2014 Odds to Win the SEC West Division for College Football with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/24/2014
The SEC West has won the last five SEC Championships - and they have just one fewer National Championship in the same time frame. When people say that the SEC dominates college football, what they actually mean is that the SEC West does. Really, it's just the states of Alabama and Louisiana - only twice since the current divisions were formed in 1992 has at least one of Auburn, Alabama or LSU not at least shared a piece of the division crown. So, are those three fighting for yet another title? Or can some other team break through and temporarily put an end to the dominance? Here are the odds to win the SEC West for college football, with picks and predictions as well:
The odds (from Bovada)
Ole Miss (9/1)
Mississippi State (12/1)
Texas A&M (14/1)
Breaking it all down
Alabama: After failing to win the division last year, and after losing A.J. McCarron after seemingly a decade as the starter, it seems as if people are looking for an excuse to doubt the Tide. I would certainly love to find such a reason given the ridiculously low price here. While I can't suggest that there is any value at this price, I also can't suggest that they deserve to be anything other than the strong favorites here. A change at QB will be a real adjustment, but Jacob Coker, who has been backing up E.J. Manuel and Jameis Winston at Florida State until this year, is more than capable of stepping in and performing well. He is aided by the best running back corps in the country and talent all over the field. Saban recruits like crazy, so the squad is loaded. I have concerns about the hire of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator - he's just a moron. Still, he has a whole lot to work with. Outside of a trip to LSU, the schedule is favorable, and even that test is manageable for them. They are the team to beat, and a legitimate National Championship contender. There's a new storyline.
Auburn: When asked about the chances of Auburn to repeat as conference champions, one of the first things that many people say is that they are the only team in the big three with a returning starter at QB. The problem, though, is that Nick Marshall just isn't great. He was far from a strong passer last year, and he loses a great weapon in Tre Mason. I don't think that his experience is an insurmountable advantage over Coker or others, and while the team has talent in plenty of spots they don't have the depth or overall quality that Alabama has - especially on defense. They also have a tougher schedule than Alabama. Their chances of winning the division are definitely significantly less than those of Alabama. Your job as a handicapper is to determine whether the difference in odds means that there is relative value on the Tigers.
LSU: I expect that these Tigers are going to be able to run the ball very well - Les Miles usually does, there are four returning starters on the offensive line, and freshman running back Leonard Fournette is potentially very special. The problem, though, is what happens in other places on the field. Quarterback is a major uncertainty, and they lost some very good receivers. The defensive front seven has major questions, too. Good enough to win 10 games? Quite possibly. Good enough to win the division? I'm not betting on it.
Ole Miss: They headed into last season with a stellar freshman class but failed to produce at the level they were expected to. Now those youngsters have more experience, but the offensive line is a big question mark. The schedule is about as good as it could be, but that's not saying much. There are things to like, but I just don't see how they can expect to win enough against the elite teams to threaten for the division title. I don't see any value here.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have an excellent defense. There are real concerns about the offensive line, though, and though QB Dak Prescott is experienced I certainly don't find the junior inspiring. They also have to travel to LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss. This could be the best team that Dan Mullen has had at Mississippi State, but that still probably isn't good enough.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin has an exceptional reputation. In the last two years, though, he has lost Kliff Kingsbury, Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. Now we really get to see how well he can coach. With the changes the team has gone through there is an expectation that this will be a rebuilding year, and no one will be surprised or likely disappointed if it is. If Sumlin can make something of this season, though, then maybe he really does walk on water.
Arkansas: No. Just no. Bret Bielema had a truly horrible year last year, and though it shouldn't be quite so bad this year it's hard to believe that they will be anything other than ugly. Really, the bigger interest is to see if Bielema can save his job before the welcome wears out.
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