Crunching college totals to satisfy my football fix

How anxious am I for the start of football season? This anxious: Last Sunday, I woke up, flipped on the TV and watched the final round of a golf tournament played half a world away on a course that, in terms of aesthetic appeal, made Bushwood from Caddyshack look like Shadow Creek. And it was a tournament with no Tiger Woods and no back-nine drama, but it did include two Americans (Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson) doing what they do best (falling apart down the stretch in a major) and yet another Northern Ireland golfer winning going away (so now three of the last six major winners have hailed from Northern Ireland, a country roughly the size of Boulder City).

Even worse, after the British Open ended, I found myself watching women’s soccer. OK, it was the World Cup final, and the U.S. was involved, but still … I was watching women’s soccer! And kinda enjoying it!

Not even a pizza, a six-pack of beer and a few hours glued to the NFL Network could erase the shame.

Clearly, one of two things needs to happen and soon: Either someone flips the calendar to late August pronto, or I’m going to have to get a productive hobby. Since the latter is about as likely as, well, me watching another women’s soccer game in the next five years, I’m pressing the fast-forward button. And since the NFL remains in limbo—a labor deal appeared imminent at press time, but I’m not betting on it—I’ll turn my attention to the upcoming college football season.

Within a week, most Las Vegas sports books will unveil their 2011 college football over/under win totals, offering bettors the chance to place action on what teams will go over or under a projected number (not including bowl games). Since patience isn’t one of my virtues, I’m going to beat the oddsmakers to the punch and predict the over/under numbers for several top teams (plus UNLV). In the coming weeks, we’ll review the actual numbers and see if perhaps I have a future working behind the counter

(Note: I went 1-1 on the MLB All-Star Game, correctly picking the National League to win but coming up short on the total. That cost me $200, dropping my bankroll to $7,086.)

Alabama: Despite losing their top three offensive skill players, the Crimson Tide (10-3 in 2010) are loaded and have the look of a national title contender. They’ll be favored in each of their 12 games, with just two traps: at Florida on Oct. 1 and at home vs. LSU on Nov. 5. Projected Win Total: 11. The Play: OVER.

Auburn: The Tigers’ dream of back-to-back championships ended the minute QB Cam Newton took his ball and his sacks of cash and headed to the NFL. Auburn (14-0) has a brutal road slate (Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia), plus tough home games against Florida and Alabama. A winning record would be just as impressive as last year’s perfect season. Projected Win Total: 7. The Play: UNDER.

Florida: Two years ago, the Gators lost Tim Tebow to the NFL. Last year, coach Urban Meyer bolted, citing health concerns. Now Florida (8-5) has a leader who has never been a head coach, just 10 returning starters and a slate that includes just four gimmes (Florida Atlantic, UAB, Vanderbilt and Furman). Projected Win Total: 8. The Play: UNDER.

Oklahoma: The co-preseason favorites with Alabama, the Sooners (12-2) benefit from the return of a strong-armed quarterback (second-year starter Landry Jones) and a weak conference (which got weaker when Nebraska moved to the Big Ten). Oklahoma’s 12-game schedule features just three challenging contests outside of Norman (Texas in Dallas, at Florida State, at Oklahoma State). Projected Win Total: 10. The Play: OVER.

Nebraska: First the Huskers (10-4) hit the financial jackpot with their switch to the Big Ten, then they got lucky when the crap hit the fan at Ohio State. Nebraska starts with four nonconference cupcakes (three at home) before a tough test at Wisconsin. However, potential pitfalls include Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa. Projected Win Total: 10. The Play: UNDER.

Oregon: It took 13 games before Oregon lost last season. It might take 60 minutes for the Ducks to taste defeat this year, as they open against LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. Win that, though, and Oregon has just one more tough game (at Stanford) outside of raucous Autzen Stadium. Projected Win Total: 10. The Play: OVER.

UNLV: Second-year coach Bobby Hauck has just 11 returning starters, and only 25 of his scholarship players are upperclassmen. He also has a 12-game schedule that starts at Wisconsin, ends at TCU and in between features UNR (road), Boise State (home), Air Force (road) and San Diego State (home). There’s no avoiding an eighth consecutive losing season. Projected Win Total: 3½. The Play: UNDER.

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