Between now and the start of college football season on Sept. 1, we’ll preview every conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision with an emphasis on futures odds. Each preview will include a look at favorites, long shots and a pick as well as the full list of odds for the conference.
(If you’re just getting started with sports betting and want to learn the terms and how it works, check out Sports Betting 101.)
We’ve started with the smaller conferences and worked our way toward the top, and now we’ve reached the granddaddy of college football leagues: the Southeastern Conference. Our goal has been to give you a comprehensive look at the top division in college football, and the with a handful of teams starting games Saturday, we’ve arrived.
The SEC, of course, has been college football’s most successful conference of the 21st century, and it’s not particularly close. Beyond Alabama, which has won six of the past 13 national championships, five other SEC teams have combined to win nine other titles since 1996.
That includes last season, of course, when Georgia lost to Bama in the SEC title game but then won the rematch five weeks later for the natty. In the eight renditions of the College Football Playoff, in fact, the SEC has had two teams in the playoffs twice. No other conference has done it once. The SEC also has had the No. 1 seed six times — the other two were Clemson, and in both of those cases Alabama knocked off the Tigers.
Can the SEC stay on top? Can anyone besides Bama or Georgia be the team that rises up? Let’s see what the odds have to say.
Alabama was Alabama again, going 11-1 against a regular-season schedule with a slip-up at Texas A&M — though the Crimson Tide also needed a four-overtime borderline miracle against Auburn to stay in the national championship picture. Then Bama upset Georgia for the SEC title and dusted Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl to reach another national title game.
The only difference for the Tide this time around is that Georgia has built a similarly intimidating monster of a program to the east, and in the title game, the Bulldogs got it right, controlling the middle of the game en route to a cathartic 33-18 victory and the program’s long-awaited third national title. Take out the SEC championship loss, and Georgia had only one game closer than 15 points: A season-opening 10-3 win at Clemson.
The rest of the SEC lagged quite a bit behind those two, but Ole Miss (10-3) and Arkansas (9-4) both had banner seasons from the West Division, and Kentucky (10-3) was a revelation from the East. Texas A&M was 8-4 but had the aforementioned win over Alabama and then signed the nation’s top recruiting class (you might have heard about how Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher had a less-than-friendly discussion about that.)
LSU and Florida both were mediocre, and mediocre at those places gets you coaching searches that start before the season’s even over. Tennessee and Mississippi State were maddeningly inconsistent, and as usual, you can throw Auburn in that category too.
South Carolina and Missouri both went 6-6 (giving the SEC 13 bowl-eligible teams) but had much different experiences after that: The Gamecocks thrashed North Carolina in their bowl game and gained Spencer Rattler as a transfer quarterback; the Tigers lost to Army and lost their two-year starting QB to transfer.
Vanderbilt was Vanderbilt, losing at least nine games for the third straight year and still without a winning record since 2013.
It’s easy to take Nick Saban’s run in Tuscaloosa for granted, so take a step back and consider how amazing it is that Alabama (-140) is an odds-on favorite — that’s better than even money — to win a league as deep as the SEC. It’s hard to argue, of course: Quarterback Bryce Young is the returning Heisman Trophy winner, linebacker Will Anderson has gotten the most bets at Caesars Sportsbook for the Heisman this year, and the rest of the roster is littered with All-American types. The Tide is -500 to win the West Division and get to Atlanta for the SEC title game, where they would get an expected rematch with…
… the similarly huge favorite in the East Division, Georgia (+140). The Bulldogs, however, lost a lot more talent off of last year’s breakthrough team. QB Stetson Bennett is back, but eight defensive starters were taken in the NFL draft, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. The cupboard is stacked with top-five recruiting classes, though, and the Bulldogs also catch a schedule break: If they can survive the opener against Oregon in Atlanta, it’s very manageable, with Auburn and Mississippi State choice opponents out of the West.
That’s pretty much it as far as favorites, though we’ll add Texas A&M (+1600) to this list just because they’re the only other team with odds better than FORTY TO ONE. That’s right; only three teams even have implied probability of greater than 2.5% to win the conference. The Aggies did beat Alabama last year, they signed the top recruiting class and could field a defensive line entirely of five-star recruits. They also got Max Johnson from LSU to potentially solve their quarterback issue. But A&M plays Arkansas, Auburn and most importantly, Alabama, away from home. This will be a good team, but the road to finish ahead of Bama is a long one.
When Alabama and Georgia are in your league, everyone else is a longer shot. As mentioned, Texas A&M is the only other team better than 40/1 — and that’s only because the Aggies are expected to be a top 10 team.
The next teams listed at Caesars are all expected to be in the top 25, just not good enough to challenge for the SEC. In all three cases, there are reasons for that.
There’s Tennessee (+4000), which brings back 17 starters, including quarterback Hendon Hooker, top receiver Cedric Tillman and top running back Jabari Small to boost an offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game. The defense must be better, but there are seven starters back there, too, including leading tackler Jeremy Banks. The problem? The Volunteers gave up 251 points in their six losses last year and must play Alabama and (at) Georgia.
How about Kentucky (+4000)? The Wildcats also return a solid quarterback in Will Levis. There are some questions about the offense after coordinator Liam Coen returned to the NFL after leading a breakout unit in 2021 and the offensive line lost four starters. UK gets Georgia at home but must travel to Tennessee and Ole Miss.
Speaking of the Rebels, the third team at this price is Ole Miss (+4000). Lane Kiffin is hoping a big group of transfers can bolster a roster that went 10-3 last year and reached the Sugar Bowl but lost 11 starters and two coordinators, including quarterback Matt Corral. Former USC QB Jaxson Dart is likely the new starter, though returner Luke Altmeyer also has a chance.
There are also three 50/1 shots. Out of the generally tougher West Division comes Arkansas (+5000). The Razorbacks broke through with a 9-4 season last year and quarterback KJ Jefferson is back, but the receiving corps is thinner. The defense was elite last year and could be again, though there’s a decent amount of turnover.
LSU (+5000) is one of the country’s greatest unknowns: Brian Kelly is here, Jayden Daniels appears to be the presumptive starter at quarterback and no one is totally sure what to except, other than a brutally tough schedule with Florida State, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M all on the docket.
Another team with a new coach is Florida (+5000), where Billy Napier has a returning starter at quarterback in Anthony Richardson but a fairly shallow roster by Gators standards.
The other five teams — Mississippi State, South Carolina, Auburn, Missouri and Vanderbilt — all have odds of 100/1 or longer, tied with the Big Ten for the most such long shots.
The first question you must answer before betting any futures here is whether you’re willing to fade Alabama and Georgia. It’s hard to justify betting -140 or +140 on a favorite when a lot of things can happen during the course of a season. Now, if the Tide or the Bulldogs should lose a game early, the number might shoot up and be worth a look, but I can’t recommend a bet on either at this stage.
Instead, take a look at Tennessee (+4000), which has the type of offense that can even the playing field against an Alabama or Georgia. If the Vols can somehow manage to pull one of those two upsets, the rest of the schedule is reasonable, with Florida and Kentucky both coming to Knoxville. For 40/1, it might be worth the risk.
And for a much longer shot, could Mississippi State actually shock the world at 100/1 odds? OK, probably not, especially because the Bulldogs draw the other Bulldogs out of the East as part of an absolutely brutal schedule. But this has the makings of last year’s Arkansas: A team that jumps into the top half of the SEC and could cash some win total bets.
Full SEC odds and win totals
(From Caesars Sportsbook)
|Team||Division||Title odds||Win total|
|Texas A&M||West||+1600||8.5 (o-170)|
|Ole Miss||West||+4000||7.5 (o-150)|
|South Carolina||East||+10000||6.5 (o-120)|
|Mississippi St.||West||+10000||6.5 (o-150)|