2016 SEC Football Predictions with Betting Odds and Expert NCAA Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 7/28/2016
This time of year - close enough to the college football season to be tantalizing but far enough away that it seems it might never get here - is a great time to look at futures bets. We know enough about teams to make basic judgments about value, and the public hasn't yet starting thinking seriously about the sport, so there could be some value to be found. Bovada has odds posted for each of the five major conferences, and we are going to look at each in turn starting with the SEC:
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The favorite: Alabama, not surprisingly, sits as the favored team at +175 to win the conference. They are coming off a national title, have won three more in recent times, they have the best coach in the country, and they recruit like crazy every year. There are reasons to be a little cautious - for example, they have uncertainty at quarterback, and they face a change in defensive coordinator for the first time since 2008. They have weathered bigger storms, though, and they have so much talent that they should be fine. Their schedule has been tougher at other times, too. They are a deserving and very obvious favorite.
The biggest threat: LSU and Tennessee are tied at +350 as the co-second choices, but as the biggest threat I give the clear nod to LSU. Tennessee is doing a lot of things right, but they are still young, and it seems perhaps a bit impatient to expect them to break through this season. LSU is much more established and proven and easier to trust for that reason alone. They also made a fantastic hire when they brought in Dave Aranda to be defensive coordinator. He'll thrive in the SEC. I don't think that Alabama will lose an SEC game this year, but if they do it will come against the Tigers.
Hard to judge: I find Georgia, the fourth choice at +900, the hardest to judge. On one hand they are likely going to be breaking in a true freshman quarterback, and their defensive front seven has gone through quite an overhaul. Those are concerns. They have plenty of talent, though, and are going to be able to run the ball well. And then there is the coaching. I don't like to trust a team in the short term after they move away from a long-established regime, but Kirby Smart is a big upgrade over what Mark Richt has had to offer in recent years, and he could really make an early impact. Long term I am bullish about the Bulldogs, but I struggle to figure out what to think of them in the nearer term.
No hope: The bottom end of this conference is a long way from inspiring right now. Vanderbilt (+1000) is a total mess, and I don't see any short-term path to salvation. South Carolina (+6600) made a questionable coaching choice and just isn't any good. Missouri and Mississippi State (both +5000) are moving in the wrong direction, too. None of those teams are anything other than doormats right now in the league. In fact, of any of them beat any team in the league outside of the other three it would count as a major upset.
Best Value: If I was looking to bet on the SEC - though to be honest I don't see a lot of value here this year - I would likely look at Ole Miss at +1000. They have the best quarterback in the conference in Chad Kelly, and it's not even really close - at least not at this point. They play both Alabama and Georgia at home and get both teams in the first month of the season before either team will be entirely comfortable with the changes they have faced. They have to travel to LSU, but beyond that the road schedule is manageable. They open up against Florida State, which is a great opportunity to test themselves under live fire and understand what they need to work on going forward. I'm not saying that Ole Miss is going to win the conference, but their chances are perhaps a little better than the odds suggest.
Sucker Bet: Alabama is the best team in the conference and perhaps in the country. They are probably going to win the SEC. Betting them to do so, though, would be a lousy idea. You are getting well under 2-to-1 on your money, and you have to tie it up from now until early December. That potential reward doesn't begin to cover the risk involved - even for a team this good. After all, Alabama has been good for many years now, and yet from time to time we've seen them stumble and lose when they shouldn't. That stumble could cost you your bet. Look elsewhere - odds like these are set for fans, not serious bettors. Again, the distinction is important to understand - I'm not saying they won't win; just that it doesn't make financial sense to bet that they will at this price.
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