The Associated Press and Coaches Poll Preseason Top 25 rankings are out, and the polls revealed a consensus top 10.
Sure, that means College Football Playoff regulars such as Alabama and Clemson are at the top of the list, but four schools vying to make a first-time CFP appearance also are on that list.
Can you trust Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Iowa State or North Carolina? Which schools will make their projected win totals for the 2021 season? Sporting News looked at those over/unders for the top 10 to see who we trust the most (odds courtesy of FanDuel.com).
The Crimson Tide have lost three regular-season games in the last five years, and they have completed unbeaten regular seasons three times in that stretch. It’s easier to take the under and hope Alabama slips up on the road at Florida, Texas A&M or Auburn, but the Crimson Tide has not been an underdog in a regular-season game since Georgia in 2015. The absurdity of that statistic makes it easier to take the over on this bet.
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We hate this total. This is a tough bet to take knowing the Tigers can hit the under with a loss to Georgia in the opener. If Clemson wins that, then it’s easy to say they should walk through the ACC knowing they are 24-1 in conference play the last three seasons and the lone loss is to Notre Dame. Could a fluke happen at N.C. State or South Carolina? We doubt it, but this is one we would prefer to stay away from knowing the Tigers can have that ridiculous ACC hiccup and still go 11-1 to make the CFP.
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The Sooners are loaded offensively this season, and they are even receiving a few first-place votes. Yet the Sooners have yet to have an unbeaten regular-season under Lincoln Riley, and there are enough potential pot-holes on the schedule for that yearly unexpected Big 12 loss. Oklahoma will still win the Big 12, but we think it comes with one regular-season loss.
Ohio State (11)
Ryan Day hasn’t lost a Big Ten game yet, and the Buckeyes have amassed enough talent that there is a considerable gap between them and the rest of the competition. The Week 2 game against Oregon won’t be easy, but that’s at Ohio Stadium. There are crossover games at Minnesota and Northwestern and challenges at Indiana and Michigan. But Ohio State will meet all of those. They are the best bet to have an undefeated regular season based on the schedules.
This is just like the Clemson proposition. If you feel like the Tigers are going to win the opener against the Bulldogs, then stay away. Georgia still has tests against Auburn and Florida after that, and the Bulldogs have lost at least one SEC regular-season game each of the last three seasons. It really comes down to that opener in a lot of ways. Is Georgia better than a 10-2 team?
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Texas A&M (9.5)
The Aggies should be favored in every game leading up to the Oct. 9 showdown against Alabama. That is a showcase for the program. Win that game, and the over feels like a lock. Lose, and bettors will likely have to sweat out November tests at Ole Miss and LSU. That said, it feels like the Aggies’ win total should be at 10.
Notre Dame (8.5)
The Irish have a new quarterback in Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan, and a tough schedule that features four top-15 opponents in Wisconsin, Cincinnati, North Carolina and USC. Do you think the Irish can go 3-1 in those games? If so, take the over because there aren’t two more losses on the schedule. If you think Notre Dame goes 2-2 in those games, then it’s still a good bet they can get to 9-3. We’re trusting Brian Kelly’s recent ability to reload.
We love Cincinnati and the program Luke Fickell has built. It comes down to whether the Bearcats can get a split in the two non-conference blockbusters at Indiana and Notre Dame. It would not be surprising if they win in Bloomington, but losses there force Cincinnati to go unbeaten in the AAC when the playoff is out of the conversation. The Bearcats can still win the conference, but against that schedule 9-3 could be the final record. This is at best a push.
Iowa State (9.5)
The Cyclones have their highest AP preseason ranking ever, a testament to the culture Matt Campbell has established in Ames. Before the Cyclones can entertain winning the Big 12, they must beat in-state rival Iowa for the first time in five tries with Campbell. The conference schedule is friendly, but road trips to Kansas State and West Virginia are potential trap games. Iowa State could have two losses when they get to the big game against Oklahoma, and this time it’s in Norman. This is another tough call between 10-2 and 9-3, and it could hinge on that Iowa game.
North Carolina (9.5)
The rebrand at North Carolina has been fantastic under Mack Brown, and the Tar Heels appear ready to make that ACC championship push with Sam Howell under center. What’s holding us back? North Carolina does replace several key skill players. The Tar Heels have lost seven conference games the last two years. If UNC loses to Notre Dame and Miami, this could get dicey, but remember the Heels miss Clemson in the regular season. All that said, we still think the break-through is coming. Watch the Tar Heels just beat this total at 10-2.
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