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College football win total preparation will always trump all.
I'm unsure if it's the limited schedule where every game counts, the travel spots, the buying/selling based off over or underachieving the season prior, or factoring in recruiting classes, but there isn't a sport I'd rather dive into in regard to the win total market. Today, we're going to look into three teams you should buy for the 2020 campaign, with three others you should sell coming tomorrow.
2019 record: 7-6
I'm genuinely surprised we didn't hear more about Iowa State's 2019 season, or more importantly, how the program got where it did. Through October last year, the Cyclones were the unluckiest team in the country. At 5-3, they were projected for 6.8 wins. Iowa State had a 97% postgame win expectancy in a loss against rival Iowa early in the year, then suffered a pair of defeats by a combined nine points to Baylor and TCU. Overall, the Cyclones lost four of their six games in 2019 by a combined 11 points.
Luck in one-score games tends to balance out a bit more over time, meaning the Cyclones are probably due for a bounce in 2020. But what should also help is the program has a solid foundation to build off. Although their scoring defense dropped from No. 30 in the country in 2018-19 to No. 47 a season ago, the Cyclones' unit brings back more than half their production.
Iowa State's right outside the top 25 in terms of strength of schedule. The Cyclones have to go to Iowa this season, but they get Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Baylor at home, with a couple of cupcakes on the road.
I really like betting on a Matt Campbell-led team, and Iowa State's one of those programs that could see a huge improvement this fall.
2019 record: 3-9
Rice was on the same list as Iowa State through October last season. The Owls were the 10th-unluckiest team in the country at the time, in what's about to be the saddest sentence you will ever read: Rice was 0-8, with a second-order win total of 0.8.
However, Rice did find a way to script a happy ending to the season. The Owls held their final five opponents to 28 points or fewer and won each of their last three outings. That's a plus, considering no team in the nation brings back more returning production defensively than the Owls.
I don't think momentum can play a role over an eight-month layoff, and Rice certainly didn't magically figure it out, but the Owls could be a sweet buy-low team to adopt for 2020.
2019 record: 4-8
East Carolina's win total over was my favorite on the board last season, so it looks like I'll be a Pirate fan for the second straight year. I have no problem with that, because ECU has the makings to become one of the most lovable mid-majors in the country.
Through the first eight games of the 2019 season, the Pirates didn't score more than 28 points against an FBS opponent. Over the final four games, the offense averaged 37.3 points per contest. That's figuring it out in a hurry.
The sky is the limit offensively, as ECU brings back the seventh-most returning production from last season, headlined by quarterback Holton Ahlers. Defensively, the Pirates return another eight starters.
I thought Mike Houston was a solid hire last offseason. Now that he has a year under his belt to implement a system, East Carolina's a team that could take flight.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 12 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AJKolodziej.