2021 College Football Win Totals: 10 Teams Projected For Big Changes

Posted By Brett Gibbons on May 27, 2021

Welcome back full stadiums. Welcome back menacing stadium environments. Welcome back uniform schedules. Welcome back normal, exciting, vibrant college football. With the uncertainty and malice of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on college football (hopefully) in the past, it’s time to take a look at 2021 college football win totals.

In this article, you’ll find who the biggest projected movers are in terms of 2021 college football win totals. What teams are expected to make the biggest jump forward? Which teams are expected to take the biggest step back? What factors are setting those expectations? We’ll take a look at it all.

However, due to the inconsistency in schedules and number of games played, we’ll be utilizing 2020 win percentages as opposed to straight up win totals and comparing those to 2021 implied win percentages.

We’re also excluding a handful of teams who fell under certain criteria:

  • Teams whose conferences did not schedule at least six games
  • Teams whose seasons were battered with cancellations were removed, even if their conferences played enough games (those teams include Michigan, Purdue and Houston)
  • Teams whose rosters were decimated by COVID-19 protocol.

A full listing of each team’s projected winning percentage vs. 2020 winning percentage can be found in a table at the bottom of the article.

Here are 10 teams projected for big changes in 2021.

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College football win totals: 5 biggest gainers

Wyoming: +0.375

The bottom line here for Wyoming is their strength of schedule. The out of conference slate includes FCS Montana State, Northern Illinois on the road (104 in ESPN FPI), UConn (129 in ESPN FPI), and their toughest non-conference game, a home game against Ball State. They also handle two of their three toughest conference games (San Jose State, Boise State) coming off a home game and play just one back-to-back road series. With just two wins last year, Wyoming is expected to make the biggest jump in the nation.

Implied 2021 record: 8-4; 2-4 record in 2020

Penn State: +0.306

The list of disappointments bigger than Penn State in 2020 wasn’t long. The Nittany Lions finished below 0.500 (4-5) for the first time under James Franklin and under any coach for the first time since 2004. They began the season ranked seventh in the AP Poll, Penn State was the biggest faller of any team in college football. With Sean Clifford returning and hopefully some normalcy to the program being restored, oddsmakers project nine wins this coming season for Penn State. The Nittany Lions also have odds of to win the College Football Playoff.

Implied 2021 record: 9-3; 4-5 record in 2020

LSU: +0.208

Regression for LSU after one of the most successful seasons in college football history came as a surprise to none. The level of falling off in 2020, though, was expected by few– LSU went from No. 6 in the preseason AP Poll to unranked at season’s end. After finishing 5-5 in 2020, Ed Orgeron and the Tigers are projected to see a step forward. Despite an imminent QB competition this summer, Myles Brennan will have another year in the Orgeron system, which should benefit the senior signal caller. Their national championship odds sit at .

Implied 2021 record: 9-3; 5-5 record in 2020

Tennessee: +0.200

The story annually for the Vols since 2018 has been Jeremy Pruitt and his production (or lack thereof). In three seasons, Pruitt finished with a 0.457 win percentage before he was canned amid allegations of recruiting violations. Tennessee then looked to Josh Huepel, who led UCF to a 22-4 record in his first two seasons before going 6-4 last year. Along with allegations and a coaching change also came a mass exodus of Tennessee players, with eight starters leaving for greener pastures. So, why the projection forward? Three wins in 2020 was a low point, even for Tennessee. The Vols also landed talented quarterbacks Hendon Hooker from Virginia Tech and Joe Milton from Michigan in the transfer portal.

Implied 2021 record: 6-6; 3-7 record in 2020

UCF: +0.192

Josh Huepel may have left for the aforementioned Volunteers, but UCF went and landed a splash head coach: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. Malzahn led the Tigers to a BCS Championship in his first year and two other New Year’s Six bowl games in his tenure at Auburn. Dillion Gabriel enters his third year at UCF after filling in for an injured McKenzie Milton for two seasons. In those years, Gabriel lit up the stat sheet, passing for 314 yards per game and throwing 61 touchdowns. There’s no steps back taken for this Golden Knights team.

Implied 2021 record: 10-2; 6-4 record in 2020

North Carolina: +0.167

The room for improvement is clear in Chapel Hill. Two of their three 2020 regular season losses were by a field goal. They return a Heisman hopeful in Sam Howell, who combined for 36 touchdowns in 12 games last year. The Heels landed grad transfer running back Ty Chandler from Tennessee who should thrive in the UNC spread run attack, but Howell will need to find a new WR1 after Dyami Brown left for the pros. The promise shown in 2020 is enough for oddsmakers to heavily favor UNC this coming year. Feeling bullish on their chances? Their odds to win the College Football Playoff are .

Implied 2021 record: 10-2; 8-4 record in 2020

2021 College Football Futures: Odds To Win The National Championship

College football win totals: 5 biggest losers

BYU: -0.375

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; BYU was led by breakout star Zach Wilson (who’s now gone for the NFL) and finished second in average point margin in 2020 at +26.0. The Cougars also pick up a heavy schedule in 2021 that includes seven Power 5 opponents– a departure from their standard four and the most they’ve ever scheduled. 2020’s 11 wins were aided by an all-Group of 5 schedule (ranked 61st in strength of schedule) and this year, oddsmakers foresee a big step back for BYU.

Implied 2021 record: 7-5; 11-1 record in 2020

Northwestern: -0.236

The defending Big Ten West champions and conference runners-up aren’t expected to repeat that performance in 2021. In comes Ryan Hilinski from South Carolina, who is expected to compete with Hunter Johnson for the starting quarterback spot. The biggest concern for this team is losing Rashawn Slater and Greg Newsome II, who became the Wildcats’ first players drafted in the first round since 2005. The 6.5 projected win total could be a product of Northwestern stigma; Pat Fitzgerald has led them to seven or more wins nine times (in 15 years), including five times in the last six years.

Implied 2021 record: 6-6; 7-2 record in 2020

SMU: -0.200

Gone is Shane Buchele but in steps former-Oklahoma Sooner Tanner Mordecai, a former four-star QB. However, will Mordecai be able to fill the 30.5-per-year touchdown void left by Buchele? Apparently, oddsmakers have their doubts. Coming off a 7-3 campaign, the Mustangs are projected for just 6-6 this coming year, the average record for SMU since joining Conference USA in 2005. The Buchele bump appears to be real; SMU hasn’t eclipsed a 0.700 win percentage since 1984 outside of the two Buchele seasons.

Implied 2021 record: 6-6; 7-3 record in 2020

Texas A&M: -0.108

This is where win percentage is important when comparing 2020 to 2021; the Aggies won nine games in 2020 and are projected for 9.5 this coming season. At the very least, that sounds like maintaining the status quo, right? Texas A&M posted a 9-1 record in 2020, their best win percentage since 1994 (10-0-1). For 2021, they are projected at 9-3, a mark last achieved in 2016 and before that 2012. The quarterback position will needed to be sorted this offseason. It’s the first time in four seasons that A&M won’t be led by Kellen Mond. Their futures odds sit at +2500 at DraftKings Sportsbook and +4000 at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Implied 2021 record: 9-3; 9-1 record in 2020

2021 Odds To Win The Heisman Trophy

2021 Projected Win Percentage Vs. 2020 Wins

TeamWin TotalProjected W%2020 Wins2020 Losses2020 W%Projected W% Change
New Mexico State2.16700n/an/a
ODU3.5.29200n/an/a
UConn2.5.20800n/an/a
Wyoming8.5.70824.333.375
Michigan8.66724.333.333
Northern Illinois4.33306.000.333
Penn State9.75045.444.306
Houston8.66735.375.292
Arizona State9.75022.500.250
Vanderbilt3.25009.000.250
Washington State6.50013.250.250
Baylor5.5.45827.222.236
Wisconsin9.5.79243.571.220
LSU8.5.70855.500.208
Arizona2.5.20805.000.208
Texas State4.5.375210.167.208
California5.5.45813.250.208
Eastern Michigan6.5.54224.333.208
Tennessee6.50037.300.200
UCF9.5.79264.600.192
Oregon9.75043.571.179
Louisville6.5.54247.364.178
North Carolina10.83384.667.167
Air Force8.66733.500.167
Syracuse3.250110.091.159
Arkansas5.5.45837.300.158
Southern Miss5.5.45837.300.158
Minnesota7.58334.429.155
UCLA7.58334.429.155
USF3.25018.111.139
South Carolina4.33328.200.133
Virginia Tech7.58356.455.129
Bowling Green1.5.12505.000.125
Clemson11.5.958102.833.125
Colorado State4.5.37513.250.125
Florida State5.5.45836.333.125
Louisiana-Monroe1.5.125010.000.125
Nebraska6.50035.375.125
Ole Miss7.5.62555.500.125
UMass1.5.12504.000.125
UNLV1.5.12506.000.125
Duke3.5.29229.182.110
Utah8.5.70832.600.108
Oklahoma11.91792.818.098
Wake Forrest6.5.54245.444.097
Mississippi State5.5.45847.364.095
Oregon State4.5.37525.286.089
Kentucky6.5.54256.455.087
Troy6.5.54256.455.087
Florida9.75084.667.083
Middle Tennessee5.41736.333.083
Missouri7.58355.500.083
Purdue5.41724.333.083
Utah State3.25015.167.083
Kansas1.08309.000.083
UTSA8.66775.583.083
Georgia Tech4.5.37537.300.075
Georgia10.5.87582.800.075
Temple2.5.20816.143.065
Miami (FL)9.5.79283.727.064
Kansas State5.5.45846.400.058
Maryland5.5.45823.400.058
Rice5.5.45823.400.058
Michigan State4.33325.286.048
New Mexico4.33325.286.048
Akron2.5.20815.167.042
Charlotte4.5.37524.333.042
ECU4.5.37536.333.042
Central Michigan6.5.54233.500.042
Iowa State9.5.79293.750.042
Ohio State11.91771.875.042
San DIego6.5.54244.500.042
WKU5.5.45857.417.042
Auburn7.58365.545.038
Boston College7.58365.545.038
Pittsburgh7.58365.545.038
Boise State9.75052.714.036
FAU7.58354.556.028
Appalachian State9.75093.750.000
Fresno State6.50033.500.000
Illinois3.25026.250.000
Rutgers4.33336.333.000
Toledo8.66742.667.000
Virginia6.50055.500.000
Washington9.75031.750.000
Navy3.5.29237.300-.008
TCU7.58364.600-.017
Memphis8.5.70883.727-.019
Texas Tech4.5.37546.400-.025
South Alabama4.33347.364-.030
Texas8.66773.700-.033
Alabama11.5.9581301.000-.042
Iowa8.5.70862.750-.042
UAB7.5.62563.667-.042
Hawaii6.50054.556-.056
West Virginia6.5.54264.600-.058
Cincinnati10.83391.900-.067
North Texas4.33346.400-.067
Arkansas State3.5.29247.364-.072
Marshall7.5.62573.700-.075
Coastal Carolina10.833111.917-.083
Tulane5.41766.500-.083
Army8.66793.750-.083
Indiana8.66762.750-.083
Notre Dame9.750102.833-.083
USC9.75051.833-.083
Oklahoma State7.5.62583.727-.102
Texas A&M9.5.79291.900-.108
Louisiana-Lafayette9.5.792101.909-.117
Louisiana Tech4.5.37555.500-.125
Ohio6.5.54221.667-.125
Tulsa6.5.54263.667-.125
UTEP3.25035.375-.125
Georgia State5.5.45864.600-.142
Buffalo8.5.70861.857-.149
Nevada7.5.62572.778-.153
Liberty9.750101.909-.159
NC State6.50084.667-.167
Western Michigan6.50042.667-.167
SMU6.50073.700-.200
Ball State8.66771.875-.208
Northwestern6.5.54272.778-.236
Georgia Southern4.5.37585.615-.240
San Jose State7.5.62571.875-.250
Colorado4.5.37542.667-.292
Miami (OH)4.5.37521.667-.292
Kent State5.41731.750-.333
Stanford3.5.29242.667-.375
BYU6.5.542111.917-.375
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