To avoid embarrassment, documenting the results of wagering $200 in Monopoly money on season-long win totals for Arkansas and other SEC teams might go unreported this year.
Last year, a profit of a dozen yellow “10s” from hypothetical wagers was rehashed in a column that smacked of gloating after two years of finishing in the black. Details included a review of the preseason pronouncement that the over-under on both Mississippi schools seemed inflated, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris was overrated, and too much was made about the difficulty replacing Alabama quarterback Jake Coker. Thirty-dollar wagers — the self-imposed max — on Ole Miss under 9.5 and Mississippi State under 7.5, plus $20 on LSU under 10.5 and Alabama over 9.5, were all winners.
Nothing so appealing was revealed when matching 2017 win totals from professionals at Bovada.lv against this amateur’s numbers published in a recent magazine column. In fact, from 11 for Alabama to 6 for Ole Miss, projections from the two sources are within a half-game on Arkansas and six of its eight SEC opponents.
The exceptions involve Mississippi State and South Carolina. Reflecting high expectations for quarterbacks Nick Fitzpatrick and Jake Bentley, the personal number is 7 for both the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks. Bovada has both pegged at 5.5. Based on that discrepancy, this exercise begins with a $30 wager on the over for MSU and South Carolina.
Spreading out the remaining $140, Arkansas is up first. My number for the Razorbacks was 7.5 and there is minimum risk in wagering $20 on over the sports book’s 7. Three certain non-conference victories and games against Missouri, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State — the teams with the three lowest vote totals in the preseason media poll — add up to six Ws. Splitting with former Southwest Conference opponents TCU and A&M means no worse than a push vs. the betting line and South Carolina is lightly regarded by experts.
Perusing the official numbers on other SEC teams, the inclination is to back the most talented teams to overachieve rather than support teams with lesser talent. Besides, the SEC West appears distinctly divided between the best and the rest. Extrapolated from that assessment, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU are not likely to lose to any of the other four teams in the division:
— Alabama, 10.5, $20 over. Florida State is the only Crimson Tide opponent with close to a 50-50 chance vs. ‘Bama. Auburn and LSU might beat Alabama 1-in-3 times; all others are extreme long shots.
— Auburn, 8.5, $20 over. Every time Auburn is discussed, transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham is part of the conversation for good reason. Auburn must beat Clemson and its new quarterback early in the season, one of the two other favorites in the West, or East Division favorite Georgia, and hold serve against the lesser opponents to get to nine. Very doable.
— Florida, 8, $20 over. Florida won the East last year despite uneven play at quarterback and Malik Zaire’s transfer gives the Gators another option at that position. Besides, head coach Jim McElwain is a proven winner the jury is still out on Georgia’s Kirby Smart.
Conceding that Bovada nailed Kentucky at 7 and Vanderbilt at 6, a half-dozen SEC teams remain, each worth a $10 wager:
— LSU, 9, over. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada earns his big bucks.
— Georgia, 8.5, over. Even if the Bulldogs lose to much-improved Notre Dame in the second game, they still should win nine.
— Texas A&M, 7, over. Reluctantly. Expect the Aggies to lose to Florida and the three favorites in the West. If Bret Bielema gets his first win over the Aggies, Kevin Sumlin might be gone.
— Tennessee, 7.5, over. Losses to Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Georgia, don’t leave any wiggle room for Butch Jones.
— Missouri, 6.5, under. The Tigers figure to lose at least five SEC games, including Arkansas and Auburn, and Cal is supposed to be on the up-tick under new coach Justin Wilcox.
— Ole Miss, 5.5, under. Too many distractions.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org