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Best win-total bets for 2012

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Season win totals are a tricky market. Often, lopsided money lines accompany the totals, and we really need to assess the probability that a team will reach a certain number, rather than thinking in binary "will they or won't they" terms.

Overs are particularly fraught with peril, because so much can go wrong to sabotage a season, from injuries to suspensions to snowballing losses and coaches losing their players' confidence. Most teams' downside is therefore darker than their upside is sunny. So it's usually a good idea to avoid asking for more than eight wins, especially from teams with a lot of eggs in their quarterback's basket and especially laying weight on the money line.

Most of our selections are underdogs or modest favorites, and we aren't going over any high numbers. Here's how we see the top eight bets in the win-totals market:

LSU Tigers

Under 10.5 wins (-180)

Last year's Tigers boasted championship intangibles, not just in unity throughout the whole team and locker room, but also in two specific on-field areas that will be difficult to replicate this season. The most critical is the depleted back end of the defense, which turned several games last year with the chaos it created. John Chavis is still an elite coordinator and LSU still has one of the nation's best defensive lines, but last year's back seven had a really special chemistry that intimidated opponents and forced mistake after mistake.