myself is which one offers the best value. History would suggest that Alabama will go over, but -200 odds isn't really worth the risk because no matter who you are, winning 11 of 12 games is not easy. So the reward isn't worth the risk.

The more valuable play here would be to take the under because the reward is worth the risk because a 10-2 season for an Alabama team that plays Florida State and an eight-game SEC schedule isn't exactly an unlikely outcome. That would be the play I would make if I were to do it, but it turns out there are five other plays I like more, simply because betting against Alabama is a bad strategy.

So keep all that in mind as you read on.

Best Win Total Value Plays For 2017
5
Under 10.5 (+120): This is somewhat in line with what I was just talking about with Alabama. Ohio State is the favorite in the Big Ten, and for good reason. It's been to the College Football Playoff twice in the last three years and has averaged 11.4 regular season wins per season under Urban Meyer. Still, even if Ohio State went 10-2 this year, we would still win this bet, and if you look at Ohio State's schedule, two regular season losses are certainly within the realm of possibility. The Buckeyes will play Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan during the season, and even if only the Michigan game is on the road, those are tough games. Throw in a couple of tough road games against Nebraska and Iowa and it's not crazy to think the Buckeyes will slip up twice during the regular season.
4
Under 8 (+150): This is very much a value play and not an actual prediction that Georgia is going 7-5 this year. Of course, having said that, Georgia did go 7-5 during the regular season last year! When you remember that, and you look at the schedule this season, it's not crazy to think it could happen again this year. The Bulldogs get Tennessee, Notre Dame, Auburn and Georgia Tech all on the road. There's also Florida in Jacksonville. Those all present legitimate loss possibilities, and there's always an upset possibility elsewhere that exists. With a +150 payoff, it's a play worth making.
3
Under 9.5 (+150): Another value play with a bit more to it psychologically. I believe USC is going to be a CFP contender this season. I also believe that USC could be the best team in the Pac-12 this year. It's just I've felt this way about USC plenty of times before in recent years, and the Trojans have a penchant for letting me down. So when I see +150 odds that would pay off even if the Trojans manage to go 9-3, it's hard to pass that option up. They did go 9-3 last year, after all, and this year's schedule features Stanford, Texas and Notre Dame, and tough road trips to Washington State, Arizona State and Colorado. Plus, there's the regular season finale against crosstown rival UCLA. Those are six games that provide possible losses, and I only need three of them to occur. I'll take those odds.
2
Over 7 (+120): I just feel like people want to write off West Virginia a bit too easily. I get the sentiment somewhat because the Mountaineers struggled against the Oklahoma schools last year and were beat up pretty good by Miami in their bowl game. Still, that could all happen again and West Virginia is still entirely capable of getting to eight wins. Even if you're of the theory that West Virginia took advantage of a down Big 12 last season, what's really changed about the conference heading into 2017?
1
Over 7 (Even): The Vols fell apart in October last season after a 5-0 start. Some of this was because of the schedule, and more of it was because of the fact Tennessee players were dropping with injuries seemingly every other play. Still, even after that rough October, the Vols still won four of their last five games, but I feel like that loss to Vanderbilt to finish the regular season is the one people pay more attention to. Even with all those struggles, though, Tennessee finished the regular season at 8-4. And even if the Vols lost a lot of key players from last year's team, there's still a lot of talent on this roster, and while tough, the schedule isn't egregiously difficult. Even if the payoff isn't all that great, I just think the likelihood of Tennessee managing to get at least eight wins in 2017 is worth the risk here.

Honorable Mention: Iowa, Over 6.5 (Even); Louisville, Over 9 (Even); Nebraska, Under 7.5 (+135); Oregon, Over 8 (Even); Pittsburgh, Over 7.5 (Even)

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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