Preseason win totals are in from Sportsbetting AG, and there are some remarkably tasty ones.
Let’s start with the Alabama Crimson Tide, at 10.5 (over -210, under +170). Show me two regular season losses on this schedule. I dare you. Yes, the money line is a bit steep, but this is about as safe as it gets. It has been a dozen years since Alabama has had two regular season losses. And with the Tide returning a healthy RB corps, the nation’s leading QB, the player in the country, and with three high-value pickups from the portal and a shakeup of the underachieving coaching staff, I’m not sure this is the year to bet against them either. Over is our pick and Mortal Lock. 11-1, only because Alabama hates undefeated seasons. [Ed.: I somehow, quite literally obliterated the entire 2019 season from memory. And now I’m a bit spooked. Nevertheless, Alabama has lost two games twice in 12 years.]
Arkansas 7.5 is intriguing (O/ -170, U +140). You get the feeling the Hogs are dangerously close to breaking through. But the Piggies lost a lot of their heart and soul on the defensive side of the ball...as well as their best wide receiver. The Super Sophomore backfield will be dangerous, but is the defensive line play improved enough to get to 8 wins? The schedule is fairly daunting too (grading on a curve), with the Hogs opening vs. Cincinnati, traveling to BYU, A&M, Auburn, and Mizzou. They do get ‘Bama, LSU, and the ‘Sip schools at home but 8 wins may be too much to ask for this season. Under is the call. Barely. 7-5.
Auburn 5.5 (O/ -135, U +105). Oddsmakers see this team sitting right at 5-7 or 6-6...a very tough year for the Tigers. Looking at the roster and the schedule, I’m having a hard time disagreeing. The schedule did them a solid hosting Penn State and SJSU as part of a 5-game homestand to open the season. But outside of Mercer, I don’t see a single guaranteed W there. Even San Jose State is dangerous. But the real killer is a 9-game stretch vs. LSU, at UGA, at Ole Miss, at Mississippi State, vs Mizzou, vs. A&M, hosting Arkansas and then the dangerous WKU Hilltoppers. The season ends with a roadie to Tuscaloosa, where Will Anderson can put them out of their misery. This team could legitimately win 2 games...or play out of their minds and get to Birmingham again. We’ll land somewhere between those two. Under is the call. 4-8. And if Auburn wins 6 games, renew Bryan Harsin ASAP.
Mississippi State 6.5 (O/ -115, U/ -115) — This is a weird year for the Bulldogs, as they’re both returning a good bit of talent, it’s a been a quiet offseason, and there’s not a whole lot expected of them. You’d like to have seen Bullie finish stronger, but momentum won’t be a problem with this awful OOC schedule: hosting a reeling and rebuilding Memphis team, East Tennessee State, Bowling Green, and then a trip to Arizona (who are frankly awful). 3-1 should be the worst. Money will be won or lost on an SEC skeddie that hosts Arkansas, Alabama, Aggie, UGA. The roadie to UK and LSU are manageable, and for that matter, so is the Egg Bowl in Oxford. Let’s give the dread pirate the benefit of the doubt and say that that he goes 3-5 in league play, and can knock over that paper tiger nonconference schedule and pick up a win or two he shouldn’t. 7-5. Over. But who knows which Mike Leach you get from week-to-week.
Ole Miss 7.5 (O/ -175, U/ +135) — I’m not terribly high on this Rebels team. Jaxson Dart was brought in to be the savior at quarterback, but so far everyone Ole Miss had on their bench has outperformed him. Throw in a meh-recruiting class, where the Rebels were outbid along multiple fronts, all those crucial losses, and just a general rebuilding year, and I don’t see where 8+ wins are coming from.
Oh wait, yes I do. The schedule may be the SEC West’s worst. If the Rebels don’t start at least 5-1, start firing people: Troy, Central Arkansas, Tulsa, Georgia Tech, Vandy, Kentucky. The back half is where the season will be decided: road trips to Texas A&M, Arkansas, and LSU. Home vs. ‘State, ‘Bama, and Auburn. Can Lane start 6-0, and then finish 2-4? I think that sounds about right. Over. And this could be the nation’s worst 8-4 team at year’s end.
LSU 6.5 ( -115 / -115) — Don’t overdo it with that slate of Southern, UAB, and New Mexico. Yeesh. Only the Blazers are respectable. And, let’s notice that the Brian Kelly era could get off to a very bad start with a home opening loss to Florida State. Still, on paper, 3-1 should be the worst. But I’m not overlooking UAB either. In fact, given the state of the Tigers’ QB room, I’m calling 2-2 as a start. The real damage is going to happen in SEC play, particularly on the road: At Florida, at Aggie, at Arkansas, at Auburn. It doesn’t get much easier at home. Sure, the Tigers get both Mississippi squads under the lights, but they also get Alabama and draw the red hot Vols offense out of the East. More than six wins will be a miracle, and I do not think that Touchdown Jesus travels. Under. 6-6.
Texas A&M 8.5 (-115 / -115) — The national media focused on that recruiting class, but Vegas focused on results (and departures to the NFL and via portal). And they see, as do we, the platonic A&M season: 8-4, with who knows what in the bowl game. White Kevin Sumlin has never finished higher than 2nd in the SEC West, and he did that one time. Now, he has to manage both expectations and a class of two dozen newly-minted millionaires. Let’s just say that locker room poise and meeting expectations haven’t been his strongest suit. Off the field could be as calamitous as anything that happens on the field.
Schedule-wise, OOC is a mixed bag. The opener vs. 2020 FCS Champion Sam Houston State could be hella’ thorny if Aggie is sleepwalking. They are a very good team. UMass is the worst team in the country. But Miami with a competent head coach, and a hungry-as-hell Appalachian State team also pose trouble. So, 2-2 is not unrealistic; but neither is 4-0. Still you suspect someone gets them along the way. Let’s call it 3-1. On to SEC games: There is a tough home game vs. UF, and the biggest one of the season on the road, at Alabama. But I’m looking at what could be the mother of all trap games / hangovers: the week after the Crimson Tide, Aggie travels to Sakerlina. And they’re going to lose. You heard it here first. To that, it’s a mixed bag of at State / hosting Ole Miss. At Auburn / hosting LSU. Just a regular SEC grind, in other words. I’m just not sold on Jimbo as anything other than Swag in cowboy boots. 8-4, in accordance to Aggie prophecy.