I’ve bragged on college gridiron coaches when they refuse to bow to the media. For instance, I didn’t mind former Georgia Tech skipper Paul Johnson’s devilish sideline remarks after helping his Yellow Jackets whip Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl a few years back. “For once,” he chuckled, “we don’t have to hear about the SEC.”
But take away the attitude, and that quote is not among the wiser words of ol’ CPJ.
National pundits will always talk SEC football. As we should. The conference boasts 1 out of 2 of the foremost annual College Football Playoff contenders, and the SEC’s University of Georgia is arguably as hard to conquer in a CFP game as Alabama as the decade winds to a close.
Furthermore, the SEC is only a handful of years’ removed from utter dominance of the FBS. Southeastern Conference schools won 7 straight national titles from 2006-2012.
One could argue that since then, the ACC and Big Ten have simply grown stronger, as opposed to SEC football growing weaker. In fact it’s no longer really a grand idea to think of elite FBS programs (or FCS programs for that matter) as “representing” a conference. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and a few select other teams might as well belong in a separate division. They each have to play in a conference – but they’d all look like a million bucks against almost any P5 schedule.
Alabama has won 2 national titles in the CFP era, same as the Clemson Tigers have.
The only problem is that the SEC isn’t sending as many teams into that upper stratosphere these days. UGA is obviously a powerhouse, but short-lived runs at the grail from other Southeastern schools have appeared to be built on quicksand.
Nick Fitzgerald won games with his legs at Mississippi State, but he couldn’t win them all that way. Drew Lock could zing an NFL ball at Missouri, but he’s moved on since last season. LSU knows how to let down a fan base, and Texas A&M knows how to come close-but-no-cigar vs the aristocrats of the sport.
Will the duopoly ever be challenged? Can a sleeper surprise Nick Saban or Kirby Smart in either division of the SEC in 2019?
SEC Win-Total Lines: Vegas Consensus and Season Outlook
I don’t expect to see win-total lines for the FBS at most college football betting sites in our network for at least another few weeks. But we have a pretty good read on what SEC rosters are going to look like, and at least a “consensus” win-total odds chart from Las Vegas prognosticators.
Normally when we call a line “opening consensus” it could simply be the sole gambling odds from the 1 sportsbook that debuts them.
In this case, however, there’s a somewhat standardized formula of reviewing the upcoming schedules and match-ups to get a fairly solid projection.
If all 12 games on a given team’s schedule were handicapped individually, how many times would the school get a “-“ next to its moneyline? That makes a decent handicap of a Vegas win total.
Will the win-total lines at Bovada Sportsbook and Sportsbetting.ag match what speculators think the numbers will be for a dozen kickoffs? Probably within a game either way, yes, especially since win-total lines can be divided by ½.
For what it’s worth Bovada’s clientele seems to be a little older and more conventional on-average compared to the number of young mobile-users signing up elsewhere.
Will a presence of more stodgy, ingrained Alabama and Georgia fans at Bovada lead to heavy “Over” action and inflated lines at the oldest and biggest book in our purview?
Time will tell. For now, let’s go with what we have – projected win-total markets (some already available to wager on, some simply forecasted) on all 14 SEC teams as the countdown to August continues.
Alabama Crimson Tide (Win-Total Line: 11)
Perhaps the 44-16 drubbing laid on the Crimson Tide by Clemson was more shell-shocking that it normally would have been, thanks to ‘Bama having stormed through such a dominant, record-setting regular season. Nick Saban’s 13th year at the helm will be the unlucky number unless Alabama is able to play better and finish much, much better in the 2019-20 postseason.
Tua Tagovailoa will lead the offense as an expected Heisman front-runner. The dynamic dual-threat was a picture of perfection for the majority of 2018, finishing with 3,966 yards, 43 TDs, and only 6 interceptions. The wideout duo Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle is returning to campus after posting over 2,000 receiving yards and 21 TD catches for the season. Najee Harris is primed to take the reins at tailback, giving Tua crucial support in the run game behind big blockers.
The only problem with handicapping Tua to excel again in 2019 is that he’s been great in the SEC but has slipped when confronted by resistance from the “elite division” in January. The Clemson defensive backfield did a number on the then-sophomore in the CFP final.
Defensively, the Tide could look a little young in places, but the unit should be loaded with skill and athleticism. Raekwon Davis is hoping for a bounce-back senior year on the defensive line, and 6’3” junior LB Dylan Moses recorded 10 tackles-for-loss in ’18. The secondary has plenty of play-making potential.
Could the kicking game become a liability for the Tide? Special teams have not been the program’s ultimate strong suit through recent championship seasons. Saban will try true frosh Will Reichard at PK this year.
A win-total line of (11) sets up a simple proposition – will the squad go unbeaten in 12 games? I’d certainly go for the Tide at (10 ½) so we’ll see if that number pops up anywhere this summer.
- Lean: None
Georgia Bulldogs (Win-Total Line: 10 ½)
Coach Smart has quite an impressive record at UGA after 4 seasons, but Alabama once again stopped his Georgia Bulldogs from grabbing the grail last season.
Justin Fields has transferred to Ohio State, helping the Bulldogs’ futures line to win the SEC to a fat (+270). But it’s QB Jake Fromm whom the team is built around. And he’s pretty good at staying healthy for the big moments…if still unproven in his ability to triumph in them.
The Georgia native is one of the most efficient passers in the FBS, throwing for 2,761 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. “Dawgs” will rely on a stout running game to punish opposing defenses and 5’9” junior D’Andre Swift is just the fireplug to lead that assault.
It helps having arguably the best offensive line in the Power-5 to run the ball behind. 6’5” junior Andrew Thomas is a road-grating run blocker and is expected to become a top-5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The defense has gaps to fill, but senior safety J.R. Reed and 6’6” sophomore lineman Jordan Davis provide a foundation of exceptional talent. Davis earned a spot on the Freshman All-America Team in ’18-‘19.
Incoming freshman Nakobe Dean could also have a big impact at the LB position.
The Dawgs may boast the SEC’s best kicking pair with senior PK Rodrigo Blankenship and sophomore P Jake Camarda.
All in all, it takes a complete team to out-play Nick Saban’s unit for an entire autumn and winter…but Athens could have something approaching a 3-phases dynamo by October.
- Lean: Over
Florida Gators (Win-Total Line: 9 ½)
Gator Nation is ginned-up going into Dan Mullen’s 2nd year in command after a 10-3 finish and 41-15 stomping of Michigan.
What sparked the turn-around? Most of all, the mind-blowing improvement of redshirt junior QB Feleipe Franks. Franks electrified The Swamp with 24 touchdown passes. But the key number is “6,” as in the number of picks that the typically mistake-prone passer threw in his final underclassman campaign.
Remember, though, that a quality HC doing his job usually results in lots of news stories about players supposedly having “stepped up.” QB coaching in the SEC is not the prestigious job that it once was. Mullen may be bringing his passers along in the classroom at a faster rate than his rivals.
5’11” senior RB Lamical Perine and all-purpose skill player Kadarius Toney are capable of putting Franks and the Gator offense in 2nd down and short often. But not if the team loses the line of scrimmage. A lack of proven talent and depth on the OL is the only thing keeping Florida out of speculators’ 2019-20 College Football Playoff conversations at this point.
A fierce defense will fight in all dozen games. C.J. Henderson and Brad Stewart Jr. may sound like a pair of NASCAR racers, but they’re actually ball-hawking DBs for the Florida Gators. Jabari Zuniga is one of the SEC’s fiercest run-stuffing and pocket-collapsing D-linemen.
Still, the fundamentals of football call for “blocking and tackling,” not just tackling. Florida must open with Miami, close with Florida State, and play Auburn, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina in a 4-game mid-season Murderer’s Row in 2019.
- Lean: Under
LSU Tigers (Win-Total Line: 9 ½)
At maiden glance LSU’s (9 ½) consensus line – if it holds up at online betting sites in July – appears ripe for an “Over” pick. The Tigers return a plethora of experience and coach Ed Orgeron has Death Valley (the other “Death Valley”) buzzing after a 10-3 season.
It was especially impressive to see the Tigers fight through some early bad breaks (and bad blood) to hand upstart UCF its first defeat in forever at the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.
Joe Burrow will lead a revamped offense that could utilize more run-pass options than ever. Burrow has proven capable of managing the new system, throwing for 2,894 yards, rushing for 399 yards, and accounting for 23 total touchdowns in 2018.
Burrow’s favorite weapon through the air is Justin Jefferson, who impressed with 54 catches last campaign. The running attack also gets a major shot in the arm with the signing of 5-star ball-carrier John Emery Jr. But questions remain…and not just on defense.
Star linebacker Devin White, so crucial to the LSU defensive unit that the crowd was labeled the “11th Man” instead of the “12th Man” by CBS in his absence, has left campus for the NFL. Grant Delpit still leads an excellent defensive backfield after grabbing 5 interceptions and 5 QB sacks in ’18. But his picks in opposing territory might not add up to sure-thing field goals this time around.
LSU must replace Lou Groza Award finalist PK Cole Tracy. Freshman Cade York nailed the longest field ever in the Under Armour All-America Game (59 yards) and is a leading candidate to take over the 1st string duties in Baton Rouge.
I’m also not sold on Burrow as an elite QB after watching him freeze-up completely against Alabama several months ago. (At one point, I yelled “GET RID OF IT!” at Burrow so loudly that Patricia jumped 5 feet off my lap.)
Louisiana State can’t win a national title with a flawed role-player at QB. Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa are on another level of talent, mobility, and accuracy compared to LSU’s starting passer…bad news for a program trying to get into that separate “division” we keep talking about.
- Lean: Under
Auburn Tigers (Win-Total Odds: 8.5)
Gus Malzahn got away from his bread and butter in 2018, lured by the prospect of a wide-open, shotgun-spread passing attack.
Gee…nobody’s ever tried that.
A change at QB may not be a bad thing. The 7th-year Auburn skipper will now turn to redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or 5-star true freshman Bo Nix to man the team under center.
The eventual QB will get a boost from 6’0” sophomore running back JaTarvious Whitlow, who ran for 787 yards as a freshman.
Don’t sleep on the Auburn defense just because the squad’s offense has looked warmed-over and confused for the last 13 games. War Eagle is loaded with premier defensive linemen like 6’5” senior Derrick Brown and equally-rangy junior Nick Coe. The duo combined for 24 tackles-for-loss for a defense that held opponents to an average of 19.2 points in ’18.
Auburn meets a topsy-turvy Oregon team before meeting a couple of vulnerable Group-of-5 opponents in Tulane and Kent State in late-summer OOC play.
- Lean: Over
Kentucky Wildcats (Win-Total Line: 8 ½)
If the SEC is going to be known as being as deep – deeper, even, than the ACC – once again, it begins and ends not with the aristocrats of Alabama, Georgia, and LSU but with support-troops like an upstart group of student-athletes from Kentucky.
The Wildcats shocked many onlookers with a 10-3 overall record last season, and UK’s defense was the envy of many SEC and ACC programs alike. Kentucky’s 2019 schedule looks easy enough on out-of-conference weeks, with 2 match-ups against the MAC and a meeting with Louisville.
But it won’t be easy to get back to double-digit wins. Junior QB Terry Wilson will have to improve his consistency following the departure of the school’s all-time leading rusher, Benny Snell Jr. 6’1” junior wideout Lynn Bowden Jr. took 2 punt returns to the house last season and can buoy the offense.
The defense has a rebuilding task in store, underlined by the departure of SEC and National Defensive Player of the Year Josh Allen. 6’1” senior linebacker Kash Daniel is one of most decorated returnees, recording 84 tackles during the team’s resurgence last fall.
- Lean: None
Texas A&M Aggies (Win-Total Line: 8 ½)
2 factors are influencing Texas A&M’s healthy projected win-total line – their names are Jimbo Fisher and Kellen Mond.
The veteran coach and the young QB combined to lead the Aggies to a 9-4 finish last season. Mond threw a few too many picks, but nearly helped knock-off Clemson early in the year. Fisher must find a replacement for stellar running back Trayveon Williams, but the receiving corps returns a plethora of talent fronted by 6’2” junior Quartney Davis.
Junior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike has flustered offenses and leads a group of physical, speedy cogs in the front-7 who must remain healthy for the November stretch…which will include South Carolina, Georgia, and LSU in a 3-week span.
If Texas A&M can produce the same caliber of run defense as occurred in Fisher’s debut campaign, that storm may not prove impossible to weather. Especially considering that the Aggie offense is likely to be better and more-consistent than it was in Year 1 of a new era.
- Lean: Over
Missouri Tigers (Win-Total Odds: 8 ½)
The amazing number of 8+ win-total projections for the SEC isn’t exactly a new thing for such a dominant conference. But it’s surprising to see this year, and though a lot of the schools do deserve the hype, if Mizzou is anywhere around (8) or (9) total wins at a sportsbook? That would be the most mispriced line of the summer.
When a gunslinger like Drew Lock leaves an all-spread style team like Missouri, the offense usually takes a massive hit. Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant will provide competence and experience in the starting role, but late-career transfers often flop, and Bryant can’t block and tackle for his teammates.
It won’t help that the NCAA has banned the Tigers from playing in bowl season due to an academic scandal in which a tutor was found completing assignments for athletes in various sports. Just when it seemed like the program had turned a page from the controversies of earlier in the decade.
LB Cale Garrett is the heart and soul of the defense and is coming off a phenomenal 106-tackle campaign. The Mizzou defense was tenacious against the run in Barry Odom’s 4th year, but opposing teams can afford to be more patient pounding the line in 2019.
- Lean: Under
Mississippi State Bulldogs (Win-Total Line: 8)
Quick – who had the #1 defense in the FBS in 2018-19 in multiple key categories? It wasn’t Clemson, Alabama, Georgia or Notre Dame. It was Mississippi State.
Joe Moorhead’s offense could not develop as quickly as the new HC’s defense did, however, and the Bulldogs finished a disappointing 8-5.
Nick Fitzgerald is gone, and the battle to play under center will be fought between junior Keytaon Thompson and Penn State graduate transfer Tommy Stevens.
There are daunting uncertainties at wideout, but the veteran running tandem Kylin Hill and senior Nick Gibson will anchor the offense behind a stout OL. Hill is ready to burst after tallying 734 yards on a 6.3 average last year.
The 2019 NFL Draft was flooded with defensive talent from Mississippi State, and this season’s unit is hoping to reload rather than rebuild. Pass-rusher Chauncey Rivers will play an increased role, while junior CB Cameron Dantzler is likely to shine.
Mississippi State will enjoy an extremely-manageable OOC schedule that includes 1 FCS opponent in addition to Louisiana-Lafayette, Kansas State, and Southern Miss. I’m down to put in a “unit” or 2 of my own on Over (7) or (7 ½) but 8 wins is about what I would project for the cowbell-clangin’ Bulldogs.
- Lean: None
South Carolina Gamecocks (Win-Total Line: 7 ½)
The Gamecocks have been hovering around .500 under Will Muschamp, but remain a difficult out for anyone in the Power-5…as highlighted by last season’s surprise rivalry shoot-out with Clemson.
QB Jake Bentley has shown flashes of brilliance but has been brutally inconsistent, and the offense does not have a world-class RB on the roster. Talented senior DL Javon Kinlaw returns after posting 4 sacks, while LB T.J. Brunson is one of those guys who makes every tackle…usually after the sticks have been surpassed as USC loses the line-of-scrimmage to SEC foes too often.
South Carolina will play Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky early in the 2019 season.
- Lean: Under
Arkansas Razorbacks (Win-Total Line: 6)
Supporters of the American Athletic Conference are always saying that their student-athletes are “Power-6” level and more-than-able to compete with the big dogs. The 2019-20 Arkansas Razorbacks season will be yet another chance to prove it, but not because the SEC’s Razorbacks have any AAC schools on the schedule.
SMU graduate transfer Ben Hicks will take his 9,081 career passing yards to Fayetteville and is the frontrunner to become the team’s starter.
Hicks will have a few solid weapons around him including junior RB Rakeem Boyd, who returns after rushing for 734 yards. 6’4” senior TE Cheyenne O’Grady is a Red Zone threat.
The Razorbacks struggled to a 2-10 mark in Chad Morris’s debut season leading the program. Could a sharp passer from SMU be the medicine that his squad sorely needs?
Consider that Hicks is a talented and poised veteran who might think he died and went to heaven when he sees an SEC unit of 21 players around him – not because the AAC’s best can’t compete with the SEC but because SMU isn’t exactly the class of the American Athletic.
Senior LB De’Jon Harris is the lifeblood of the defense, while the return game is a bright spot. Arkansas could go 4-0 in OOC play, but who can the Razorbacks upset in the SEC?
- Lean: None
Tennessee Volunteers (Win-Total Line: 7)
A 5-7 start to the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville seemed satisfactory to Knoxville faithful.
Jarrett Guarantano has some ability at QB and skill players like Ty Chandler and Marquez Callaway will have the chance to step up this fall. However, the offensive line is lacking in push too often, and the team’s impressive secondary won’t do a lot of good when opponents can run and run and be patient.
The squad’s saving grace might be edge-rusher Darrell Taylor, who has been relentless in getting after QBs.
- Lean: Under
Ole Miss Rebels (Win-Total Line: 6)
Head coach Matt Luke begins his 3rd season in charge of the Rebels with a record of 11-13 and not much more of a seasoned unit than he began with.
QB Matt Corral hopes to play a huge role in the offense, but senior RB Scottie Phillips was sensational in his 1st season with Ole Miss, rushing for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns. Phillips is more likely to be put in charge of the egg in a goal-line situation.
Mississippi’s defense has been putrid, and it won’t be any fun to take on California and Memphis in non-conference games in ’19.
- Lean: Under
Vanderbilt Commodores (Win-Total Line: 5 ½)
Derek Mason has coached in Nashville for several seasons and never broken .500, so why are the Vanderbilt Commodores almost projected to win 6 games with uncertainty behind center?
There will be a battle between Ball State graduate transfer Riley Neal and redshirt junior Deuce Wallace for the starting QB job. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and WR Kalija Lipscomb are experienced weapons, but we’ve seen the quarterback position become a litmus-test for marginal P5 teams. It doesn’t work out well when you can’t solid production from QB – just ask Rutgers.
Vanderbilt’s defense ranks well below where any SEC unit should hope its floor would be.
Special teams gets a boost at Vandy with the arrival of Harvard graduate Justice Shelton-Mosley, who could potentially light-up the kick return game.
Yes, an Ivy League-to-SEC transition can work these days…this ain’t your Momma’s FBS.
- Lean: None