The 2023 college football season is still a few months off, but a handful of teams have already generated a substantial amount of attention.
One of the loudest is Colorado, where Deion Sanders has taken over as head coach and promised to transform Boulder into one of the epicenters of college football betting odds.
But before we start talking about 2027, let’s take a look at this year’s win totals market, as many bettors will want to buy a piece of Colorado’s inaugural season under Coach Prime.
College Football Win Totals: Substance vs. Hype in Deion Sanders’ First FBS Season
When the college football futures market first dropped at BetMGM, I wrote up a spreadsheet considering every Power Five win total. That helped me get a more traditional, grid-shaped sense of how the market sees each team.
What was one of the standout data points from that sheet? As far as the win totals are concerned, Colorado is projected to be among the very worst P5 teams in college football this year.
8.1% of bets (6th most) are on @CUBuffsFootball +25000 to win College Football Playoff.
— John Ewing (@johnewing) May 8, 2023
If you’ve been following the Deion hype machine – and many, many people are, it seems – that may come as a bit of a shock. Sanders was 27-6 in three seasons at Jackson State, and he’s taken quite a few big names with him from Jackson to Boulder.
That includes former five-star recruit and fringe Heisman Trophy contender Travis Hunter. (I have written quite a bit about Hunter and the larger Heisman Trophy odds market, by the way.)
Colorado’s win total (and a basic degree of common sense) directly disputes the hype and emphasizes how low the expectations should be this year in Boulder. Colorado was awful last year, and dumping dozens of its players into the transfer portal is not going to make this a fast turnaround.
There is a semi-realistic future where Sanders uses his star power and charisma to attract gobs of high-profile recruits and turns Colorado into a real western power. But that’s a three or four-year turnaround. Year 1 will be a mess, and dominating the Pac-12 is considerably harder than dominating the SWAC.
Here’s the week-by-week breakdown:
Colorado Football Week 1 Odds: at TCU
The Horned Frogs are gutted by departures after an impressive season that ended with a CFP win and a national championship appearance against Georgia.
Even with the losses, though, it’s hard to imagine Sanders successfully organizing dozens of new players into a cohesive enough team, capable of earning a road win at TCU, in his first game as an FBS head coach.
Colorado Football Week 2 Odds: Nebraska
This is an interesting one. Matt Rhule has the experience advantage here, but both Rhule and Sanders will be just one game into their respective new tenures. It’s the first home game of the Deion era in Boulder.
Nebraska brings back enough talent that I trust Rhule to find his way to a win here, but this could be in play. Let’s bucket this as a “maybe” and reconsider it at the end.
Colorado Football Week 3 Odds: Colorado State
Colorado State has been listless for half a decade now, so this should be a win for even a rebuilding version of the Buffaloes.
If it’s not, 2023 will be an awfully long season in Boulder.
Colorado Football Week 4 Odds: at Oregon
This second-quarter season stretch could be the most challenging portion of the year for Colorado. A season opener in Eugene is not likely to yield positive results.
Colorado Football Week 5 Odds: USC
Caleb Williams and USC racked up 531 yards of offense against Colorado in a 55-17 blowout last year.
Unless the Trojans spot Colorado about five touchdowns, I think a similarly non-competitive game is likely in 2023.
Colorado Football Week 6 Odds: at Arizona State
Arizona State is a bit of a black box for 2023. Kenny Dillingham is a first-time head coach, and the Sun Devils were 3-9 in 2022.
Then again, one of the wins was in Boulder.
This feels like a competitive game that bounces the wrong way. I’m formally grading it as a toss-up.
Colorado Football Week 7 Odds: Stanford
Stanford has all the makings of a last-place team in the Pac-12. Colorado should be a rare favorite here and cash in for a win. The team can feel good going into its bye week.
Colorado Football Week 9 Odds: at UCLA
Extra prep time for Sanders’ squad should make this interesting, but the organizational gap between Colorado and UCLA is pretty substantial. This should be a blowout.
Colorado Football Week 10 Odds: Oregon State
Oregon State is expected to be pretty good this year, so I’m writing this down as a home loss.
Colorado Football Week 11 Odds: Arizona
I kind of like Colorado to win this game. Even bad teams grow and improve throughout the season, which often ends in a feel-good win in November.
Arizona isn’t going to win any championship any time soon, but this might be as good as it gets in Year 1 of the Deion Experience.
Colorado Football Week 12 Odds: at Washington State
A November road win against a quality team like Washington State… seems unlikely.
Colorado Football Week 13 Odds: at Utah
This will be a walkover to end the season for Utah. I don’t expect Colorado to be remotely competitive in this game. They won’t have the top-end talent or depth to compete with Utah, especially after injuries have eroded the two-deep late in the season.
Colorado Buffalo O/U 3.5 Wins: The Verdict
Colorado was 1-8 in Pac-12 games last season. Here, I’ve granted the Buffs a 2-7 in-conference season for 2023 – an improvement, in spite of the unprecedented roster turnover that a first-year coach will be attempting to manage.
Wins over Arizona, Colorado State, and Stanford yield a three-win season, with games like Nebraska and Arizona State serving as potential toss-ups.
If you think Colorado has a chance at splitting those two, while locking down the games they should win, then there’s actually a good mathematical argument for over 3.5 wins at +140.
Personally, I think the under is far more likely. I think the insane roster turnover pushes out the variance potential beyond what is likely for most teams. I think the betting community has also likely overrated Sanders’ traditional coaching skills. As a keen FCS football observer, I can tell you firsthand how bad SWAC football is, relative to what he’ll be facing in the Pac-12.
The online sportsbook is all over this, though, jacking up the under on Colorado’s vig to a meteoric -175. No thanks.
The only real lane here is for bettors who are bullish on Sanders, as the price is quite lucrative. And since I’m not that, I have to tip my hat to a well-made win totals market. The prices here are thoughtfully set.
That’s not to say that I don’t like loads of other college football win totals! Click over to my long piece for loads of other actionable thoughts. I’m just not sure Coach Prime’s first year at Colorado offers much of an opportunity for skeptics like me.
Visit the online sportsbook for BetMGM Colorado promotions.
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