There are teams in college football that are very easy to predict. Alabama and Florida State are going to be very good, for example, and Illinois and Virginia really, really aren't. You don't need to go out on a limb to make those predictions, and the betting public will be all over those. It's not likely that there will be much betting value with those squads.
What is far more interesting from a betting perspective are teams that have a strong chance of being far different than people expect. That's where nice betting value can exist. Here we are going to look at a value type of teams for bettors. Each of these three squads was lousy last year, and none of them get any attention at all from the general public. Each has a good chance of being dramatically better - both on the scoreboard and at the betting window - than they were last year.
UCF: There were two teams in major conference football to lose all 12 games they played last year. Kansas was the furthest thing from a surprise. They had every reason to be terrible, and they lived up to that potential. They have a chance to do it again this year, too. The Knights of Central Florida, though, were a total shock.
This team had won 12 and nine games in the previous two seasons, respectively. They were going through some changes but not nearly enough to force a dropoff like this. It was a total and utter meltdown. George O'Leary lasted only eight games, and it seems reasonable that he deserved a lot of the blame - he just lost control of the program.
The team isn't likely to win their conference again, but they should be better - potentially much better. They did a remarkable job of hiring a coach, luring Scott Frost to run the show. He has already made huge strides in changing the attitude of the team and the program. They beat themselves as much as anything last year - especially later on when all hope had been bled out of the year. Frost isn't going to let that happen again.
There are some very tough spots on the schedule - they will get crushed at Michigan and again at Houston. There are at least six or seven manageable games on the schedule, though. This team was a disastrous 2-10 ATS last year - worst in the entire country. They will be significantly better than that. With a break or two they could even flirt with bowl eligibility.
Florida Atlantic: There was a lot of lousy football played in the state of Florida last year, but pretty much across the board things could be better. This team was a lousy 3-9 last year and just 5-7 ATS. They should be better than that this year. Heck, they were better than that last year - they lost two games in overtime, including one to Florida, and lost two more by one and seven.
They have brought in a new offensive staff and should have a much more aggressive, tough-to-defend offense as a result. They have some solid talent on defense, too. The schedule is far from the toughest in the country, and there are several winnable games here. This is the third year under Coach Charlie Partridge, too, so we should have a much better sense of what he wants to accomplish, and the team should finally look more like we expect it to under such a talented and promising coach.
This is the kind of team that could easily win seven or so games and cover a couple more than that - without anyone taking any notice at all.
UNLV: The Rebels turned a lot of heads when they hired Tony Sanchez, a high school coach who had built a powerhouse at local school Bishop Gorman, as their head coach. His first year was only 3-9, but they were better than the record indicates in many ways. They were obviously no match for opponents like UCLA, Michigan or Boise State. They laid down 80 points against Idaho State, though, and lost four games by eight or fewer points, including one in overtime.
This year they are a year more experienced, and their schedule is easier - they face UCLA again, but no Michigan, and no one of that caliber to replace them. Sanchez has recruited pretty well all things considered, and more than half of his starters are returning from last year. This team won't be making the playoff (ever), but they could make it to bowl eligibility.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Most Recent College Football Handicapping
- NCAA Football Predictions: Week 4 Opening Line Report and Picks
- WynnBET Pays Out an Incredible $80,000 College Football Parlay Play
- NCAA Football Predictions: Week 3 Opening Line Report and Picks
- NCAA Football Mid-Major Free Betting Picks: Florida Atlantic Owls Week 2
- NCAA Football Predictions: Week 2 Opening Line Report and Picks
- NCAA Football Mid-Major Free Betting Picks: Florida Atlantic Owls Week 1
- 2021 Texas A&M Aggies Football Predictions: Season Win Total Picks
- 2021 LSU Tigers Football Predictions: Season Win Total Picks
- NCAA Football Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
- 2021 Tennessee Volunteers Football Predictions: Season Win Total Picks