Explaining CU’s 3.5 Over/Under – Vegas Sees CU as a “Good G5” Team

When CU announced it was returning to the Big 12 for the 2024 season, I couldn’t help but start to think about the competition in CU’s new conference. With Texas and Oklahoma leaving, there is arguably a vacuum at the top of the conference. Yes, Kansas State is the defending champion, and yes, TCU did make it to the national championship game last season, and yes, Utah will likely be seen as the best new team joining the Big 12, but … the future flagship school for the new Big 12 is still very much up for grabs.

Which makes me want to ask, as running back Lawrence Vickers famously responded to a question about the Buffs making an unlikely run to a Big 12 North Division title in 2004:

Why not us?“.

Colorado, despite a two-decades long slump which is unprecedented in school history (the longest previous run without a winning season had been six years – 1979-1984 – before losing became the norm in Boulder in the 21st century). The Buffs were No. 15 on the all-time wins list in college football history twenty years ago, but have slipped to No. 30 all-time since.

No. 30, though, is still good enough for No. 2 on the all-time list of schools in the new Big 12, behind only West Virginia.

CU will also be one of only three schools in the new Big 12 with a national championship and a Heisman trophy. Yes, you have to go back to the 1990s to find CU’s national title and Heisman trophy, but you have to go back further to find BYU’s big year (1984, with Ty Detmer winning the Heisman) and even further to find TCU’s magical season (1938, with Davey O’Brien leading the Horned Frogs to the national title). Historically, then, CU really takes a back seat to no one in its new conference.

The future for CU in the new Big 12 could be bright … but the Buffs have to get through the 2023 campaign as a member of the soon-to-be extinct Pac-12 first.

The Pac-12 media have the Buffs as the No. 11 school in the Pac-12 this fall, and Vegas has the over/under win total for Colorado set at 3.5 wins.

Not exactly the way the Buffs want to leave the Pac-12.

Colorado fans, for the most part, are on board with Coach Prime, and there is a widespread belief in the Buff Nation that the overhaul of the roster will have an immediate positive impact. There are more four- and five-star players on the roster than at any time in recent memory, and the consensus is that the coaching staff is a significant upgrade from what CU has had in the recent past.

We know that CU will be better, but better than 3-9 or 4-8? Vegas insiders have access to as much information as we do about the redone roster …

So why is there so little love for the Buffs as the 2023 campaign approaches?

The schedule certainly has something to do with it. CU will face three ranked teams in September, with two of those games coming on the road. The two games against unranked opponents will be rivalry games with the Huskers and Rams going all in to beat CU and Coach Prime. If the team can weather September, the Buffs will still have two games – v. Oregon State and at Utah – coming against ranked opponents.

But I think there is more to it than that, and I think it has to do with how Vegas is looking at CU’s roster. Yes, there are All-conference transfers coming in, and yes, there are other new Buffs who had high rankings coming out of high school. And yet … Vegas is still very skeptical that Coach Prime has put together a Power Five conference roster.

Why the lack of confidence?

For evidence, I give you the four new teams which are joining the Big 12 this fall, and will become CU’s rivals come 2024.

BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida join the Big 12 this year, and all four are coming off of good seasons in 2022:

  • BYU, playing as an independent in 2022, went 8-5. Along the way, the Cougars beat Power Five conference schools Baylor and Stanford, and gave Notre Dame all they could handle before falling to the Irish, 28-20;
  • Cincinnati went 9-4 in the American Athletic Conference, with the Bearcats only losses coming to Power Five schools (Arkansas and Louisville), AAC champion Tulane (which embarrassed USC in the Cotton Bowl), and fellow realignment traveler, UCF;
  • UCF, for its part, went 9-5 in the AAC, with wins over Georgia Tech and Cincinnati, together with a pair of losses to Power Five programs (Louisville and Duke); and
  • Houston, which went 8-5 in the AAC, with losses to Big 12 members Kansas and Texas Tech (the latter coming in overtime), together with an overtime loss to Tulane.

So … the four teams are coming into the Big 12 with 2022 resumes which aren’t too shabby. Every one of the four won at least eight games last fall, with the quartet combining for an overall record of 34-19.

That being the case, you would think that there would be some respect for the newbies as they made the jump to the Power Five level.


In the Big 12 preseason media poll, you have to scroll down a piece before you find a mention of one of the new schools:

  • 1. Texas (41), 886
    2. Kansas State (14), 858
    3. Oklahoma (4), 758
    4. Texas Tech (4), 729
    5. TCU (3), 727
    6. Baylor, 572
    7. Oklahoma State (1), 470
    8. UCF, 463
    9. Kansas, 461
    10. Iowa State, 334
    11. BYU, 318
    12. Houston, 215
    13. Cincinnati, 202
    14. West Virginia, 129

Vegas, for its part, isn’t enamored with the quartet’s 2023 chances, either:

  • Cincinnati, which went 9-4 in 2023, has an over/under win projection of 5.0 (and that’s with non-conference games against Miami (Ohio) and Kennesaw State);
  • Central Florida, which went 9-5 last year, has an over/under win projection of 6.5 (with non-conference games against Kent State and Villanova);
  • BYU, which went 8-5 last year, has an over/under win projection of 4.5 (with non-conference games against Sam Houston and Southern Utah);
  • Houston, which went 8-5 last year, has an over/under win projection of 4.5 (with non-conference games against Rice and Sam Houston).

While some of its best players from these four teams have moved on to the NFL, the cupboards are far from bare. For the three teams which played in the AAC last fall, there were plenty of accolades to go around. Houston had five first-team All-AAC selections, with a pair of second-team picks. Cincinnati, meanwhile, also had five first-team All-AAC performers, and four second-teamers. Central Florida? Six first-team selections, and four second-team picks. In all, out of the 30 players given first-team All-AAC honors, over half – 16 – played for the three teams joining the Big 12 (with ten more players earning second-team honors).

And yet, take away some of the layups in the non-conference schedules for these teams, and their over/under projections slide back into CU’s 3.5 territory. Or, put another way you replace TCU and Nebraska on CU’s 2023 non-conference schedule with the likes of Kennesaw State and Villanova, and the Buffs’ over/under of 3.5 would likely be comparable with the new members of the Big 12.

So, what gives?

You are taking four teams, all of which won at least eight games last year, and Vegas is telling us that, but for some cream puff non-conference games, none of the four would be within shouting distance of a winning record in 2023.

Conclusion: What Vegas is telling us is that a good Group of Five roster doesn’t immediately translate into a good Power Five roster.

And that’s what the Big 12 media is concluding as well. Despite Cincinnati, Houston and UCF dominating the 2022 AAC all-conference list, when the 2023 preseason All-Big 12 football team was announced, there were only three players from the four new teams combined who made the cut – and one of those was the Cincinnati’s punter.

When the 2023 preseason All-Pac-12 football team was announced, CU received similar treatment. Other than Travis Hunter, who earned first-team recognition as both a cornerback and an all-purpose player, the Buff roster was shut out. Nary a single Buff on the first-team or second-team offense, and there were no Buffs on the second-team defense (there was honorable mention on special teams for Jimmy Horn as a returner, and for Mark Vassett as a punter).

Coach Prime and his staff may have brought in a number of All-conference performers … but those accolades came from a lower level. Coach Prime and his staff may have brought in players who were considered four- and five-star recruits, but not players who have already demonstrated dominance at the Power Five conference level.

Cincinnati … BYU … Houston … Central Florida … four schools with 2022 win totals with numbers like “8” and “9” – numbers which are vague memories for the Buff Nation. Schools which come to the Big 12 loaded with first-team All-Conference talent.

First-team All G5 Conference talent, that is.

Vegas is telling us that good G5 programs, with rosters loaded with first-team All-G5 talent, still have something to prove before they will be considered a quality Power Five conference program.

So … It seems that what Vegas is saying, in setting CU’s over-under win total at 3.5, is that the University of Colorado, in upgrading its roster from the 2022 god-awful roster, still has a ways to go before it will be considered as having a decent Power Five roster.

The University of Colorado, 2023 = A good Group of Five school.

It will be up to Coach Prime, his staff, and his roster of unproven-at-the-Power-Five level players to prove Vegas wrong, and that the Buffs are already, in 2023, a quality Power Five team.




10 Replies to “Vegas: CU is no better than a “Good G5” team”

  1. I always pay attention to the smart guys in Vegas, and they are smart guys because they keep their jobs by making money and avoiding losses.

    What I cannot figure out is how this win/do not lose position works to their advantage by making the Buffs win total 3.5. They threw this number out there for a reason. What is it? Are they trying to entice the Buff faithful to go in heavy for an “over” bet?

    Maybe the gamblers out there can suggest what they are doing, and how Vegas wins with the 3.5 number.

    1. It’s all from math, I think they look at the teams as a whole to get that over/under. What I mean is they already know they’re giving USC 10, 11, 12 or whatever as an over/under, UW “x” amount of wins and so on and so on and when they get to the Buffs or any other team at the bottom, what’s left in wins for a team like the Buffs.

      They not only size the Buffs up against teams like CSU & UofA and such, where the water can get murky, but they know what the over/under and which games they expect the top half to win and I imagine they take those off the table immediately. What’s left is stats like the S&P and such, but in the end once the betting opens the line shifts as bettors bet and the math there is to adjust the line per the betting to adjust their liability.

      Math and probability. But the Buffs create a problem, what’s their S&P with an all new team, staff and schemes? If the Buffs become a Cinderella team they lose their shirts on the Buffs, but when was the last time we’ve had a team turned over like the Buffs? So, they have to rely on the other teams data and place CU as best as they could. That’s where I suspect CU’s over/under mostly comes from. What’s the other teams over/under and how many games are left for CU to win?

      CU brought in better players from the portal, but so did USC. CU transfer class ranks high, but USC ranks higher per player. Every school made changes, but the Buff’s were so extreme in numbers that we have new base line (player rankings) and “they” deem those player rankings to be lower than UW, Oregon, USC, Utah, OSU and UCLA started with. And, probably lower than the players the next two schools started with before they added through the portal too; proven teams v. the unknown with G5 & FCS players.

      the coaches, the unknown’s regarding talent and being a true Cinderella make the Buffs a great bet, yet not a sure bet.

      But, if I bet I’d muck it up for everyone, so I’m not betting.

  2. Coach McCartney strongest coaching trait was building confidence & motivating young men. Coach Prime’s strongest coaching trait is building confidence & motivating young men. He had to separate the wheat from the chaff, which he has done… now it’s time to cook

    Buffs will beat CSU and nebraska on talent alone

  3. Great points Stuart! I think they look at our schedule and that is exactly what they think. I think I saw you post about it but the guy interviewing Urban Meyer asked “do they have a team?” Stupid question. Of course they have a team, everyone knows the numbers. The real question is can that team play at the power 5 level. Your analysis says that few nationally or in Vegas think so.

    I have promised myself that I will not make any predictions about this season until I have seen one full game against someone else. But man, there is a deep dark part of me thinking I could double up on my retirement fund by placing 1 bet. Take the whole thing that’s not in the 401k and drop it on my buffs to win 4. CSU, Nebraska, Arizona, Arizona State…. There’s no way I will do it. No way! I mean really that would be stupid. Like really stupid. But then again isn’t the stock market risky too?

    1. I really wanted to put $200 maybe $400 on the Buffs to win against TCU and the same to cover the spread, I figured if the Buffs cover the spread I’d break even, and I was betting on that, but if they win out right I would win both bets. I also wanted to bet against Neb too and maybe the Conference Championship. Winning the first two games would be thousands in winnings and the conference would have been extra gravy at tens of thousands, $6,000/$100 I think it was.

      But like ep, I think I’d jinx them too.

  4. OK, the above is pretty fair, except I didn’t see how many HS recruits that were blue chip out of high school that were or are on those teams. I’m betting CP has way more. Or a player like La Vonta Bentley came from a top program in the hunt for NC and was behind multiple future FIRST ROUND NFL players, the first two were at Clemson for 5 & 6 years each as starters the whole time! And were there three years before he arrived. He came in behind two other Blue Chips that stayed for five years too. And he competed against two more 5 star blue chip players who arrived in 2019, top in the nation Line Backers and he still got starts last year at Clemson.


    Getting one of seven of the top Line Backers from a program coming off a NC in 2018 with that kind of talent, is gold to any team not stacked with talent. He’ll make The Hammer look pedestrian in comparison, probable first round pick if he plays to he’s potential and he knows that, it’s his last year to make that NFL film.

    Or under recruited, undersized out of high school, but fast as… Jimmy Horn Jr.

    Or any of the other Blue Chip players that came in to get their NFL tape and know this year or maybe next are their only opportunity. Some of these guys were working their way into the rotation behind older starters when they got injured and when they come back the next season from the injury, they’re behind a new favorite of a new coach or the program is stacked with talent and an injured guy just isn’t getting the reps with five other guys that moved a head of him while recovering. Or…

    Coaches make promises to new recruits, have favorites, bring their guys in from somewhere else… Stuff happens and with many top programs stacked deep with talent, one of their 4th, 5th or 6th man up could be a starter at 90 to 95% of the programs not in the top 5 or maybe a top 10 program. Some teams are too stacked with talent in the same position and great players get lost in the numbers, injured or… There are promises made to another players made by a new coach recruiting the new guy, a different coach than the one that recruited them.

    While good and great up and coming coaches come from those G5 programs, I bet none of those programs above have coaches with the totality of coaching experience that Coach Prime has assembled. And then there’s coach Prime himself, with confidence & motivation beyond the average great coach. A GOAT that been there and who has the respect and hearts of his players; players who feel hand picked for the mission at hand. A man who got six coaches with head coaching experience, coaches with NFL experience, coaches with Nation Titles and ETC to join him and a quest for winning.

    No, this is not the same as a great G5 coach or program, this is new, this is different, this is Coach Prime.

    So the sum of all of this isn’t the same fruit (apples & oranges) as those other teams coming from a G5 conferences up to P5, these are players that earned their way up to a P5 team or were already on a P5 team of good talent and just got lost in all of the talent or injured or new coaches or…

    With coaches that as a whole that rival a top P5 program… Make that P4 program now that the PAC12 is dead or reorganizing in some way, this is a different fruit; it may still be a fruit, but a different one, apples & oranges.

  5. And that’s the thing right, the unknown?

    So from there, to me, it goes to how many first round dudes, not busts, and/other high level NFL guys does CU have?

    Two to four at key spots can do a lot to elevate the whole team. And maybe they got more?

    I’m not saying 2-4 high drafts in next years draft, necessarily, but I am saying there is more actual nfl talent on this team than we have seen in a lloooong time.

    Go Buffs

  6. I have considered it a few times but I wont be doing any betting on the Buffs. I found out early on when it comes to things like that I have the reverse Midas touch. My foray into the stock market resulted in it dropping like a rock. When I tried to short it took a 1000 point jump. The only time I ever won a poker game it was against 3 drunk rig hands in Baker Montana for 300 dollars.
    So needless to say I wont be jinxing the Buffs.
    Sometimes I have confounded the fickle finger of fate by telling folks the corn cobbs are going to win (still no monetary risk)
    My first thought was, when I read this, who is making more money?……the employees at the casinos or the big school coaches? Second thought was you gotta consider the ego. Being a nationally famous figure (coach) or working obscurely in a cubicle wearing a visor, bottle bottom glasses and using a green shaded lamp.
    First of all Prime and his course of action is completely new to these people and by that its a complete unknown how the Buffs are going to do. Of course that’s why when it comes the money anyone would be conservative.
    Then there is the competition you mentioned Stuart. There re only 4 games on the schedule that would be long shots to win. the first one, OR, WA and USC. All the rest of them should be winnable.
    I dont want to tempt fate into entering the fray but lets just say the feed lot feed in Linkin have been consistently over valued by these same people since 62-36.
    One of your factors in predicting each game is the intangibles. The Buffs seem way ahead there.
    In closing I will thank you Stuart for diluting the kool aid and letting us down easy in anticipation (/s) and adding yet another item to the bulletin board…….increasing the intangibles.

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