Back in May we ran down the available win totals for the SEC West and offered our best guess on whether bettors should take the over or under. The plan was to cover the SEC East the following day, but then the SEC's spring meetings kind of blew up and then college football officially said it would have a playoff and, well, we're covering the SEC East now instead. Better late than never, right? Plus, via Beyond the Bets, we've got new totals fresh out of the oven from Cantor Gaming, the first Vegas book (per BtB) to release them.
So: bearing in mind that these totals are subject to change from week-to-week and, of course, from sportsbook to sportsbook, we're breaking down what these lines might say about how these oddsmakers view the SEC ... and whether said lines might be a good bet or not.
(A note for gambling novices: the "-XXX" number along each total is the "juice," i.e., how much you have to wager to earn $100. "-140" means you have to bet $140 to get $100 in return. Oh, and all totals are for regular season wins only.)
Florida Gators: 7.5 wins (under -170)
Setting the line at 7.5 (and the juice on the under) doesn't seem like a huge vote of confidence in the Gators' chances of returning to the top of the SEC East. With four all-but-certain victories on the slate via three paycheck dates and a home game vs. Kentucky, even a 4-4 mark vs. the rest of the SEC and Florida State would be enough to hit the over ... even if it won't get Will Muschamp's team anywhere near Atlanta. SPOILER: we don't like the Gators to win the division, either. (The short version is that we're not sold yet on the quarterbacks.) But with a likely win at home vs. Missouri, a 2-1 mark from three early trips to Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt would leave the Gators needing just one win from their remaining five games to reach 8-4. With the kind of defense Muschamp should boast in 2012, that's entirely doable. Projection: OVER.
Georgia Bulldogs: 9.5 wins (over -150)*
Now, if you want to see a team the oddsmakers would give a healthy shot at winning the division, look at the one with the total slotted two wins higher. Of course, the difference can also be explained by the difference in the Dawgs' and Gators' schedule--while Florida goes to Tallahassee, Georgia hosts Georgia Tech, and where the Gators draw LSU out of the West the Dawgs get Ole Miss. So let's say for argument's sake Florida's secretly the better team and wins the Cocktail Party. If Mark Richt can sweep his cushy home slate (where either Tennessee or Vandy shapes up as the tallest hurdle), he could still finish 10-2 by taking three wins from his four road opponents: Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Auburn. From here that seems more likely than not. Projection: OVER.
Missouri Tigers: 7.5 wins (under -160)
If you need another sign of the lack of respect shown by Florida's line, how about SEC newcomer Missouri seeing the exact same total? And that's not a scheduling quirk--the Tigers draw a home date with Alabama and a road trip to Texas A&M out of the West, and their nonconference slate includes tricky dates vs. Arizona State, at UCF, and vs. Syracuse. All in all, the Tigers have just two match-ups -- home games vs. FCS Southeast Louisiana and Kentucky -- in which they shape up as a heavy favorite. Expecting the Tigers to go 6-4 in the other 10 games (ones that include tough, tough dates vs. Alabama, vs. Georgia, at South Carolina and at Florida) is asking far too much. Projection: UNDER
South Carolina Gamecocks: 8.5 wins (over -130)
It seems somehow fitting that between the Dawgs at 9.5 and the Gators at 7.5 we get the Gamecocks at 8.5--good enough to be in the mix, but not good enough to be the favorite. The problem, as Steve Spurrier will be happy to tell you, is the Gamecocks' schedule--at LSU and vs. Arkansas is the roughest draw out of the west for any Eastern team, and going on the road to face Florida, Vanderbilt, and Clemson won't be fun, either. If Carolina can split those four road games (no easy feat), they could hit the over by going 6-1 against a home slate that includes Georgia, a dangerous Tennessee team, and the Gamecocks' bogey team, the Razorbacks. It's a razor-thin call, but the guess here is that without a go-to receiver or Ellis Johnson, there's an extra loss there somewhere. Projection: UNDER
Tennessee Volunteers: 7.5 wins (under -160)
The vastly more experienced Vols are easily the SEC's greatest 2012 wild card--capable of winning the East if the defensive coordinator transplant takes and the Tyler Bray/Da'Rick Rogers/Justin Hunter triumvirate are all healthy and productive, capable of losing Derek Dooley his job if the running game continues to flail and the front seven isn't ready to play Sal Sunseri's 3-4. So we wouldn't recommend betting the Vols at 7.5 either way, though we'd lean towards the under. Georgia St., Akron, Troy, and Kentucky should be four easy home wins, and the Vols will likely be favored vs. Missouri (at home) and N.C. State (in Atlanta) as well, meaning taking two of their next three most-winnable games -- vs. Florida, at Mississippi St., at Vanderbilt -- would do the trick. But we just don't trust the snakebitten Dooley enough to expect it to happen. Projection: UNDER
Vanderbilt Commodores: 5.5 (over -165)
Like Missouri under 7.5, betting the Commodores' over here requires a good bit of juice, but that's juice we'd be willing to pay for what ties with the Tigers' under for the most appealing bet on the East board. James Franklin didn't just get Vandy to a bowl in 2012, he turned the 'Dores into what should have been an eight-win team--they lost four SEC games by a combined 19 points while walloping the likes of Kentucky, Ole Miss, Wake Forest, and Army by an average of 27.5 points. Now Franklin has had a year to groom quarterback Jordan Rodgers, All-SEC tailback Zac Stacy is still around, and most of an underrated defense and offensive line is back. The schedule isn't soft (only FCS Presbyterian and UMass shape us as locks) but could be worse, with five of the 'Dores six road games filed squarely under "winnable." With a better team and better breaks, we're expecting Franklin to take Vandy to its first winning regular season since 1982. Projection: OVER
And finally: If we were going to break down the 14 picks we've made across this post and the West version by our confidence level, here's how we'd do it: Best bets: Ole Miss under 5.5**; Missouri under 7.5; Vanderbilt over 5.5; Florida over 7.5. Worth thinking about: Kentucky under 4.5; Georgia over 9.5; LSU under 10.5; Alabama over 10.5. If you like danger: Texas A&M under 7.5; Mississippi State over 7.5; Arkansas over 8.5. Stay away: South Carolina under 8.5; Auburn over 7.5; Tennessee under 7.5.
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