With the SEC Championship picture already settled, those who follow betting markets are thinking ahead to Alabama’s likely prices vs. Georgia in the conference title tilt, and vs. other national powers in the final four.
Both the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs won their respective divisions in decisive fashion last Saturday. Alabama (-14.5) crushed LSU 29-0 in Baton Rouge to win the West, with a yardage advantage of 576-196 on 7.2 to 3.3 yards-per-play. Georgia (-9.5) beat Kentucky 34-17 in Lexington to win the East, with a yardage advantage of 444-310 on 6.3 to 4.8 yards-per-play.
No offshore or land-based sports book has posted an active betting line for Alabama-Georgia in the SEC Championship yet. But, early “low-limit” lines are going up for possible national championship games involving ‘Bama. Oddsmakers are that confident the Tide will be there! Here’s a quick summary.
▪ Alabama is projected to be around a 9-point favorite in a match-up with Clemson. The Westgate in Las Vegas posted Alabama -8.5 and let bettors take their shots this past weekend. Should that match-up not occur, all bets would be refunded.
▪ Alabama is projected to be around a 14-point favorite in a match-up with Michigan. That line was posted offshore. Because Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma are so close in many respected computer ratings, it’s assumed Alabama would also be about two-TD favorites over the Bulldogs and Sooners. Let’s see if that holds up in Atlanta in a few weeks.
▪ Alabama is projected to be around a 20-point favorite in a match-up with Notre Dame. The Irish are NOT getting much respect from betting markets because of a soft schedule and inconsistent play from week-to-week. Note that Michigan was a heavier favorite than ND in recent road games at Northwestern (though the Irish ultimately posted better results).
Believe it or not, Alabama is also projected to be around a 20-point favorite against Ohio State! No stores have posted that number. But early lines for Michigan/Ohio State were up on the board this past Sunday … with the Wolverines laying anywhere from -1.5 (offshore) to -3.5 (Westgate) in Columbus. When you factor in three points for OSU’s home field advantage, that would suggest Michigan is seen as 4.5 to 6.5 points better than OSU at a neutral site.
The Buckeyes are no longer seen as a juggernaut after a bad loss at Purdue, and a very unimpressive home win vs. Nebraska.
What about undefeated Central Florida? Market makers don’t believe UCF has a chance to crack the playoffs. And, it’s scary to think what the Alabama offense would do to the Central Florida defense. You may have watched UCF allow 40 points on 670 yards and 6.8 yards-per-play last Friday night to Temple. Temple! Alabama currently ranks #1 in the nation in total offense despite resting its starters through many second halves. Temple rose to #68 nationally after moving so easily on UCF.
Results this past Saturday for Mississippi schools …
▪ Mississippi State (-23) mauled Louisiana Tech 45-3, with a total yardage edge of 532-238 on 8.2 to 3.8 yards-per-play. The Bulldogs coasted after jumping to a 31-3 halftime lead, or the numbers might have been even more one-sided. State moved to 6-3 on the season, becoming bowl eligible with most of November still ahead.
▪ Ole Miss (-2) lost a home shootout to South Carolina 48-44. The Rebels won total yardage 616-510, but lost yards-per-play 7.4 to 6.3. Why the discrepancy? South Carolina was scoring so easily that it only ran 69 plays. Ole Miss ran 98. South Carolina also received a scoring boost by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Ole Miss fell to 5-4, and is ineligible to play in a bowl this season.
▪ Southern Miss (+3) upset Marshall 26-24 despite having to go with backup quarterback Tate Whatley. The freshman didn’t have a good game, passing for just 134 yards as the Golden Eagles could only manage 3 of 16 on third down conversions. But the defense rose to the occasion, forcing four turnovers. Marshall actually won yardage 249-222 on 4.2 to 3.2 yards-per-play. Both teams returned fumbles for defensive touchdowns, creating a misleadingly high final score. Southern Miss lifted its record to 4-4.
On tap this week …
▪ Ole Miss kicks off a national CBS doubleheader featuring local SEC teams. In an 11 a.m. start, the Rebels are +12 at Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a blown win at Auburn last week.
▪ Mississippi State is a 26-point underdog at #1 Alabama. Kickoff on CBS is set for 2:30 p.m. Will the Bulldogs catch the Crimson Tide flat off that big win in Baton Rouge?
▪ Southern Miss is +11 at UAB. That kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. The market is clearly reacting to Southern Miss’s concerns at quarterback. Tough to bet on a starter who’s been turnover prone, or a backup who can’t move the ball consistently. UAB enters the contest a perfect 6-0 in CUSA play (compared to 3-2 for Southern Miss), and 8-1 on the season.