- Mar 6, 2018
Best SEC college football bets: The numbers our experts like mostESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
We kick off our college football conference preview with a deep dive into the Southeastern Conference.
The win totals, conference title odds and national championship odds for every FBS team have been released, and below our experts -- Bill Connelly, David Hale, Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh and Tyler Fulghum -- give their best best bets for the SEC.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
SEC best bets
Alabama Crimson Tide Under 11.5 wins, Miami Hurricanes +18.5 vs. AlabamaConnelly: There's almost no way that Alabama isn't fantastic this year. The Crimson Tide have the most talent and the best head coach, and ... well ... a team that has won six of the last 12 national titles gets the benefit of the doubt. They are the SEC favorites for obvious reasons, but they do still lose games sometimes. They've lost their last two trips to Auburn, for instance, and despite being the most dominant program in the sport, last year was their first unbeaten finish in 11 years. They face three teams projected 12th or better in SP+ in 2021, all away from home, and despite projecting them a comfortable No. 1 overall, SP+ only gives the Tide a 15% chance of running the table.
Miami's one of those projected top-12 teams, and the Canes show up on the very first week of the schedule. Even if you can't talk yourself into The U having a genuine upset shot, 18.5 points is a lot to give in against a potential top-10 team in your first game with a new starting quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Bryce Young to win Heisman Trophy +850Kezirian: Stop me if you've heard this before: Heisman Trophy goes to the quarterback of the top-ranked and undefeated powerhouse program. The table is set for Bryce Young to shine and with Alabama's win total at 11.5, the Tide are potentially poised for another unblemished record. I'd much rather play +850 than over 11.5. Obviously an SEC championship game also comes into play for the Heisman futures but the payout is so much more enticing.
Young is a dual-threat five-star stud who will provide plenty of "Heisman moments" and the attention will certainly follow. Remember, he's earning in the neighborhood of seven figures for his name, image and likeness. Much like playing centerfield for the Yankees, this position carries extra weight. He will have the platform and the success necessary to win this award. New offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has a strong track record for developing quarterbacks and Young will shine.
Auburn Tigers under 7 wins (-145)Kezirian: I am genuinely stunned this number is as high as seven wins, regardless of the juice. This is my top future play on the board and I am max betting it. 2021 figures to be a rebuilding year with new coach Brian Harsin arriving from Boise State and drawing a brutal schedule. Dates with Penn State, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama present six tough games, and among those, the Tigers may only be favored at home against the Rebels. Playing at Arkansas won't be a cakewalk either.
QB Bo Nix returns and I expect his inconsistent play to follow suit. I suppose new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo could unlock him but I will continue to fade that until it actually happens. LSU transfer T.J. Finley might even replace him. The QB position will play a huge role in the team's success, as the defense should be solid and keep the Tigers in games. However, at the end of the day, they just don't have enough offense to finish 8-4 or better. This is a strong play.
LSU Tigers Under 8.5 wins
Connelly: There's almost nothing LSU could do in 2021 that would surprise us all that much. If they hover near .500 again, well of course they did! That 2019 national title run featured a once-in-a-lifetime combination of playing and coaching talent, and Ed Orgeron's team has regressed to the mean! If they make a charge toward the top-five again, well of course they did! They have Derek Stingley Jr. and Kayshon Boutte and loads of talent, and 2020 was OBVIOUSLY a one-time fluke! If the Tigers are anything less than top-five level, however, a schedule that features six projected top-30 opponents and trips to Alabama, Ole Miss, UCLA, Mississippi State and Kentucky could make 9+ wins tricky. SP+ might be underselling the Tigers a bit in projecting them 26th, but it gives them only a 15% chance of hitting 9+ wins. I bet the odds are higher than that, but ... double those odds, and Under is still a solid bet.
Kentucky Wildcats over 7.5 winsFortenbaugh: A 4-0 start is on the table with an opening month that features home games against Louisiana-Monroe, Missouri and Chattanooga followed by a road date against a brutal South Carolina squad. Even if the Wildcats falter and open their 2021 campaign at 3-1, the schedule features very winnable matchups with Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Tennessee, as well as Louisville and Mississippi State. And don't forget the fact that the LSU and Florida showdowns both take place in Lexington and are laced with upset potential. Head coach Mark Stoops deserves more credit for what he's done with this program, which was coming off a 2-10 season in 2012 when he took over and has now produced 18 wins over the last two years.
Ole Miss Rebels over 7.5 wins (-135)
Kezirian: Notching eight wins in the SEC is never a cinch but I do believe in Lane Kiffin to continue building an elite offense led by quarterback Matt Corral. The defense is never his strength but it can accomplish enough. Catching Alabama in Tuscaloosa will be difficult but the Rebels nearly pulled off the upset last year. Facing LSU and Texas A&M at home is tough, and so is traveling to Auburn. Even if Ole Miss loses those four games, and I do not think it will, the other eight games are all winnable.
Vanderbilt Commodores Over 3 wins
Connelly: I enjoy the hires new head coach Clark Lea has made in Nashville, but I expect absolutely nothing out of the Commodores this year. SP+ is in the same boat, projecting them 106th overall. But games against ETSU and UConn should be pretty easy even for the No. 106 team. That would leave them just one win shy of a push, and they've got five other opponents projected worse than 50th on the schedule. Even with a pessimistic ranking, SP+ gives the Dores a 54% chance of winning 4+.