SEC season betting preview: Collision course

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For those against College Football Playoff expansion, the Southeastern Conference is their best case for the status quo. Every week in the SEC is like a different round of a larger-scale playoff. While two teams from the conference seem destined for the CFP semifinals, that just means the other programs have ample opportunity to make a statement.

Though they avoid each other in the regular season, the expectation is that Alabama and Georgia will have a date in Atlanta at the SEC championship game, and the oddsboard reflects that.

SEC championship odds

TEAM DIV. ODDS CONF. ODDS
Alabama -600 (West) -145
Georgia -550 (East) +155
Texas A&M +700 (West) +1800
Florida +1000 (East) +4500
Tennessee +1100 (East) +5000
Ole Miss +2000 (West) +5000
Kentucky +1200 (East) +5500
Arkansas +2200 (West) +6000
LSU +3000 (West) +7000
Mississippi St. +5000 (West) +12000
South Carolina +4000 (East) +15000
Auburn +8000 (West) +15000
Missouri +8000 (East) +30000
Vanderbilt +40000 (East) +100000

Alabama gets the edge over Georgia due to the Crimson Tide's returning production compared to the Bulldogs. All you need to know about Bama is that it had a second-half lead in the national championship game in what Nick Saban considered a "rebuilding year." It's the Dawgs' turn to rebuild, but that should still be good enough for a CFP berth.

The only other team given an outside chance is Texas A&M, but Jimbo Fisher's group will have to go to Tuscaloosa and beat Saban with an unproven quarterback just to get a leg up in the West division.

Win totals

TEAM WIN TOTAL O/U PRICE
Alabama 10.5 -300/+235
Georgia 10.5 -240/+195
Texas A&M 8.5 -150/+130
Kentucky 8 +100/-120
Tennessee 7.5 -170/+145
Ole Miss 7.5 -145/+125
Arkansas 7.5 +130/-150
Florida 7 -125/+105
LSU 7 +105/-125
Mississippi St. 6.5 -125/+105
Auburn 6.5 +135/-160
South Carolina 6 -160/+135
Missouri 5.5 +115/-135
Vanderbilt 2.5 +100/-120

The win totals for Georgia and Alabama allow for one hiccup in the regular season, but a second loss for either would spell catastrophe given the price they would have to pay on an over 10.5 bet.

Earlier in the offseason, we broke down the importance of the schedule in the unbalanced eight-game slate. Kentucky got the best of it for this season, and the fourth-highest win total reflects that. Along with the Wildcats, the next eight teams can be thrown into a hat, with two picked out each week for a pick'em game, depending on the location.

Of the teams lined in the seven-win range, Tennessee and Arkansas bring back both their starting quarterback and head coach, while Lane Kiffin hopes Luke Altmyer or Jaxson Dart is the answer to replace Matt Corral. Both LSU and Florida start new regimes - the former with Brian Kelly, a proven winner at the highest level, and the latter with Billy Napier, who gets his first shot after success at Louisiana-Lafayette.

The sleeper in the heart of the SEC oddsboard might be Mississippi State. Mike Leach gets his first season of normalcy in Starkville and the return of Will Rogers, who showed flashes of brilliance operating Leach's Air Raid offense, throwing 36 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

At the bottom of the league, Vanderbilt's win total probably comes down to a trip to Northern Illinois, since there doesn't appear to be an SEC win on the schedule. However, the Commodores could cover a few big numbers against the middle of the league.

Games of the year (projected spread)

Sept. 24: Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-5)

We'll see who will get the first crack at contention in the West, but what happens a week earlier with Miami at College Station will determine which way this line goes.

Sept. 24: Florida @ Tennessee (-5.5)

Another line in no man's land, Florida has a big non-conference showdown in the Swamp with Utah that may shift this line closer to a touchdown or a field goal.

Oct. 1: Alabama @ Arkansas (+16.5)

If the central requirement for an upset is a quarterback with broad shoulders, KJ Jefferson qualifies, having carried the Razorbacks on the ground last year, too. Getting this many points will be something I'm interested in.

Oct. 8: Texas A&M @ Alabama (-16.5)

Whether it's either of the top options - Haynes King and Max Johnson - backing the Aggies on the road here, it may be too much to ask for.

Oct. 15: LSU @ Florida (-4.5)

With all kinds of talent on the Tigers and some time to have jelled, this might be the right matchup to back Kelly for a statement win.

Oct. 29: Florida vs. Georgia (-15.5)

If Anthony Richardson shows signs of living up to the hype for the Gators, they may be able to hang with the Bulldogs in Jacksonville.

Nov. 5: Florida @ Texas A&M (-10.5)

A big day in the SEC might provide the last opportunity for each of these teams to stay in their divisional race, and there's a decent chance this line drops between now and then.

Nov. 5: Tennessee @ Georgia (-15.5)

The Vols will get a shot at Alabama in mid-October with a similar spread, but with Georgia deemed the more vulnerable team this year and division games mattering that much more, this is Tennessee's shot with Hendon Hooker to make the season something special.

Nov. 5: Alabama @ LSU (+16.5)

The first of three games for Alabama - followed by Nov. 12 at Ole Miss and Nov. 26 versus Auburn - where Bryce Young should have the Tide's offense humming, and the lookahead lines reflect that probability.

Best bets

Win totals: Kentucky under 8 (-120), Mississippi State over 6.5 (-125), South Carolina under 6 (+135)

The Wildcats have to win nine games to beat you with an under ticket, and that would require Will Levis to score a major road upset.

Mississippi State has four almost-definite wins in the non-conference schedule, and the offense should provide three more wins in the SEC.

After a bowl win, there's excitement in Columbia with Shane Beamer getting Spencer Rattler to transfer in, but that might lead to the same frustration he provided Oklahomans. A seven-win season feels unlikely enough that we'll take a shot that the Gamecocks get five or less.

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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SEC season betting preview: Collision course
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