The oddsmakers in Vegas always try to extract as much cash as possible from a low-information or too-clever-by-half public. One of the ways they do so is by exploiting trending topics and conventional wisdom.
This year, the prevailing wisdom is that Alabama has not named a starting quarterback, and this will lead to hiccups in the passing game. The casinos have taken this ESPN talking point and sandbagging to ridiculous lengths when the player props were released today.
Calvin Ridley, the only Alabama player listed on the board, featured an eye-opening prop bet; eye-opening in that Vegas must either foresee a terrible year through the air for 'Bama or they are trying their damnedest to bait the Cowherd listeners out there.
2016 Regular Season - Total Receiving Yards - Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
2016 Regular Season - Total Receiving TD's - Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
This is practically free money should you be so inclined. Only twice in a decade under Nick Saban has the Tide not had a wide receiver exceed 900 yards (2009, when McElroy struggled half the season; and 2013, when Amari Cooper was injured for nine games.) Last season, for instance, Ridley didn't get substantive playing time until Ole Miss, did not emerge until the UGA game, and did not really turn it on until midseason. He still rang up 1045 yards.
This is about as safe a bet as you'll find: Take the over for yardage
The TD prop is a bit thornier. Despite the string of phenomenal receivers over the past decade, Alabama has also spread the ball around in its pass production. Further, we know the Tide is an old school program by and large -- Alabama is rarely passing the ball inside the ten-yard line. This results in some touchdown vulturing by the running backs.
Despite having had Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, Marquise Maze and their like (and now Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Gehrig Dieter, Robert Foster and on and on) only two players in Alabama history have had a double-digit TD season: Amari Cooper in 2012 and 2014 (11, 16) and Al Lary in 1950 (10.)
For most of Alabama's history, a wideout with 6-7 touchdowns has had a great year. In fact, aside from the outlying seasons Amari Cooper tallied, the next highest touchdown total for a wide receiver under Nick Saban is seven (7): Amari Cooper (2013,) Kevin Norwood (2011,) and Julio Jones (2010) when all three led their team with those seven touchdown grabs.
It is safe to say that 2016 year is probably not going to be any different, either.
The wide receiving corps is simply too deep (and, as Brent makes the case in today's preview, it is the best in the nation.) Also, Alabama has simply too many weapons to make one man the focus. The Tide have one of the nation's most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in O.J Howard, and the backfield is an equal embarrassment of riches, with the Tide rotating B.J. Emmons, Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.
There will not be a one-man offense emerging.
I think you know where this is going: Take the under on touchdowns, but, given Ridley's elusiveness, you can see him getting 10-11 scores out of the slot. This is absolutely not as safe a bet as yardage, but you'd be happy to lose it, I suspect.