2022 College Football Win Total Projections, Odds & Picks: Independents

Tyler Buchner

It’s July, so we asked our college football expert, Thor Nystrom, for his thoughts, projections, and picks regarding win totals. Here is his thorough look at the Independents.

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UMass Minutemen
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 128 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
UMass
Win odds


UMass
Tulane
Sat, Sept 3
Jan 26, 1900
0


UMass
Toledo
Sat, Sep 10
Sun, Jan 28
0


Stony Brook
UMass
Sat, Sep 17
Sun, Dec 24
0.69


UMass
Temple
Sat, Sep 24
Mon, Jan 8
0.193


UMass
Eastern Michigan
Sat, Oct 1
Sun, Jan 14
0.037


Liberty
UMass
Sat, Oct 8
Wed, Jan 17
0


Buffalo
UMass
Sat, Oct 15
Tue, Jan 9
0.14


NMSU
UMass
Sat, Oct 29
Thu, Dec 28
0.535


UMass
UConn
Sat, Nov 5
Tue, Jan 2
0.406


UMass
Arkansas State
Sat, Nov 12
Sat, Jan 13
0.076


UMass
Texas A&M
Sat, Nov 19
Fri, Feb 9
0


Army
UMass
Sat, Nov 26
Thu, Jan 18
0

 

Don Brown, who led the Minutemen to the winningest five-year stretch in program history (2004-2008), returns to the school that has had scant success since his departure. Brown is best known for his work as a P5 defensive coordinator. In-between his first stint at UMass and now, he coordinated the defenses at Maryland, Connecticut, Boston College, Michigan, and Arizona. This season, Brown is looking to turn back the clock at UMass. His staff will attempt to control the clock with a run-heavy offense out of the spread and force opposing teams into mistakes with Brown’s patented blitz-happy defense.

The Minutemen’s roster is deepest at running back, led by returning starter RB Ellis Merriweather, and it will have a dual-threat element behind center if QB Zamar Wise wins the job. The question for the offense: Will the passing game provide enough to keep safeties out of the box? The question on defense is just as pressing: Do the Minutemen have the athleticism and skill in the secondary to blitz with the abandon that Brown prefers? Brown and new DC Keith Dudzinski have been resolute in their public messaging that UMass will get after quarterbacks – but last year’s defense finished dead-last in the FBS with 43.1 PPG allowed, leaving this secondary stranded on islands could lead to more of the same.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 2.1
Las Vegas win total: 2.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

UMass lost to two FCS teams last fall, finishing 1-11 (the win was a home affair over UConn). The path to three wins is beating FCS Stony Brook, NMSU, and UConn (games that will be close to pick ’ems). Outside of those three games, UMass will be a touchdown-plus ‘dog in every other contest. Lean under, but too much uncertainty to pull the trigger.

New Mexico State Aggies
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 129 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
NMSU
Win odds


Nevada
NMSU
Sat, Aug 27
9
0.193


NMSU
Minnesota
Thur, Sept 1
34
0


NMSU
UTEP
Sat, Sep 10
12.5
0.113


NMSU
Wisconsin
Sat, Sep 17
38.5
0


Hawaii
NMSU
Sat, Sep 24
10
0.164


FIU
NMSU
Sat, Oct 1
-2.5
0.545


New Mexico
NMSU
Sat, Oct 15
-2
0.535


San Jose State
NMSU
Sat, Oct 22
14
0.076


NMSU
UMass
Sat, Oct 29
2
0.465


Lamar
NMSU
Sat, Nov 12
-5
0.681


NMSU
Missouri
Sat, Nov 19
24
0


NMSU
Liberty
Sat, Nov 26
24
0

 

The season before Northern Illinois hired Jerry Kill in 2008, NIU went 2-10. The Huskies made a bowl in Kill’s first season (6-7) and went 10-3 in his third and final season in 2010 before taking the Minnesota job. Kill took over a Gophers program that had gone 3-9 the year before. Kill matched that record his first year before taking the Gophers to three-straight bowl games in his final three full seasons (including B1G Coach of the Year in 2014). Health concerns caused him to leave that job and return to CFB as an assistant. Last season, he took over TCU for the final four games (2-2) after the Horned Frogs fired Gary Patterson.

A known program-builder, Kill, 60, is embarking on his most daunting job yet: The Aggies have only had one winning season since 2003, going 54-167. Kill’s offenses use a variety of formations but typically share one similarity: Physical running games. The issue with that this coming season is that his offensive line appears to be a bottom-10 FBS unit. Kill is hoping to find lightning in a bottle with QB Diego Pavia, who led his team to the JUCO national title last year. Kill’s running back room is similarly filled with transfers, new additions he’s praying won’t have to contend with stacked boxes. Kill brings an attacking 4-2-5 defense to Las Cruces. He’s aided by a linebacker corps that might be the team’s singular-biggest strength. But with depth questions up-front and an inexperienced secondary that could get lit up, Kill may have to toggle back the aggression in 2022 until reinforcements arrive next recruiting cycle.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 2.7
Las Vegas win total: 3
Thor’s bet: UNDER

This number strikes me as a somewhat bullish outlook for Kill’s first season. Keep in mind: The Aggies have won more than three games – what they will need to do to cash an over ticket – in only one of the last 10 seasons (they won exactly three games in three of those seasons). I have NMSU as short-favorites in three games and two-point ‘dogs in a fourth – winning those four games is the path to your over. But there’s almost no margin for error: ATL (Adjusted Thor Line) pegs NMSU as a nine-point-or-more-underdog in the other eight games. With the leeway of pushing at three wins, I’m going under.

UConn Huskies
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 127 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
UConn
Win odds


UConn
Utah State
Sat, Aug 27
15.5
0.037


Central Connecticut
UConn
Sat, Sept 3
-7
0.752


Syracuse
UConn
Sat, Sep 10
23
0


UConn
Michigan
Sat, Sep 17
41.5
0


UConn
NC State
Sat, Sep 24
38
0


Fresno State
UConn
Sat, Oct 1
21
0


UConn
FIU
Sat, Oct 8
-1
0.513


UConn
Ball State
Sat, Oct 15
5.5
0.311


Boston College
UConn
Sat, Oct 29
19.5
0


UMass
UConn
Sat, Nov 5
-3
0.594


Liberty
UConn
Sat, Nov 12
17.5
0


UConn
Army
Sat, Nov 19
21
0

 

Jim Mora Jr. is back! He’s a power-of-positivity type who will see his optimism tested this year in Storrs: UConn hasn’t won an FBS game since Oct. 26, 2019 (UMass). Last year’s only win was a 21-15 squeaker over FCS Yale – the Huskies lost by double-digits to FCS Holy Cross and UMass. Over the offseason, the team lost its two-best trench players to the NFL, OT Ryan Van Demark (UDFA) and DT Travis Jones (R3).

The defensive front-seven remains the team’s strength, and UConn will fare better against run-first teams than pass-first teams this fall because the cornerback room is a significant question mark. Offensively, protection and run-blocking will be an issue unless Mora’s transfer acquisitions along the line immediately prove to be quality starters. The Huskies have a little talent at running back with the Nate Carter/Will Knight duo. What sunk the offense last year was the passing attack, which posted a ghastly 24.5 success rate last year on 282 drop-backs, dead-last in the nation.

This will make Mora’s quarterback decision very interesting – he added a pair of starting contenders via the portal in Penn State transfer Ta’quan Roberson, and former Oregon QB Cale Millen (​​Tyler Phommachanh returns) is also in the three-man race). Phommachanh is a tiny scrambler who may not have an FBS arm, Roberson is a good runner who can’t pass, and Millen is a homeless man’s Will Levis, with size, athleticism, and arm strength but mistake-prone and lacking accuracy). You ride with Phommachanh to keep the status quo (not ideal), Roberson to strengthen the bite of the run game (while sacrificing the passing game), and Millen if you believe in the tools enough to tolerate stretches of inefficiency.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 2.2
Las Vegas win total: 2.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

Unfortunately for Mora, ATL is projecting UConn to be 15.5-point-or-more underdogs in eight of its 12 games. The Huskies will likely go 0-8 in those games, requiring them to go 3-1 or better in the others to cash OVER tickets. The good news is ATL installs UConn as favorites in three of those four games – but none by more than a touchdown, including the FCS opponent. It’s asking Mora to win three games – including at least two FBS wins – in Year 1 with a program pushing three years without an FBS victory. I lean UNDER, but there’s too clear of a path to the OVER if Mora makes the correct decision at quarterback and his myriad transfer acquisitions start quickly.

Liberty Flames
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 74 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
Liberty
Win odds


Liberty
Southern Miss
Sat, Sept 3
-5
0.681


UAB
Liberty
Sat, Sep 10
0
0.5


Liberty
Wake Forest
Sat, Sep 17
13
0.107


Akron
Liberty
Sat, Sep 24
-19.5
1


Liberty
Old Dominion
Sat, Oct 1
-6.5
0.724


Liberty
UMass
Sat, Oct 8
-18.5
1


Gardner-Webb
Liberty
Sat, Oct 15
-27.5
1


BYU
Liberty
Sat, Oct 22
10.5
0.14


Liberty
Arkansas
Sat, Oct 29
16.5
0.002


Liberty
UConn
Sat, Nov 12
-17.5
1


Virginia Tech
Liberty
Sat, Nov 19
3.5
0.357


NMSU
Liberty
Sat, Nov 26
-24
1

 

The Flames lost the best player in program history – QB Malik Willis – but otherwise enjoyed a successful offseason during a chaotic time for college football. Firstly, the coaching staff, led by HC Hugh Freeze, returns primarily intact. Secondly, Freeze did well to plug holes, bringing in QB Charlie Brewer (over 10,000 career passing yards with Baylor and Utah with a career 68/31 TD/INT rate), RB Dae Dae Hunter from Hawaii (814 all-purpose yards last year), and several others.

Freeze’s best quality as a coach is an innate ability to tailor his offense around the skills of the personnel. He’s going to be tested in that regard, going from Willis (a bazooka-armed downfield sniper with ridiculous athleticism) to Brewer (a risk-averse, noodle-armed pocket passer whose best attributes are short-area accuracy and decision-making) or youngster Kaidon Salter (an exciting dual-threat talent who lacks experience). Luckily, the offensive line may be the best it’s been during the Freeze era (three returning starters with two sought-after transfers plugging the other holes), and the running back room is improved.

Liberty’s defense finished No. 11 in total defense, No. 6 in passing defense, and No. 4 in preventing big plays (only 33 gains of 20-or-more-yards allowed). While that defense returns five starters, it was a strong-up-the-middle unit that must replace both starters at DT and ILB and break in two new starters in the secondary. Freeze is betting on transfer acquisitions to fill the front-seven holes and returnees who’ve developed in the program to step into the vacated secondary jobs.

If the defense doesn’t drop off, expect Liberty to greatly improve on last year’s No. 121 finish in turnover margin (-9), albeit with a far-less explosive offense that will try not to lose water by being more balanced and efficient.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 7.5
Las Vegas win total: 6.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

My numbers are far more bullish on Liberty than the sportsbooks’. ATL only installs Liberty as underdogs in four games – just as importantly, ATL pegs Liberty as at least 17.5-point favorites in five games. Liberty has the great fortune of playing four of the FBS’ worst teams (Akron, UMass, UConn, and NMSU) and an FCS opponent. Assuming Liberty wins those five games, Liberty would only need two more to go OVER. Basically, split these four games: Southern Miss (ATL: Liberty -5), UAB (pick ’em), Old Dominion (-6.5), and Virginia Tech (+3.5). I trust Freeze to figure it out and cash our OVER tickets.

Army Black Knights
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 72 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
Army
Win odds


Army
Coastal Carolina
Sat, Sept 3
2.5
0.455


UTSA
Army
Sat, Sep 10
-5
0.681


Villanova
Army
Sat, Sep 17
-26.5
1


Georgia State
Army
Sat, Oct 1
-3.5
0.643


Army
Wake Forest
Sat, Oct 8
12.5
0.113


Colgate
Army
Sat, Oct 15
-26.5
1


UL-Monroe
Army
Sat, Oct 22
-21
1


Air Force
Army
Sat, Nov 5
0
0.5


Army
Troy
Sat, Nov 12
0
0.5


UConn
Army
Sat, Nov 19
-21
1


Army
UMass
Sat, Nov 26
-19
1


Army
Navy
Sat, Dec 10
-7.5
0.781

 

HC Todd Monken has led Army to nine wins or more in four of the past five seasons. That’s the same amount of games he’ll have to win in the regular season to cash OVER tickets. Not surprisingly, Army wasn’t much of a player in the transfer portal, but the Black Knights return 14 starters from last season’s 9-4 outfit.

Much experience returns at the skill positions on offense and along the defensive front and secondary. QB Christian Anderson graduated, but both of the quarterbacks remaining on the two-deep have experience. Army needs an offensive line replacing two starters to maul holes in the physical run-heavy attack and a linebacking corps replacing two starters to remain firm in a 3-4 defense that funnels the ball to that unit. If those two units are strong in 2022, Army will go OVER its total.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 8.7
Las Vegas win total: 8
Thor’s bet: OVER

If you’re an independent service academy, this is how you schedule! Courtesy of a schedule with double the FCS opponents (2) as Power 5 foes (1), ATL only installs Army as an underdog in 2-of-12 games. In two others, a straight pick ’em. We’d push if the Army lost all four of those games but won the rest. ATL shows Army as a single-digit favorite in three other contests – there’s room to stub your toe in one of those if you can steal one of the aforementioned four. ATL makes Army at least a 19-point favorite in 5-of-12 games, establishing a five-win floor, and no game on this schedule is un-winnable.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 6 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
Notre Dame
Win odds


Notre Dame
Ohio State
Sat, Sept 3
17.5
0


Marshall
Notre Dame
Sat, Sep 10
-17
1


California
Notre Dame
Sat, Sep 17
-22
1


Notre Dame
North Carolina
Sat, Sep 24
-4
0.658


Notre Dame
BYU
Sat, Oct 8
-5
0.681


Stanford
Notre Dame
Sat, Oct 15
-21
1


UNLV
Notre Dame
Sat, Oct 22
-31.5
1


Notre Dame
Syracuse
Sat, Oct 29
-10.5
0.86


Clemson
Notre Dame
Sat, Nov 5
2.5
0.455


Notre Dame
Navy
Sat, Nov 12
-26
1


Boston College
Notre Dame
Sat, Nov 19
-20
1


Notre Dame
USC
Sat, Nov 26
-4
0.658

 

Notre Dame should transition smoothly from former HC Brian Kelly to new HC Marcus Freeman. The Irish return 15 starters and add Northwestern S Brandon Joseph via transfer (to help plug the Kyle Hamilton hole). On offense, ballyhooed youngster QB Tyler Buchner will have to go from dual-threat-situational-player to a trusted starter, and RB Chris Tyree (along with four-star freshman Austin Estime) is going to have to replace do-everything RB Kyren Williams.

But Freeman can feel good about several things entering the fall. First, the Irish have a top-10 national offensive line and the nation’s best tight end – along with two of three starting receivers returning. On defense, the Irish boast NFL talent on all three levels. If you count Joseph as a returning starter, Notre Dame has eight of them on defense.

Freeman’s top lieutenants are a future head coach (OC Tommy Rees) and a former FBS head coach (DC Al Golden). If the quality of Notre Dame’s play-calling doesn’t fall off and Buchner proves to be a quality starter, the Irish have a decent shot at double-digit wins.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 9.3
Las Vegas win total: 9.5
Thor’s bet: Pass

The Irish will probably lose the opener in Columbus against the Buckeyes. But Notre Dame also has seven very-likely wins on the schedule. This bet comes down to the other four games – at home against Clemson and road games at UNC, BYU, and USC. If what I said in the first sentences of this paragraph proves true, Notre Dame will need to go 3-1 in those four games to cash OVER tickets. Notre Dame has a good shot to be favored in at least three of those four games (and perhaps all four), but it’s also entirely possible that they won’t be favored by a touchdown in any of the four. Really, then, this bet will all come down to how closely Freeman’s first staff can approximate Kelly and crew’s game-day value and how good Buchner is in his first year as a starter. This one is too close to call.

BYU Cougars
Thor’s Preseason Power Ranking: 26 out of 131




Away
Home
Day
BYU
Win odds


BYU
South Florida
Sat, Sept 3
-17
1


Baylor
BYU
Sat, Sep 10
-4.5
0.673


BYU
Oregon
Sat, Sep 17
3.5
0.357


Wyoming
BYU
Sat, Sep 24
-19
1


Utah State
BYU
Thur, Sept 29
-22
1


Notre Dame
BYU
Sat, Oct 8
5
0.319


Arkansas
BYU
Sat, Oct 15
-2.5
0.545


BYU
Liberty
Sat, Oct 22
-10.5
0.86


East Carolina
BYU
Fri, Oct 28
-16
0.981


BYU
Boise State
Sat, Nov 5
-7
0.752


Utah Tech
BYU
Sat, Nov 19
-40.5
1


BYU
Stanford
Sat, Nov 26
-10
0.836

 

Last season, tasked with replacing five NFL Draft picks, including the No. 2 overall pick, BYU stunned prognosticators by going 10-3. That included a 6-1 record against Power 5 teams. This year, expectations are sky-high with 19 returning starters, including all 11 on defense.

The offense returns just about everybody outside of RB Tyler Allgeier and C James Empey. Allgeier’s exit, forgive me, may be a little overstated. An enormous bulk of his rushing production the past two years came on breakaway yards against bottom-20 defenses. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Cal transfer RB Christopher Brooks, a former top-30 RB recruit, approximated something close to Allgeier’s value this fall.

With all 11 starters returning, the defense figures to be significantly better than last season’s defense. Last year’s incarnation lost a ton of production to graduation in the offseason and then was crushed by injuries during the latter half of the season. It finished No. 110 in efficiency and No. 80 in explosion. This version is guaranteed to improve those numbers – probably significantly so.

College Football Futures Betting Takeaways

Thor’s projected win total: 9.3
Las Vegas win total: 8.5
Thor’s bet: OVER

After last year’s gauntlet, this year’s schedule could be a little more forgiving (Phil Steele ranks it as the 38th-hardest in the nation). My numbers only install BYU as underdogs in two games – a road game at Oregon in September and a home game against Notre Dame in October – and by no more than five points in either game. My numbers also have BYU as double-digit favorites in seven games. That means that OVER tickets will likely depend on BYU going 2-1 or better (assuming they lost both of the Oregon/Notre Dame games) in the three games, ATL projects BYU as single-digit favorites: at home against Arkansas and Baylor, and on the road against Boise State.

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Author: Kenneth Patterson