SEC Season Outlook
August 8, 2018
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It's on to my final preview of the Power Five conferences for the upcoming football season and that means it's time to talk SEC. This has been the dominant conference in collegiate football for the better part of a decade now and there is a good chance nothing really changes in that regard this year.
They've got the defending champs from Alabama who are favored to repeat, a 2017 runner-up in Georgia who can't wait to get another crack at the Crimson Tide (can only be in SEC Title game), and will be in the national scene as well, along with all the usual suspects like Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Missouri all looking to dethrone them.
Yet, for as elite as this conference is in terms of it's teams at the top, depth throughout the conference has taken a hit in the last year or two. Sure, Alabama and Georgia are expected to dominate much of the year and possibly get back to a National Title game, but when nearly half of your conference (six of 14 teams) have season win totals of 6.5 or lower – basically a .500 season or not – the likes of 'Bama and Georgia do get a few cupcakes to beat up on in conference play as well.
And while the end result may be rather predictable in the SEC (Alabama vs Georgia in SEC Title game) the path to us getting there is probably anything but predictable. But let's take a crack at it anyways.
Odds per Sportsbetting.ag
Most Intriguing SEC Future Bet
Ole Miss Over 6.5 wins (+150)
There are plenty of heavily juiced season win total options in the SEC, but many of them are shaded towards the way you'd expect. Alabama is heavily shaded 'over' 10.5 wins, same story with Auburn at 8.5 and LSU at 6.5 wins. But the most hevaily shaded 'under' option in this conference is on the Ole Miss Rebels, and I don't necessarily agree with it.
Ole Miss takes a bit hit this year with the transfer of QB Shea Patterson, but that means Senior Jordan Ta'amu gets the job from the beginning and he did an admiral role in filling in for Patterson a year ago after he went down with injury. Ta'amu at the helm changes little in terms of offensive possibilities for this team as they could be one of the best scoring units in the conference. The numbers may not show it by year's end given all the tough defenses they'll see in this league, but when you can score points you've always got a chance to win.
Ole Miss could end up eclipsing this number thanks to some solid opportunities in the schedule. They get to host Alabama (not that they'd win that anyways), but home games against Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State will likely be the ones that decide the fate of this wager. If the Rebels can squeak out a 2-1 SU mark in those contests, chances are this 'over' 6.5 wins will be a winner. That's still an awfully big 'IF' though.
Best Future Bet
Tennessee Over 5.5 wins (-130)
The Volunteers are another one of those SEC teams with win totals for 2018 hovering around the .500 mark and it's a mark I believe this team will get to this year. Settling on a QB would be the first step to achieving that goal and while it looks like the Stanford-transfer Keller Chryst will at least be the guy out of the gate – and not a bad option at all – I doubt HC Jeremy Pruitt has anything locked in stone at that position for the year.
Turnover in terms of the starters will be large this year for Tennessee but that may be a good thing as well. This program has sunk under the weight of lofty expectations the last few years and became a laughing stock of a program for awhile there. Pruitt and his staff are trying to rebuild this thing and a great way to get guys to believe your “culture change methods” is to come out of the gate and produce.
Tennessee will be in tough against West Virginia for opening week, and outside of a tough three-week stretch at Georgia, at Auburn, vs Alabama) at the end of September, there are quite a few winnable games for the Volunteers. Obviously many will be quick to point out that the Vols still have to deal with Florida and that massive losing streak against the Gators, but that Florida matchup is quite winnable this year, as are the final five games of the year against South Carolina, Charlotte, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. That could be the six wins right there, never mind the two they should get early on against East Tennessee State and UTEP.
If this number was sitting at 6.5 it would probably be a hard pass for me, but at 5.5 and Pruitt coming over looking to instill a winning culture at Tennessee again as a former Alabama assistant is something I can believe in. It's not like we haven't seen a similar scenario play out recently right with Kirby Smart taking Georgia back to prominence as a former 'Bama assistant. Pruitt is the next guy to follow that path and it starts with a Bowl game this year.
Best Season Win Total 'Under' Bet
South Carolina Under 7.5 (-130)
If the likes of Tennessee and Ole Miss are going to rise up in the chase group of the SEC, someone's got to fall back and I'm banking it being the Gamecocks in 2018.
This is a program that finished 9-4 SU last year in a year that they probably overperformed thanks to going 6-1 SU in one-possession games (decided by 8 or less) and that's a trend that probably regresses quite a bit this year. Simply put they were probably the luckiest team in the SEC in terms of their results a year ago, and when you consider that won five of their nine games when they were point spread underdogs, including three being those one-possession contests, I don't think South Carolina gets the ball to bounce their way that much this year.
Looking at their schedule, I'm not sure where a win may come for them the final five weeks of the year outside of their non-SEC game against FCS school Chattanooga. The Gamecocks have to deal with Tennessee, Ole Miss (two programs I've already discussed), and then have Florida and Clemson to end the year too. Only the Tennessee game of those four is a home contest for South Carolina, so really where are these eight wins going to come? They've only got seven games prior to that stretch and one is against Georgia (definitely a loss).
Who plays in the SEC Championship Game?
Alabama vs Georgia
No-brainer here and really no reason to try and overthink a play like this. Last year's top two teams will be on a collision course all year long for the SEC crown barring some unforeseen circumstances (significant injuries etc) and even if neither of them lives up to the lofty national expectations both may have this year, the conference will still be theirs to play for at year's end.
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