The SEC West…some believe it is the best division in all of college football and why not? Despite how much talent is spread out between the 7 schools, this is still Alabama’s division to lose…again. But it may not be as easy as they make it seem, or maybe they will….it is Alabama (unfortunately for me) and they are one of the favorites to win the SEC as well as the National Championship.
However, Saban and Co. will have the target on their back (again) as everybody chases them, but Bama may not be as far ahead as you think. LSU has 16 returning starters and a quality schedule, Jimbo Fisher is entering a pivotal year 2 and still has a talented QB in Kellen Mond. Heck, even Auburn fans are starting to get cautiously optimistic about this season (even though Malzhan’s chair might be a little warm).
Even the teams not looking at the national spotlight have their own stories to follow. Mississippi State moves on from Nick Fitzgerald, the Ole Miss bowl ban from Hugh Freeze ends and Arkansas finally will have electricity in the state! But seriously, you may not want to write off the Arkansas Offense just yet.
SEC West Win Total Best Bet
Mississippi State Under 8 (+110 Bet Online) – We enter year 2 of Joe Moorhead’s reign and gone are dynamic dual threat QB Nick Fitzgerald and 7 starters from the defense that lead the conference in several statistics, including yard per play, 3rd down conversion percentage, and points per game. This team won 8 regular season games last year and that’s their win total mark for 2019.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 7.56, giving some good value to the under, especially at plus money (bookmaker win total is 8 with flat juice). I’m even a touch lower than Adam on Miss St’s ranking. For this team, 8 wins looks to be their max ceiling. They should easily sweep the non-conference schedule and look to be a favorite in 8 games, and a dog of 7+ points in the remaining 4 (Bama, LSU, @TAMU and @Auburn).
Fitzgerald was not an accurate passer (51.1%), so receivers should be expecting a boost in production, but even with a better arm under center, the offense lacks talent compared to the rest of the division. Tommy Stevens may get the start at QB and has familiarity with Moorhead’s system from his time at Penn St, but a new QB starting for the first time in arguably the toughest division in college football doesn’t forecast success too often. The defense losses a lot of talent and a lot of production for 2019 and I expect regression in all facets of the bulldogs’ defense for this season.
Alabama Over 11 (-134 Bookmaker) – Despite getting whooped by Clemson in the natty last year, it’s still Alabama. Take the over. Saban in still there, Tua is still there and Bama always has elite talent waiting for their turn to shine. Bama will be one of the top power rated teams throughout the year and will be a favorite in every game. Their schedule is even favorable as they get LSU at home and their toughest road games are TAMU and Auburn, where Bama will likely be a favorite by 6+ points in both contests.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 11.03, giving us next to no value on either way. But I’m still taking the over, as I think the floor this team is 11 wins and would at least push. Saban isn’t thrilled about how their season ended and he isn’t a coach that allows for mistakes too often. You have to go back to the 2010 season to find the last time Alabama lost more than 1 (if any) conference games and I don’t foresee that changing in 2019. It is a little juicy, but take the over.
LSU Over 9 (-135 Bookmaker) – Last season LSU got to the 9 win mark, even after losing in 7 OTs to TAMU at the end of season. This year, Coach Ed Orgeron enters his 4th season and has 16 starters back, including QB Joe Burrow who proved he could play and compete in the SEC. Expectations are high down in Baton Rouge and LSU will be looking to knock off Bama and win the SEC West.
Not only is the talent there this season, the schedule isn’t too bad either. They do play at Texas and at Alabama (note that they should be a road favorite at Texas). They get the rest of the tough games at home (Florida, Auburn, and TAMU), so LSU should close as a favorite in 11 games this season.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 9.12, giving us next to no value on either way. But I’m still taking the over. The schedule is favorable and the roster is very talented. The biggest downside is probably their head coach, but I think the talent is enough to overcome any shortcomings from Coach O.
Auburn Lean Under 7.5 (+104 Bookmaker) – After watching the 2018 season, it’s hard to believe that Auburn won the SEC west in 2017, but here we are. Expectations were high last year, but with an inexperienced O-Line, the offense never clicked until Malzahn took over play calling in the bowl game. Former OC Chip Lindsey has left to take the head coaching job at Troy. The new OC is Kenny Dillingham (previously at Memphis in the same role), but Malzahn has made it clear that he will be taking over the play calling this season, so you can expect a lot more from the run game that ranked last in the SEC in rush attempts in conference play last season (pretty shocking from a Malzahn coached team).
The starting role is between Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix (son of form Auburn QB Patrick Nix). Many are calling for Gatewood to start as Malzhan has made comparisons to former QB Cam Newton, but I’ve heard from coaches that Nix is the fastest player on the team and if that is the case, I’m sure Malzahn will work him in as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised if both see regular playing time. Regardless, the entire O-Line returns and this may be Auburn’s strongest WR group in years to go along with a talented backfield. For the defense, Derrick Brown returned and along with Nick Coe, the D line should be one of the best in the conference, if not the country. The big plus is the fact that the entire starting secondary returns to give a lot of experience to a talented group.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 7.57, giving us next to no value on either way. Auburn has the talent to be a top 15 team in the country, the problem is their schedule. They face Oregon in Jerry’s World to start the season. Their conference away games include LSU, Florida, TAMU and Arkansas, not exactly guaranteed wins there. To top it off, as usual, they play UGA and Bama at the end of the year. The other problem is that they are starting a new and inexperienced QB in the SEC, rarely does that mean immediate success, so I’m leaning with the under (If you don’t mind juice, Bet Online has under 8 at -165)
Texas A&M Lean Over 7.5 (-124 Bookmaker) – The Aggies enter year 2 for Coach Jimbo Fisher and for a program with the resources like TAMU, year 2 may be where big strides are made. QB Kellen Mond will also be looking to take the next step forward in his growth. While the Aggies had the 2nd most pass attempts in conference play, they only completed 55.8% of the passes, 11th best in the conference. Mond needs to improve his accuracy to continue to grow and after spring camp, it looks like he has done just that.
The Aggies lost SEC leading rusher, Trayveon Williams, who had 1760 yards rushing over the season, but the majority of the O Line as well as the receiving corps is back and all have a year of Coach Fisher’s playbook experience under their belt.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 7.73, which gives some value to the over. The Aggies should be favorites in 8 games, only being a dog to @Clemson, Alabama, @LSU and @UGA. The Aggies are power rated about the same as Auburn (and get to play Auburn at home this season. That game could very well be the swing game that decides their season win total fate. Given that Auburn will have a new and inexperienced QB and Mond at least has a year under his belt, I would lean with the Aggies to win that game and the over on the season win total, but I would look elsewhere for a season long wager.
Ole Miss Lean Under 5 (-130 Bet Online) – Good news for the Rebels, they return 10 starters on defense for 2019. Bad news, this defense was the worst in the conference in the following categories: yard per rush, yard per play, plays of 20+ and 30+ yards, total points, red zone scoring and sacks. More bad news, the offense only returns 3 starters and is a road dog to Memphis to start the season.
The Rebel’s top 3 receiving threats from last year are gone, including 2 second round NFL picks AJ Brown and DK Metcalf. There looks to be a massive drop in talent all around as Matt Luke enters his 3rd year and now that the bowl ban is lifted from the Hugh Freeze “events,” Luke may be out of a job if the Rebels don’t make a bowl.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 5.16, giving us next to no value on either way, but with the loss of talent on offense and the horrendous results on defense last season, I would lean to the under along with the market, but this is a stay away play for me. Ole Miss is likely to be favored in just 5 games, and likely a dog of 6+ in its remaining games. They did win the SEC schedule lottery this season as they get to play Vanderbilt from the SEC East, it’s no guaranteed victory, but having the Commodores on the schedule as a possible W and a coach that likely needs a bowl appearance to save his job is enough to stay away from the over.
Arkansas Lean Under 5 (+104 Bookmaker) – After a 2-10 season last year, there is not much the Razorbacks can be proud of last season. Their defense was the worst in conference play for QBR and yards per attempt. The offense was the worst in conference play for yard per play, 3rd Down conversions, QBR, yard per attempt and turnovers. Now for the good news, there is a lot of returning production on both sides of the ball with 12 starters return. More good news, head coach Chad Morris gets a familiar face at QB as Ben Hicks transferred in this year from SMU. Hicks played under Morris not long ago so he will be familiar with the offense and should be a big step up from last years’ QBs.
Using Bang the Book’s power ratings and projected spreads, the estimated win total comes out to 5.69, which gives value to the over (Over 5 at bookmaker is -135, BetOnline has their total at 5.5 with the under juiced to -145), but I would lean to the under. The Razorbacks should sweep their non-conference schedule (including a revenge spot against Colorado State), but their 2 most winnable conference games are on the road this year, making a bowl appearance in Morris’ 2nd year a tough task. (If you don’t mind the juice, then go for BetOnline’s 5.5 total).
While I don’t see too much improvement in the W/L column, I do think this team will be better than last year’s version and my offers some value on a week-by-week basis as the 2019 season unfolds.