Using SP+ to get an edge betting college football win totals

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Bill Connelly breaks down how SP+ projections can give you an edge on CFB win totals, goes through all the numbers and offers his favorite picks.

2:36 PM ET Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer Close Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com. The sportsbooks were awfully tough to beat during the 2021 college football season. The top computer projections systems mostly finished under 50% against the spread, and closing line value was next to nonexistent. We still had win totals, however. As I wrote following the regular season, my August SP+ win projections beat Caesars Sportsbook 60% of the time and won 74% of the time when it disagreed with the Caesars win total by at least one full win. The final 2022 SP+ projections came out Sunday, and it appears the books are adapting here, too. While SP+ disagreed by at least one full win on 23 teams last year, there are only five such instances this time around. The books always adapt. There are still solid bets to be found, however. Below, you'll find full SP+ win projections -- average wins (conference and overall), odds of bowl eligibility and odds of winning at least 11 games. You'll also find 40 potential win total bets that I feel pretty good about. (Odds are from Caesars unless otherwise noted, and if 40 is too many for you, I've listed the 10 I'm most confident in at the bottom.) Jump to: SEC | Big Ten | Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Independents | AAC | Mountain West | Sun Belt | C-USA | MAC | Favorite bets SEC Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses (only teams with odds at 0.5% or higher are listed): Georgia 57%, Alabama 53%, Ole Miss 4%, Kentucky 4%, Texas A&M 4%, Tennessee 2%, Arkansas 1%, Florida 0.9%, Mississippi State 0.5% Odds of at least 6 wins: Alabama 100%, Georgia 100%, Ole Miss 98%, Kentucky 97%, Tennessee 96%, Texas A&M 96%, Florida 86%, Arkansas 84%, Mississippi State 81%, Auburn 77%, LSU 75%, South Carolina 66%, Missouri 61%, Vanderbilt 0.4% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Georgia 10.6 6.8 11 21% 36% Alabama 10.5 6.7 11 18% 35% Ole Miss 8.2 4.5 7.5 70% Kentucky 8.1 4.6 8 39% 27% Texas A&M 8.0 4.5 8.5 38% Tennessee 8.0 4.5 8 35% 29% Florida 7.1 4.2 7 40% 26% Arkansas 7.0 4.1 7 39% 25% Mississippi State 6.8 3.1 6.5 57% Auburn 6.6 3.3 6 52% 25% LSU 6.5 3.1 7 25% 24% South Carolina 6.2 3.3 6.5 39% Missouri 5.9 2.7 5 61% 25% Vanderbilt 2.4 0.5 2.5 45% BEST BETS Texas A&M under 8.5 (+140). According to SP+, there's a 62% chance that the Aggies finish with eight or fewer wins. Meanwhile, with +140 odds, that means the break-even percentage is at 42%. That 20-point cushion is one of the largest you'll find. Alabama under 11 (+110). There's a 35% chance of a push on this one, so there's not an overt amount of potential here. But the Crimson Tide have only an 18% chance of finishing 12-0, so there's not a ton of risk either. Georgia under 11 (+100). We're talking about basically the same odds as Bama -- only a 43% chance of going under, but only a 21% chance of going over. Missouri over 5 (-150). The -150 odds mean a 60% break-even percentage, and the Tigers only have a 61% chance of hitting the over. But once again, the risk is minimal -- there's only a 14% chance they finish under 5. Ole Miss over 7.5 (-150). Again, you've got a huge break-even percentage to clear here, but SP+ gives the Rebels a 70% chance of going 8-4 or better. Decent cushion. Big Ten Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Ohio State 52%, Michigan 23%, Wisconsin 5%, Penn State 4%, Michigan State 4%, Minnesota 4%, Purdue 2%, Iowa 2%, Nebraska 0.5% Odds of at least 6 wins: Ohio State 100%, Michigan 100%, Wisconsin 98%, Michigan State 97%, Minnesota 97%, Penn State 97%, Iowa 93%, Purdue 92%, Nebraska 83%, Maryland 51%, Illinois 21%, Rutgers 15%, Northwestern 7%, Indiana 6% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Ohio State 10.4 7.7 11 17% 35% Michigan 9.6 6.7 9.5 56% Wisconsin 8.4 5.6 9 20% 28% Michigan State 8.2 5.6 7.5 69% Penn State 8.2 5.8 8.5 42% Minnesota 8.1 5.3 7.5 68% Iowa 7.6 5.1 7.5 54% Purdue 7.6 5.1 7 53% 23% Nebraska 6.9 4.9 7.5 35% Maryland 5.5 3.4 6 25% 26% Illinois 4.4 2.3 4.5 45% Rutgers 4.2 2.0 4 38% 30% Northwestern 3.5 1.6 3.5 50% Indiana 3.4 2.0 4 21% 25% BEST BETS Editor's Picks College Football win totals: Why you should take these teams now 6d ESPN Betting Analysts 1 Related Ohio State under 11 (+110). Same logic as Bama and Georgia. Your odds of winning aren't amazing (48%), but the odds of pushing (35%) are far greater than the odds of losing (17%). Nebraska under 7.5 (-125). The entire world has the Huskers listed as bounce-back candidates after they lost nine games by single-digit margins last season. But that sentiment has likely gone a bit too far now. SP+, which has historically liked NU, sees only a 35% chance of clearing 7.5 wins. Michigan State over 7.5 (-125). Just as Nebraska sentiment has overcorrected, I feel like MSU sentiment has done so in the opposite direction. The Spartans needed a ton of close wins to finish 11-2 and should regress in the win column, but SP+ thinks there's only a 31% chance they fall under 8-4. Minnesota over 7.5 (-130). The Gophers went 9-4 last season and are well-positioned to improve offensively. The schedule is manageable, and SP+ gives them a 68% chance of going 8-4 or better. Indiana under 4 (-125). The Hoosiers are facing a brutal schedule as they attempt a rebound from last year's sudden collapse. Odds of -125 mean a 56% break-even point, and their odds of falling under 4 are only 54%, but once again, the chance of pushing (25%) is higher than chance of losing the bet (21%). Big 12 Even with its fair amount of changes, Oklahoma has been one of the most reliable teams. Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Oklahoma 31%, Oklahoma State 5%, Baylor 2%, Texas 2%, Kansas State 1% Odds of at least 6 wins: Oklahoma 100%, Oklahoma State 97%, Baylor 92%, Texas 91%, Kansas State 84%, TCU 77%, Iowa State 69%, Texas Tech 51%, West Virginia 35%, Kansas 1% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Oklahoma 9.8 7.1 9.5 61% Oklahoma State 8.3 5.7 8.5 45% Baylor 7.6 5.2 8 26% 27% Texas 7.5 5.6 8.5 25% Kansas State 7.0 4.6 7 39% 25% TCU 6.6 4.4 6.5 53% Iowa State 6.3 4.1 6.5 43% Texas Tech 5.6 3.9 5.5 51% West Virginia 5.0 3.3 5.5 35% Kansas 2.8 1.0 2.5 57% BEST BETS Texas under 7.5 (-120). Is there a chance that the Longhorns catch fire with a fancy new quarterback (Quinn Ewers ) and an improved defense? Absolutely. But betting against Texas hype pays pretty frequently, and SP+ only gives the Horns a 25% chance of hitting 8-4 or better. Oklahoma over 9.5 (+120). There's a ton of change in Norman, but the Sooners have been the most reliable entity in the Big 12 through the years. The +120 odds set a 45% break-even point and SP+ gives them a 61% chance of going 10-2 or better. West Virginia under 5.5 (-110). The Mountaineers' roster has seen a lot of turnover, and a top-25 strength of schedule is pretty unforgiving. Kickoff is coming soon! Sign up for ESPN Fantasy Football today. Play for free ACC Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Clemson 25%, Pitt 12%, NC State 11%, Miami 6%, North Carolina 1%, Wake Forest 0.9%, Louisville 0.5%, Florida State 0.5 Odds of at least 6 wins: Clemson 100%, Pitt 99%, NC State 99%, Miami 98%, Wake Forest 93%, North Carolina 88%, Virginia Tech 77%, Florida State 76%, Louisville 75%, Virginia 70%, Boston College 50%, Syracuse 40%, Georgia Tech 4%, Duke 3% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Clemson 9.6 6.4 10.5 25% Pittsburgh 8.9 5.8 8.5 63% NC State 8.8 5.3 8.5 60% Miami-FL 8.4 5.3 8.5 49% Wake Forest 7.3 4.1 7 47% 28% North Carolina 7.3 4.8 7.5 45% Florida State 6.6 4.1 7 28% 24% Virginia Tech 6.6 3.9 6 52% 24% Louisville 6.6 4.1 6.5 52% Virginia 6.4 3.6 7 24% 22% Boston College 5.5 3.0 6.5 23% Syracuse 5.2 2.7 4.5 66% Georgia Tech 3.4 2.1 3 43% 32% Duke 2.9 1.0 3 31% 30% BEST BETS Boston College under 6.5 (-130). I'm conflicted by this one, as SP+ doesn't know that BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec only played part of last season, and the offensive projections are artificially low because of it. But the schedule doesn't offer many toss-ups, and the Eagles will have to basically sweep them to hit 7-5 or better. Clemson under 10.5 (-150). There's a scenario in which all is again well with the Tiger offense and Clemson rolls to 11-1 or 12-0. SP+ only gives that scenario a 25% chance of coming to fruition, though. The offense was really bad last season. Syracuse over 4.5 (-110). SP+ isn't predicting huge things from the Orange, but a 66% chance of going 5-7 or better against a 52% break-even point is solid. Pitt over 8.5 (-105). The Panthers probably won't be as good this year, but the schedule offers only two top-30 opponents and a 63% chance of going 9-3 or better against a 51% break-even point. Wake Forest over 7 (-105). Another low-risk option, Wake only has a 47% chance of winning more than seven, but the odds of pushing (28%) are greater than the odds of losing (25%). Pac-12 USC has a lot of talented new faces, but asking for 10 wins is a tall order. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Utah 16%, UCLA 7%, Oregon 6%, USC 1%, Arizona 1%, Washington 0.5% Odds of at least 6 wins: Utah 100%, UCLA 98%, Oregon 98%, USC 86%, Arizona State 86%, Washington 83%, Oregon State 63%, Washington State 54%, Cal 48%, Stanford 21%, Colorado 4%, Arizona 3% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Utah 9.2 6.8 9 42% 28% UCLA 8.6 5.8 8.5 54% Oregon 8.5 6.8 9 23% 27% USC 7.2 5.5 9.5 6% Arizona State 7.1 5.1 6 66% 19% Washington 6.9 4.8 7.5 35% Oregon State 6.1 4.5 6 40% 23% Washington State 5.7 3.8 5 54% 24% California 5.4 3.7 5.5 48% Stanford 4.4 3.0 4.5 44% Colorado 2.8 2.3 3 29% 27% Arizona 2.7 1.9 3 28% 27% BEST BETS USC under 9.5 (-120). I've been pretty open about the fact that I don't think SP+ is right about the Trojans this year. We have no precedent for how much a team can improve after taking on close to 20 transfers, many of which are blue-chip players. They will absolutely play better than their No. 46 projection (and their odds of going 10-2 or better are greater than the 6% above), but 9.5 is still a high bar for a team that plays Utah and Notre Dame and still has loads of defensive questions to answer. Arizona State over 6 (+110). On paper, this seems like one of the safest bets on the board -- a 66% chance of going 7-5 or better, plus a 19% chance of a push, against 48% break-even odds. This all requires you to put faith in Herm Edwards and what is apparently a wonky team culture. But I'm sticking with it all the same. Washington under 7.5 (-105). The Huskies should rebound in Kalen DeBoer's first year in charge, but this bar's a bit high, and SP+ only gives them a 35% chance of clearing it. Independents Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Notre Dame 16%, BYU 6%, Army 3%, Liberty 0.9% Odds of at least 6 wins: Notre Dame 100%, BYU 98%, Army 95%, Liberty 93%, NMSU 4%, UMass 2%, UConn 0.6% Team Avg W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Notre Dame 9.4 8.5 76% Liberty 7.4 6.5 75% Army 7.9 8 35% 27% Massachusetts 2.6 2.5 52% Connecticut 2.5 2.5 50% New Mexico State 3.2 3 39% 31% BYU 8.4 8.5 48% BEST BETS Notre Dame over 8.5 (-140, per DraftKings). Even with a high break-even point (58%), this appears to be one of the safer bets on the board. SP+ gives Marcus Freeman's Fighting Irish a 76% chance of winning nine or more. Liberty over 6.5 (-170, per DraftKings). Like Notre Dame, the Flames have a very good shot of topping 6.5 (75%), but the break-even point at -170 (63%) obviously makes things pretty risky. It's still probably worth taking the plunge. AAC Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Cincinnati 32%, Houston 16%, UCF 9%, SMU 4%, Memphis 1% Odds of at least 6 wins: Cincinnati 100%, Houston 99%, UCF 98%, SMU 94%, Memphis 89%, ECU 64%, Tulsa 51%, Tulane 46%, USF 18%, Navy 5%, Temple 4% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Cincinnati 9.9 6.7 9.5 65% Houston 9.1 6.2 9 40% 28% UCF 8.7 5.5 9.5 28% SMU 8.0 5.1 7 62% 20% Memphis 7.2 4.5 7.5 43% East Carolina 6.0 4.0 6.5 37% Tulsa 5.5 3.4 5.5 51% Tulane 5.4 2.7 6 21% 25% USF 4.2 2.8 4 41% 29% Navy 3.3 2.1 4 17% 24% Temple 3.3 1.1 2.5 72% BEST BETS SMU over 7 (-115). Rhett Lashlee's first Mustangs team is projected 43rd overall and plays only four top-50 teams. SP+ gives SMU a 62% chance of going 8-4 or better, plus a 20% chance of pushing at 7-5. Navy under 4 (+110). SP+ has underestimated service academies at times, and if Ken Niumatalolo gets the QB position under control, the Midshipmen could rebound again. But SP+ has overestimated them of late and gives them only a 17% chance of clearing a four-win bar. Temple over 2.5 (-140). I'm generally a "Bet the over on all 2s and 2.5s and bet the under on all 11s and 10.5s" person anyway, and while SP+ thinks Temple will be awful this season (124th overall), it still gives the Owls a 72% chance of finding at least three wins against a schedule that features home games against Lafayette and UMass. UCF under 9.5 (-140). Gus Malzahn's Knights looked awfully good late in 2021 and could build on that. But even with a No. 40 overall projection, SP+ gives them a 72% chance of going 9-3 or worse, easily enough to combat a 58% break-even point. Cincinnati over 9.5 (-115). Are the Bearcats CFP-caliber this year again? Probably not. But they only face one opponent projected higher than 40th. Tulane under 6 (-125). Another bet in the "higher odds of pushing (25%) than losing (21%)" range. Mountain West Jeff Tedford has a fairly light schedule and a talented roster at Fresno State. Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Fresno State 22%, Boise State 15%, Air Force 12%, San Diego State 3% Odds of at least 6 wins: Fresno State 100%, Boise State 99%, Air Force 99%, SDSU 97%, Utah State 86%, SJSU 72%, Colorado State 54%, Wyoming 22%, Nevada 21%, UNLV 17%, Hawaii 13%, New Mexico 2% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Fresno State 9.5 6.4 9 51% 28% Boise State 9.1 6.2 8.5 68% Air Force 8.9 5.8 8.5 62% San Diego State 8.0 5.4 7.5 64% Utah State 6.9 5.0 7 34% 29% San Jose State 6.4 4.0 6 46% 26% Colorado State 5.6 4.0 5.5 54% Wyoming 4.5 2.9 4.5 47% Nevada 4.4 2.3 4.5 45% UNLV 4.2 2.7 4 41% 29% Hawaii 3.9 2.0 3.5 60% New Mexico 2.7 1.2 2.5 55% BEST BET Fresno State over 9 (-110). You have to trust that Jeff Tedford is properly energized and ready to resume the form he found early in his previous Fresno tenure (22-6 in 2017-18) and not in his final season there (4-8 in 2019). But he inherits a great roster from Kalen DeBoer and has a pretty easy schedule to boot, and SP+ gives the Bulldogs only a 21% chance of going 8-4 or worse. Sun Belt Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Louisiana 9%, Appalachian State 5%, Marshall 3%, Coastal Carolina 3% Odds of at least 6 wins: Louisiana 99%, Appalachian State 98%, Coastal Carolina 95%, Marshall 93%, Georgia State 75%, Troy 63%, Southern Miss 57%, South Alabama 55%, JMU 51%, Old Dominion 37%, Arkansas State 26%, Texas State 20%, Georgia Southern 11%, ULM 1% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push UL-Lafayette 8.7 6.0 8.5 57% Appalachian State 8.4 5.8 9 20% 27% Coastal Carolina 7.8 5.1 8 35% 27% Marshall 7.7 4.9 7.5 58% Georgia State 6.6 4.8 6.5 52% Troy 6.0 4.3 6.5 36% Southern Miss 5.8 4.1 5.5 57% South Alabama 5.7 4.1 6 31% 24% James Madison 5.5 3.9 6.5 24% Old Dominion 5.0 3.7 4.5 61% Arkansas State 4.6 2.9 5 26% 26% Texas State 4.3 2.3 4.5 44% Georgia Southern 3.8 2.1 4 29% 28% UL-Monroe 2.5 1.9 2.5 46% BEST BETS Troy under 6.5 (-115). The Trojans should have one of the better defenses in the Sun Belt, but the offense must drastically overachieve projections for Troy to have a shot at seven or more wins. Old Dominion over 4.5 (+100). The Sun Belt East is loaded, and there are only a couple of likely wins on the Monarchs' schedule. But there are enough relative toss-ups that SP+ gives them a 61% chance of going 5-7 or better. James Madison under 6.5 (-170, per DraftKings). JMU was one of FCS' strongest programs for quite a while, but the Dukes lost a lot of the stars from last year's FCS semifinal run, and they're joining what might be the toughest division in the Group of Five. That makes 6.5 an awfully ambitious number, and it makes the under a pretty solid bet even with a lofty 63% break-even point. Conference USA Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: WKU 12%, UTSA 7%, UAB 5% Odds of at least 6 wins: WKU 98%, UTSA 98%, UAB 97%, North Texas 75%, UTEP 63%, MTSU 55%, FAU 52%, Charlotte 28%, Louisiana Tech 25%, Rice 4%, FIU 4% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Western Kentucky 8.8 5.5 8 58% 22% UTSA 8.6 6.3 8.5 53% UAB 8.3 5.7 8.5 46% North Texas 6.5 4.3 6 49% 25% UTEP 6.0 4.2 5.5 63% Middle Tennessee 5.7 3.8 5.5 55% Florida Atlantic 5.6 4.1 6 28% 24% Charlotte 4.7 3.5 4.5 54% Louisiana Tech 4.5 3.4 5 25% 25% Rice 3.1 2.1 2.5 64% Florida International 3.0 1.1 3 35% 29% BEST BETS Western Kentucky over 8 (+110). This one's tricky, since both offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and quarterback Bailey Zappe (plus his top two receivers) are gone after last year's offensive renaissance. But Kittley-esque co-coordinator Ben Arbuckle remains in town, and new QB Austin Reed was dynamite at the D-II level. SP+ gives the Hilltoppers a 58% chance of going 9-3 or better and only a 20% chance of going under. Even if the odds aren't that great because of all the change, that's quite a cushion. Louisiana Tech under 5 (-110). The Bulldogs have won fewer than five games just once in the past eight seasons, but new head coach Sonny Cumbie has a ton of holes to fill and a schedule that features only three likely wins. SP+ only gives them a 25% chance of hitting 6-6 or better. MAC Odds of finishing with 0-1 losses: Toledo 4%, NIU 0.5% Odds of at least 6 wins: Toledo 98%, Miami (Ohio) 83%, CMU 82%, NIU 81%, EMU 65%, Buffalo 50%, WMU 46%, Ball State 46%, Ohio 40%, Kent State 35%, BGSU 24%, Akron 2% Team Avg W Conf W Wins to Cover % Over % Push Toledo 8.3 5.9 8 46% 28% Northern Illinois 6.9 4.7 7 35% 25% Miami-OH 6.9 5.2 6.5 60% Central Michigan 6.8 4.9 7.5 33% Eastern Michigan 6.2 4.0 5.5 65% Buffalo 5.5 3.6 5 50% 24% Western Michigan 5.4 3.9 6 23% 23% Ball State 5.4 3.1 4.5 71% Ohio 5.2 3.7 5.5 40% Kent State 5.0 3.8 5.5 35% Bowling Green 4.5 3.4 4.5 48% Akron 2.7 1.8 2.5 53% BEST BETS Western Michigan under 6 (-105). The Broncos have to replace many pieces from a dynamite passing game, and the defense probably can't pick up the slack. The schedule features loads of relative toss-ups, and the odds of WMU going 7-5 or better are only 23%. Central Michigan under 7.5 (-120). The Chippewas could be solid, but the schedule features trips to Oklahoma State and Penn State, meaning they'll likely have to go 8-2 against everyone else to hit the over. SP+ only gives that a 33% chance of happening. Ball State over 4.5 (-140). Things fell apart for the 2020 MAC champs last fall and might only get so much better in 2022. But the schedule is cushy, and SP+ gives the Cardinals a 71% chance of scrounging out five wins, good enough to overcome a 58% break-even point. Kent State under 5.5 (-115). I don't feel great about this one, as I think Sean Lewis is building something exciting with the Golden Flashes. But the schedule features trips to Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia, and SP+ only gives them a 35% chance of hitting 6-6 or better. Eastern Michigan over 5.5 (-115). Chris Creighton's Eagles will have to win some toss-ups, but SP+ gives them a 65% chance of winning at least six games, as they've done for four of the past five full seasons (so, not including 2020). Best of the bets If 40 bets is too many for you, here are the 10 that I probably feel the best about overall: SMU over 7 (-115) Texas A&M under 8.5 (+140) USC under 9.5 (-120) Oklahoma over 9.5 (+120) Cincinnati over 9.5 (-115) Notre Dame over 8.5 (-140) Old Dominion over 4.5 (+100) Missouri over 5 (-150) Pitt over 8.5 (-105) Eastern Michigan over 5.5 (-115)