Subtly prepping his guest, the radio talk show host mentioned “over-under” before asking for a take concerning Nevada’s number for wins by Arkansas.
Immediately, 5 1-2 came to mind.
Vegas says 5 1-2, said the Fayetteville-based throat.
Knowing that pros in Nevada and this amateur in Arkansas agree regarding Chad Morris’s first UA team discourages enthusiastic backing of Arkansas during the annual wagering of Monopoly money on the over-under for SEC teams.
Working with a self-imposed limit of $30 per wager in multi-colored bills and a $200 bankroll, the exercise turned a profit of $120 in 2016 and $40 in 2017, including $30 on both Mississippi State and South Carolina last year when quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Jake Bentley helped their teams win eight vs. a regular-season over-under of 5 1-2.
For Arkansas to exceed 5 1-2, 4-0 in the non-conference is darned near a must and the North Texas game might be the most difficult. In Seth Littrell’s two years, the Mean Green has 14 victories.
Still, a so-so SEC team is supposed to be superior to a winner from Conference USA.
Ironically, the only over-under in the SEC lower than Arkansas’s is Vanderbilt’s 5 and assuming Arkansas beats the Commodores, winning six is likely to hinge on defeating Ole Miss.
The wager is a lukewarm $10 over 5 1-2.
As for the rest of the SEC, Vegas is high on College Football Playoff finalists Alabama and Georgia, OK with Auburn, and blasé about the others
From the top down, the mythical wagers:
—Alabama, 10.5, $30 over. Whether the quarterback is the SEC’s 2016 Offensive Player of the Year or the second-half hero of the national championship game who broke a bone in the index finger on his throwing hand in the first spring practice, Nick Saban is on the sideline and top-quality athletes are on the field. LSU and Auburn may be the only teams on the schedule capable of beating the Crimson Tide.
—Georgia, 10.5, $20 under. The Bulldogs outdid all expectations last year, winning 13. This year, Georgia fans expect nothing less than an East Division title and a return to the CFP. Going 7-1 against SEC opponents, including LSU and Auburn from the West, is asking a lot.
—Auburn, 9, pass. Playing Georgia and Washington in addition to SEC West teams, three losses feels right. If so, expect second-guessing concerning Gus Malzahn’s $49 million contract.
—LSU, 7.5, $20 over. New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger promises to use three and four wideouts. Such vows are not new in Baton Rouge, but expect the former LSU quarterback to follow through.
—Mississippi State, 8, $10 under. Dan Mullen has gone to Florida and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is still rehabbing the leg injured in late November.
—Texas A&M, 7, $30 over. Jimbo Fisher will quickly shape the Aggies into an SEC West contender and beating one of the top three in the division this year would not surprise.
—Florida, 7, $20 over. Mullen’s way with quarterbacks will improve the Gators and there are more athletes in Gainesville than in Starkville.
—South Carolina, 7, $10 over. The last two months of the 2017 season, the Gamecocks lost only to CFP teams and Bentley should be even better.
—Missouri, 6.5, $10 over. Drew Lock, who threw 44 TD passes last year, could be even more sensational under former Dallas Cowboys’ assistant Derek Dooley.
—Kentucky, 6, $10 over. In basketball country, Mark Stoops has guided the Wildcats to consecutive 4-4 records in the SEC, but he is breaking in a quarterback.
—Ole Miss, 6, $10 under. Playing Vanderbilt helps, but the Rebels may not win another SEC game and open against Texas Tech with beleaguered coach Kliff Kingsbury.
—Tennessee, 5.5, $10 over. If new coach Jeremy Pruitt can keep his players enthused after consecutive contests vs. Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama, the Vols finish against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.
—Vanderbilt, 5, $10 under. Six SEC victories in Derek Mason’s four years.
The P&L statement will be available Thanksgiving weekend.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: email@example.com