By: Denery Noone, Scott Brock-Wilson, and Justin Lynch
Texas over 8 wins (+150)
Texas won just five games last season, but their talent seeped through in big games. Texas got throttled by Notre Dame and TCU, but beat playoff participant Oklahoma on a neutral location, and won at Baylor the last game of the season. They lost big against relatively bad teams, but Charlie Strong will have his team ready to go this year.
The Longhorns are also aided by a fairly easy schedule. Three of their four toughest games (Notre Dame, TCU, Baylor) are all at home, and probably their toughest game (Oklahoma) is at a neutral location. Outside of Oklahoma State, their road games consist of a depleted Cal team, Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. That doesn’t exactly engender fear. Even without top-tier recruiting classes, Texas is always talented. This year Charlie Strong will make a big leap and get Texas to nine wins.
J.T. Barrett (+1200) to win the Heisman
Without the distractions of last season, Barrett will be able to take the reigns of the offense without having to look over his shoulder. Dual threat abilities are always good for Heisman purposes, and Barrett will be throwing and running quite a bit this year, following the loss of Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. I’m sure Ohio State will replace Elliot with another solid back, but that player will be wildly inexperienced.
Ohio State faces the typical cupcake of a schedule that many Big 10 teams faces (cough-Michigan-cough), but they do play a number of tough games. Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin could be battles, and the closer the game the better for Barrett, who will need to post huge stats to win the Heisman.
These close games could be the difference for Barrett versus other potential Heisman winners. DeShaun Watson and Clemson will walk all over the ACC, and it’s fair to expect Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette to plateau as their respective teams prepare to replace them next fall.
But Ohio State is only bringing back six starters, making the need for Barrett to provide veteran leadership even more important. If Ohio State wants to go far, Barrett will be the one to carry them, and though the same can be said for many other Heisman hopefuls, it rings more true with Barret, given Ohio State’s circumstances.
Brad Kaaya over 20.5 touchdown passes (-145)
Yes, I know these aren’t great odds. But I nearly included the under on Florida State and the over on Utah’s win totals, which both have even uglier odds. So, you’re welcome. I’m not going to pretend I’m the biggest Brad Kaaya fan on the planet, but the Hurricanes decided they weren’t going to play any hard games until the ACC made them. Kaaya should throw all over Florida A&M, FAU, and Appalachian State in the first three games of the year, and gain some confidence entering ACC play.
In the ACC and beyond, things get a little trickier. Miami plays Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. But this also means that Miami will need to be throwing to stay in games against more talented opponents. And besides, if Brad Kaaya wants to be the second pick in the draft, he better throw 21 touchdowns this season.
Clemson will make the Playoffs (+200)
I am surprised the value is this good for a team that has the best QB in college football (sorry Mayfield) and was in the finals last year after an undefeated regular season. Let’s not forget they only lost by five in the finals against another stacked Bama team. I am not sold on FSU and honestly don’t think they’ll be great this year with shaky QB play. I believe Clemson will coast through most of the ACC with the occasional tests. The only tough ones I see are against Georgia Tech (not too hard), FSU, and Louisville. Provided those, they just have to get by the ACC championship game similar to last year. With a high powered offense and an easy schedule, expect clemson to make their second straight appearance in the playoffs.
Chad Kelly Over 27.5 Passing TDs (-130)
Yes this may partially be because of the awesome Netflix series Last Chance U. Kelly had 27 TDs in the regular season last year and added 4 more during the bowl game against Oklahoma State. I only see improvement from Kelly this upcoming season without any major losses on the offensive side of the ball for Ole Miss, so I believe he’ll be over 28 for sure provided health.
Ole Miss has a difficult start to the season squaring off against FSU, which is a part of their seven game stretch where they also face Alabama, LSU and Georgia. With this being said, I still have faith in Kelly, who should build upon an impressive first year within the system.
Texas A&M OVER 8 Wins (+150)
I know Texas A&M has a brutal schedule as they have to survive the gauntlet that is the SEC West, but with the talent on that team they have a great chance of getting over the 8 win mark this season. This team has major tests all season, starting off with UCLA, then facing Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU, but their only road games are at Auburn and Alabama.
Entering the 2016 season, Kevin Sumlin is already on the hot seat and in my opinion, Sumlin is a guy that will respond well to that pressure. Sumlin is a passionate and intelligent coach and not to mention he probably has his most talented roster since his tenure at A&M began. Trevor Knight will be under center with Speedy Noil and Christian Kirk returning at wideout, and future top-5 pick Myles Garrett leading the defense at defensive end. This team is super talented with a major veteran presence, look for them to win a lot of close games this season.
Calvin Ridley OVER 900 ½ Receiving Yards (-160)
This is a very easy one for me. Ridley was absolutely incredible in his freshman season at Alabama going for 89 catches, 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns. I know the quarterback position is still under review in tuscaloosa, but that is how it has been every year since A.J. McCarron left for the NFL. Whether it is Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett, or Jalen Hurts, somebody is going to step into that role and get Ridley the ball. Bank on it.
Deshaun Watson to win the Heisman (+400)
This may be the most sure bet I have ever seen in my entire life. Deshaun Watson might be the most talented quarterback prospect in terms of athletic ability and throwing ability since Cam Newton came out of Auburn in 2011. Watson is mobile, fast, big, powerful, and accurate. He does not shy away against the best teams he faces, which is something you may see from a quarterback that does not play against the best competition consistently. Watson’s performance against one of the best front-sevens of all time in Alabama in the National Championship last season was one of the best individual quarterback performances I have ever seen. He was completely in command the entire game, and it looked like he was almost toying with the defenders. He was 30/47 for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns and also ran for 73 yards. Every single time they needed a big play he came up with one.
Looking forward to this season, I expect Watson to be even better than he was last season. That is going to be extremely difficult to do considering he had 49 touchdowns last season and a 12-1 record, but if anyone can do it, Watson can. Watson is going to lead Clemson to another 12-0 record and a national championship this season, and on the way he is going to win the Heisman trophy.