Best Bets – SEC FuturesFootball season in SEC country always generates plenty of excitement and it typically begins and ends with two questions: Will Alabama lose a game, and if so, who's got the best shot to knock off the Crimson Tide?
Alabama comes into the 2019 season as predominant favorites to claim the SEC title and be back in the CFP Playoffs yet again, as they are -150 to win the SEC, have a win total of 11 (over -130) and are in the -250 range on the “yes” side of things for the will they/won't they prop on making the CFP playoff. Nick Saban's program has never missed out on the CFP Playoffs in it's five-year history so you can understand why those prices are what they are, especially when this program simply reloads with some of the best talent in the country.
Runs like that do eventually come to a close though, and while it may not be in 2019, you know there are 13 other programs in the SEC doing their best to try and be the ones to knock off the Crimson Tide and play a part in ending Saban's dominance atop the conference.
Saban's old protege Kirby Smart has the best odds to knock the Tide off their pedestal in 2019 with his Georgia Bulldogs, and the only chance Georgia and Alabama have to meet is in a potential SEC Championship game for the second straight year. Those two programs have had epic battles the past two seasons (2018 SEC Championship, 2017-18 National Championship) and if things go according to plan, at least in terms of achieving projected win totals, SEC fans will get Alabama/Georgia Part Three in this year's 2019 SEC Title game.
But there are plenty of other storylines involving the rest of the programs in the conference, and from a betting perspective they are often the ones that deserve more focus. It's with a couple of those schools that this piece begins with, as it's following the same format as the previews already done for the ACC, Big 12, and Big 10 conferences.
Let's get right to it:
Best Season Win Total Over Bet:
Kentucky Wildcats Over 6.5 wins (-155)
Kentucky had a great 2018 season, finishing 10-3 SU overall and claiming the Citrus Bowl crown. It's going to be extremely tough to match that type of success in 2019 given that they lost 14 starters from that team – including the school's all-time leading rusher Benny Snell, and reigning national defensive player of the year Josh Allen. Kentucky football doesn't have anywhere near the prestige to “reload” like many other programs in this conference do, but while a drop-off is expected, it won't be as big as many believe.
For one, Kentucky QB Terry Wilson is expected to have much more help in the passing game and should take a big leap forward because of it. He'll have a stable of backs beside him in the backfield to hopefully come close to matching Snell's production from a year ago, and if a rebuilt O-line gives them all solid protection throughout, the Wildcats attack will be just fine.
Defensively, this team gave up under 17 points per game last year, and while that number will surely rise given all the new starters they've got on that side of the ball, keeping things below a full TD or more higher (say 24 ppg allowed) will give this team plenty of opportunities to be in, and ultimately win games.
Finally, in terms of their schedule, no SEC schedule is ever “soft” given the depth of talent in the conference, but Kentucky's schedule isn't exactly the toughest gauntlet out there either. They've got a trip to Georgia which is probably a loss, but they do host Florida and Tennessee – two programs who are expected to bounce back but may not bounce back as big as expected – and host Arkansas and Missouri as well, two games Kentucky is very capable of winning. Their non-conference schedule should have multiple wins with all four games being at home and coming against lesser competition (Toledo, Eastern Michigan, UT Martin, and Louisville), meaning that it will only take a few wins in SEC play to eclipse this total. They avoid Alabama, LSU and Auburn from the West, and sometimes it's just that type of 'luck' you need to finish beyond expectations.
Add it all up and Kentucky should be Bowl bound again in 2019, with at least seven wins under their belt, if not getting to 8+.
Best Season Win Total Under Bet:
Auburn Under 7.5 wins (+115)
Bettors can shop around and possibly find some flat '8's out there, but even with the plus-money odds on going below 7.5, this wager should be fired on. I say that because in what is essentially the opposite of Kentucky's lesser schedule, Auburn's got to run through a gauntlet of tough foes from start to finish in 2019.
It begins with a neutral site game against a highly touted Oregon team in Week 1, a game that sees the Tigers only laying a FG due in large part to the SEC's reputation that precedes them. A loss there and the Tigers really put themselves behind the eight-ball in terms of finishing the year with a winning record as they've got conference games @ Texas A&M, @ Florida, @ LSU, vs Georgia, and vs Alabama, all five of which have Auburn currently catching points as underdogs in the Golden Nugget Game of the Year lines. That could very quickly be five SU losses in those five games alone and that in itself would cash this 'under' play as it is.
Sure, Auburn do host Georgia and Alabama and have pulled off some memorable home underdog wins this decade against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but if things don't go the Tigers way up until that point, is the motivation of a heated rivalry enough to put them over the top against those two teams? I highly doubt it.
Everything's got to go right for Auburn to even have a shot at getting to eight wins in 2019, and to grab plus-money against that happening is a no-brainer.
SEC Conference Winner Best Bet:
Georgia to win SEC (+275)
Georgia and Alabama are the only two teams in this conference with double-digit win totals and rightfully so. The most likely outcome we've got when all is said and done is that these two programs do end up doing battle in the SEC Championship game for the second straight year, and while the Bulldogs could end up being bigger ML underdogs in that game when it arrives, that becomes a scenario where you can end up deciding how to spread out your units in a creative manner with this ticket already in pocket.
Kirby Smart's team knows they can beat Alabama if they flawlessly execute for the full 60 minutes, and are the only team outside of Clemson that's really had Alabama on the ropes the past few years. Put it all together in this year's SEC Championship game and 2019 should be Kirby Smart's year.
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