College Football: SEC Betting Preview
The Alabama Crimson Tide have won four of the last five SEC championships, and Nick Saban's squad is the conference favorite once again.
Even if you expect Alabama to win, however, that doesn't necessarily make the Tide the best investment. According to the FanDuel Sportsbook, Alabama is listed at -170 to win the conference crown, which won't give you a significant return on your investment. And given the annual conference gauntlet SEC teams must navigate, regardless of your respect for Alabama, the risk-reward balance probably isn't your favor.
Here's a rundown of odds for the rest of the SEC contenders. The only school not listed is Missouri, which is ineligible for postseason play.
Best Value: Georgia +230
Alabama knocked off the Georgia Bulldogs in each of the past two seasons, but it hasn't been easy. The Tide needed overtime in the National Championship Game two seasons ago and a fourth-quarter comeback in the SEC title game in 2018. The talent gap between these two powerhouses is insignificant -- which makes it somewhat surprising to see a sizable gap in their conference championship odds.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs return the majority of their key players -- most notably quarterback Jake Fromm, who enters his third season as the starter. Last year's leading rusher D'Andre Swift is also back, as is preseason All-American left tackle Andrew Thomas.
If there's one potential weakness to worry about for Georgia, it's the pass rush. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Bulldogs ranked 13th in the SEC in quarterback pressures with just 145 -- a full 101 pressures fewer than conference-leading Alabama.
Despite that flaw in the defense, the unit still ranked 13th in the nation (second in the SEC) in yards allowed per game, which indicates there's a truly elite ceiling for the Georgia defense if the team can find someone to get after the quarterback with consistency.
From a schedule standpoint, Georgia appears to have a relatively easy path to its third straight SEC East crown. The Bulldogs' only conference road games are at Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Auburn. The Bulldogs knocked off each of those schools by a combined score of 106-35 last season, beating each by a margin of at least 17 points.
Long Shot Value: LSU +1400
Everyone is expecting a Georgia-Alabama rematch in the title game, but if anyone can throw a wrench in to those plans it might be Ed Orgeron's LSU Tigers.
It might seem strange to call the team with the fourth-best odds a long shot, but at +1400, LSU certainly qualifies.
One of the reasons to believe in LSU is the returning talent. According to ESPN's Phil Steele, the Tigers are returning 16 starters -- eight on each side of the ball -- which is tied with Tennessee for the most in the conference.
An early November trip to Alabama will be LSU's toughest test, and a loss in that matchup would likely end the Tigers' chances in the SEC. But if they can pull off an upset of the Crimson Tide, LSU's schedule becomes favorable.
Besides Alabama, the Tigers have three other ranked SEC opponents on the schedule (Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M), and all three games will be at home in Death Valley. No SEC schedule ever provides an easy path, but having those three matchups on its home turf gives LSU a slight edge.
According to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI), LSU is favored in every game except its showdown with Alabama. So if you believe the Tigers have a chance at knocking off the Tide, throwing a dart at LSU to win the conference is a bet that could pay off.
Avoid: Texas A&M +4000
Talent-wise, Texas A&M is a much better team than that +4000 number indicates, but don't fall for the trap.
If the schedule shook out differently, the Aggies might be considered a sleeper in the SEC, but it's hard to find a more difficult slate of games in the entire nation than what Jimbo Fisher will lead his team through this season.
Texas A&M faces four ranked opponents in the SEC, hosting Auburn and Alabama early in the year before traveling to Georgia and LSU in the final two weeks of the season. Even with a different arrangement of the same schedule, the Aggies might be a more viable contender, but back-to-back road games to close out the season makes this look like an impossible task.
It's also worth mentioning Texas A&M's September trip to Clemson. While it doesn't factor into their conference title hopes directly, it is one more game against an ultra-physical opponent, which decreases the chances they'll be healthy and fresh for the tough conference games later in the schedule.