It’s #FUTURESSZN, and what better way to start than analyzing some team win totals that look tasty. This miniseries will look at each of the ten FBS conferences and highlight some especially good-looking team totals. Let’s be honest, Vegas is very sharp, and *most* of the lines are about right. I don’t want to give you an over/under on every team because, frankly, most will be within one game away from the target, and one wrong bounce can lose the bet.
I have sifted through each team and each schedule (with the help of our handy dandy CFF guide) and hand-picked a few that should beat their mark with room to spare. Much like the CUSA, the Mid-American Conference is a wild world where half the league could finish first or last. Once again, I had a lot of trouble assigning likely wins and losses in this group. Known for zany scores and weeknight slates, the MAC is not for the faint of heart. We can use this to our advantage, however. Six teams have a win total suggesting they will make a bowl game (six or higher), with three other teams sitting right on the line at 5.5. Since almost anyone can win or lose in this league, mining the bottom half for upstarts no one sees coming is an enticing strategy. All lines courtesy of Draft Kings sportsbook.
Eastern Michigan (2021 record: 7-6) OVER 6.5 wins (+135)
The Eastern Michigan Eagles run a high-flying offense that is always a lock to provide an entertaining edition of Tuesday night #MACtion. EMU is coming off a seven-win regular season in 2021, returning four starters on the offensive line, two-time receiving leader Hassan Beydoun, and two productive running backs.
The offense is mostly intact, except for the most important position, quarterback. After three unsuccessful years at Missouri, Taylor Powell performed reasonably well for Troy last year, completing 66% of his passes. Now he steps into an offense in Eastern Michigan that has consistently averaged over 400 pass attempts per season. While defense never plays a huge part in the MAC, EMU returns aggressive pass rusher Jose Ramirez, and solidified their linebacking corps with P5 transfers Joe Sparacio (Boston College) and Chase Klein (Michigan State). Ideally, Sparacio and Klein will help tighten up a lousy run defense from a year ago.
I only have one sure loss for the Eagles, and that’s a game against Arizona State in Tempe. Home tilts against FCS Eastern Kentucky, and an FCS-adjacent game with UMass should lock in two wins. Buffalo and Akron will be bad again, and I’m giving them a W against Ball State, who lost a ton of production and their QB from a six-win team last year. That leaves two wins needed out of the remaining six games to cover their line. It’s not a sure thing by any stretch, but I like betting on chaos, and EMU is set up to weather the storm in the MAC. I’ll give this a 3/5 rating and go OVER 6.5 wins.
Kent State (2021 record: 7-7) OVER 5 wins (-145)
This line feels egregious! Kent State has been consistently good since Sean Lewis took over. After a 2-10 rebuilding year in 2018, the Golden Flashes are 17-14 (including a 3-1 COVID season). There is some reason to be concerned with Kent State losing star QB Dustin Crum and four offensive linemen from one of the league’s best units. But there is a lot of optimism around Crum’s heir Collin Schlee (a former three-star recruit), and all their playmakers will be back. The team has a new defensive coordinator from quality FCS program Northern Iowa and a few key transfers. In the end, this is a bet on Lewis and his system maintaining the level of success we’ve seen and a line that’s too low given their schedule.
The bad news is that Lewis and Co. start the season with a MAC-high three P5 matchups, including Georgia. It’s painful to write, but Kent State likely starts 1-3 (with a gimme against FCS Long Island mixed in). However, they avoid two of the top four teams in the MAC: Central Michigan and defending champ, Northern Illinois. They do have two tough roadies against Toledo and MiamiOH, but that means the five-game home schedule is wide open for a sweep. Bowling Green and Buffalo are easy away games, and this looks like a 7-5 or 6-6 type year for the Golden Flashes. I think a push result of 5-7 is a sure thing. I feel really good here, 4.5/5 rating to go OVER 5 wins.
Buffalo (2021 record: 4-8) UNDER 5.5 wins (-110)
I have no idea what this line is doing. Buffalo is a run-based team that lost its best runner Dylan McDuffie and a long-time starter at QB in Kyle Vantrease. Additionally, they will be replacing three offensive linemen from the 2021 team that went 4-8. Help is certainly on the way in Buffalo with an absurd 19 transfers coming in. However, setting their line essentially two wins above last year’s result doesn’t make any sense to me.
I think there’s a good chance Buffalo is bad this year. I can’t see what aspect of the team we have to really hang our hat on. Their schedule doesn’t do them many favors with a P5 game at Maryland and an elite Group of 5 match at Coastal Carolina. They get the league’s three best teams based on odds to win the MAC in Central Michigan, Toledo, and Miami of Ohio. That’s five losses pretty easily, which means they’d need to go 6-1 the rest of the way to hit the over. The remaining games against Ohio and the aforementioned Eastern Michigan and Kent St. will be difficult. I don’t even feel great about projecting a win at Bowling Green for the Bulls. With a 4/5 rating, I am confident in Buffalo going UNDER 5.5 wins in 2021.
BONUS ROUND – Eastern Michigan conference championship +1300
When I look at a conference and see many teams that are basically even, I always make sure to bet on a random, out-of-nowhere, future champ to back. Like North Texas in the CUSA, a green team gets my vote in the MAC. Despite a win total of a full game and a half over Kent St, EMU has much lower odds to win the conference. With a consistent coaching staff, returning playmakers, and a veteran offensive line, the Eagles at 13:1 is something I’d like to invest in.