It’s late July, and we are less than a month from the start of the college football season.
And with it, what better time to make some bets than… RIGHT NOW.
Last year, I started the “College Football Betting Podcast” - which dropped its first episode of the season last week, looking at SEC East over/under win totals, and last week we discussed the SEC West’s over/under win totals, which you can listen to in podcast form - below.
Still, we also wanted to share some quick thoughts on every team in the West here at AT Online - which is exactly what we’re going to do, giving our best and worst bets for the division as a whole.
Remember to subscribe to “College Football Betting” with Aaron Torres, as we rip through the rest of the conferences and divisions in college football in the next few weeks, and to stay plugged in here at Torres Online as well.
All over/under win totals are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Best Bet: Mississippi State OVER 6.5 wins (-125)
If we’re being honest, the “best bet” in this division is Alabama over 10.5 wins. It’s always Alabama over 10.5 wins. But that’s super boring, so for fun, let’s take things in a different direction - and talk Mississippi State.
Because for all Mike Leach’s quirks, I believe his team is wildly underrated team coming this season.
First off, let’s go back to last year, where the Bulldogs went 7-5. They did that with wins at Texas A&M and at Auburn, and despite three losses by three points or less. Included in that, was a super weird loss at Memphis thanks to an officiating error, and a game against LSU, in which they actually outgained the Tigers by over 100 yards. Trust me, I watched that game, and Mississippi State was the better team (it was also the game where I knew that Coach O was unequivocally screwed).
As easily as the Bulldogs were 7-5 last year, they were a few plays from 9-3.
Well, that same team now returns 16 starters this season, including a third-year starter at quarterback in Will Rogers. They also bring back four of their top five receivers and return most of a defense that ranked in the Top 30 nationally.
Finally, while the schedule is tough, it is actually, by SEC West standards, pretty manageable. Most notably, from September 24th to November 17th, the Bulldogs have a nice stretch where they play six of eight games at home.
This feels like, at worst, a 7-5 team, with eight wins definitely in play. The “OVER” here is my favorite bet in the SEC this year.
Second favorite bet: Alabama OVER 10.5 wins (-145)
Again, because it’s so obvious, I decided not to lead with Alabama over 10.5 wins, but now that we’re here let’s talk about it.
And let’s start with last year. Remember, last year was supposed to be as much of a “rebuilding year” as Alabama can have. Yet despite losing six first round picks to the NFL Draft and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas, the Crimson Tide went 11-1 in the regular season, and at one point led Georgia in the national championship game. Had it not been for injuries to Jameson Williams and John Metchie (not to mention across the offensive line and defensive backfield) they probably would’ve won the title.
And again, that was in a “down year.”
Well, that team - which again, won 11 games last year - now is back, and with a chip on their shoulder. They return the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback (Bryce Young), the best defensive player in college football (Will Anderson) and plugged holes in the portal at running back (Jahmyr Gibbs), wide receiver (Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell), along the offensive line (Tyler Steen) and in the defensive backfield (Eli Ricks).
Admittedly, the schedule isn’t easy with games at Texas, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.
But do you really see this team losing two games?
Most OVERVALUED team in the division - Ole Miss (Over/Under 7.5)
I’m not totally sure there’s an “undervalued” team in this division outside of Mississippi State, so let’s instead turn our attention to their cross-state rivals - the Ole Miss Rebels.
Look, I love Lane Kiffin, and the Ole Miss story was one of the best in college football last year. The Rebels won 10 regular season games for the first time in school history, beating Texas A&M, LSU and several other big names along the way.
The reason I am hesitant heading into this season though is for a few reasons.
One, just about every key contributor off last year’s team is gone. That doesn’t just include players (most notably Matt Corral at quarterback), but also both this team’s coordinators (Jeff Lebby, who left for Oklahoma and DJ Durkin, the new Texas A&M defensive coordinator). Yes, I know that Ole Miss cleaned up in the portal, but they are going to need a ton of guys to click for them to reach eight wins.
Beyond that though, is the schedule. Yes, Ole Miss was absolutely awesome last year. No one is discrediting that. But at the same time, a lot of their swing games were at home. This year, they play most of those swing games on the road, with trips to Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU. That’s in addition to getting Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State at home.
It’s not to say that Ole Miss can’t get to 8-4 and hit this over/under total, or even 9-3 or maybe 10-2. It’s just that I don’t feel confident about it.
And when you add personnel losses to the coaching staff losses, this feels like a team that is a total wild card.
Biggest STAY AWAY in the division - LSU (Over/Under 7 wins)
Speaking of wild card, there might not be a bigger one in the entire SEC than LSU this year.
Look, I can see the argument that LSU can get to eight wins this season (which would allow you to hit this over). If Myles Brennan can stay healthy, he has proven he can be a solid SEC quarterback. Running back John Emery Jr. is expected back and Kayshon Boutte might be the best wide receiver in college football. The Tigers also have elite talent up front defensively in BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye. To their credit, they filled a lot of holes in the portal, especially in the defensive backfield.
The problem is, the depth behind the front line guys.
Remember, the last time we saw LSU, they had 40-something guys dressed for their bowl game against Kansas State, a byproduct of injuries, attrition and guys hitting the transfer portal.
Which is concern No. 1 with this team: The front line talent is good, but the depth just isn’t there. Even with the portal, it’s going to take some time to stack a roster able to compete at the top of the league.
Beyond that, there is the schedule, which is always brutal for LSU. They open with Florida State, and their cross-division games are at Florida and Tennessee at home. It’s not to say they can’t go 3-0 in those games, but it’s hardly guaranteed. And that’s in addition to the normal SEC West schedule, which includes road trips to Texas A&M, Arkansas and Auburn, and home visits from Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Again, there is a path to eight wins on this schedule. I’m just not betting it.
I know it’s not cool to do a huge article like this, and mostly say to stay away from teams. But it’d also be disingenuous for me to tell you I have a strong lean on Texas A&M, Arkansas or Auburn when I don’t.
Let’s get to the three:
Texas A&M (Over/Under 9.5 wins)
Texas A&M has certainly been the talk of the 2022 off-season, but the funny thing about it is this: Talk to most A&M fans, and they believe that they’re really still a year away from competing as a true national title contender.
First off, they have to figure out the quarterback situation. Haynes King was the starter to open last season but went down with an early injury, Max Johnson transferred in from LSU last off-season and Conor Weigman is the future, but might not be ready quite yet as a freshman. The defense lost most of its most productive players, and also lost Mike Elko, arguably the best defensive coordinator in the sport of college football the last few years. While the Aggies certainly have replacements in the program, thanks to their historic 2022 recruiting class, most of it is young.
In terms of the schedule, well, it is manageable. Obviously the big one is Alabama on the road, but they do have an out of conference game against Miami, as well as games against Ole Miss, Florida and LSU at home this season. Arkansas is of course a neutral site game in Dallas.
Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of me saying this: If you made me pick whether the Aggies go over or under 9.5 wins, I’d probably take the OVER. This feels like a 10-2 team.
But the quarterback uncertainty is just enough to give me pause, and stay away.
Lean: Texas A&M OVER 9.5 (-150)
Arkansas (Over/Under 7.5 wins)
Arkansas is of course coming off a dream season, in which they beat their three biggest rivals (Texas A&M, Missouri and LSU) and smacked Penn State to finish at 9-4 on the year.
And I could easily see them matching their eight regular season wins from a season ago. I could also see them falling just short.
The argument for the over is pretty straightforward: KJ Jefferson is the most underrated quarterback in college football, coming off a season in which he threw for over 67 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. And while the Hogs also don’t have the easiest schedule, most of their big swing games are at home, including the first two weeks of the season against Cincinnati and South Carolina.
The concerns though are there.
First off, this team lost a ton of talent off last year’s roster, including first round wide receiver Treylon Burks, running back Trelon Smith and two of the best linebackers in the SEC in Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry. To Sam Pittman’s credit, the Hogs hit the portal hard, adding key pieces like Oklahoma wide receiver Jaedon Haselwood and Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders.
Then there is the schedule, and while it’s manageable compared to year’s past, it isn’t easy. There are games again, against Cincinnati and South Carolina at home, as well as Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. There are road games at Auburn (where the Hogs haven’t won against 2012) and a weird out of conference road trip to BYU right in the middle of league play.
With most of the big games at home, I’d lean “over” here. But I don’t love it.
Lean: Arkansas OVER 7.5 (-145)
Auburn (Over/Under 6.5)
Listen, by now we all remember what happened at Auburn back in February - something that to his credit, Bryan Harsin addressed head on at SEC Media Days.
But while I think Harsin is a good coach - and that the guys in that locker room believe in him - I’m just not sold that there's enough talent around him to do what’s needed to keep his job.
First off, they say, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Well what about at Auburn, where TJ Finley and transfers Zach Calzada (Texas A&M) and Robby Ashford (Oregon) are all competing for the job? They’re also breaking in two new coordinators and lost a lot of their front-end talent to the pros or transfer, including leading receiver Kobe Hudson, and star defensive players Roger McCreary, Smoke Monday and Zakoby McClain as well.
Then of course there is the schedule. The Tigers always face Alabama and Georgia, and get both on the road this year. Woof. At home, Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU come to town, as does Penn State early in the year.
Like so many other teams, the path to hit the over is here. And to their credit, the players that are still in the program believe in Harsin.
I just don’t know that they have enough depth to survive this schedule and get to seven wins.
Lean: Auburn UNDER 6.5
To see all the over/under win totals, visit DraftKings Sportsbook:
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