Expert Picks: 2013 SEC over/under win totals

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Can AJ McCarron and the Tide run the regular-season table? (USATSI)
Can AJ McCarron and the Tide run the regular-season table? (USATSI)

Media days begin this month, unofficially officially kicking off the college football preseason. With 5Dimes releasing early over/under win totals last week, the Eye On College Football has decided to break down the wager for each major conference team. Remember, as always, this advice is for entertainment purposes only.

(Incidentally, the eight SEC picks made in this space a year ago that were labeled "best bets" or "worth thinking about" went 7-1. But the other six went 1-5 and, at a glance, there's no "Kentucky under 4.5 wins" freebies on the current slate.)

NOTE: The over/under totals listed by 5Dimes does not include any potential conference championship or bowl games. The number is for the regular season only. All lines current as of July 3.

WEST DIVISION

Alabama, 11.5 wins (over +170, under -230)

Undefeated seasons are rare enough in college football that betting any team to pull one off feels rash, a point emphasized by the fact that even mighty Alabama can't move the juice on this under above -230. But, uh, has anyone actually looked at the Tide's Charmin-soft schedule? Unless Virginia Tech is a revelation or Gus Malzahn is a wizard, it's a three-game season: at Texas A&M, vs. Ole Miss, vs. LSU. The Tide have byes before the Aggies and Tigers, and bracket the Rebels with Georgia State and Kentucky. So a 3-0 sweep seems more likely than not, and the heavy extra payout on the over makes this an even easier call. Projection: Over

Arkansas, 5.5 wins (over -140, under +100)

Welcome to the SEC, Bret Bielema: your debut road schedule is at Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. That's four losses, and home games with Texas A&M and South Carolina are probably two more. That means to hit the over, the Hogs need to sweep their three home nonconference games (including one vs. a dangerous UL-Lafayette team), win at Rutgers and hold serve at home vs. both Auburn and Mississippi State. That's certainly doable, but the under seems the slightly better bet. Projection: Under

Auburn, 6.5 wins (over +140, under -180)

Assuming Mike Leach doesn't have anything up his sleeve in the opener or Malzahn can't work miracles vs. Georgia or Alabama, Auburn should have a clear-cut four nonconference wins and an equally clear-cut four SEC losses (LSU, Texas A&M, the Dawgs and Tide). That means a winning season comes down to four games: home to Ole Miss and Mississippi State and away at Arkansas and Tennessee in back-to-back weeks. If junior college QB Nick Marshall really is the poor man's Cam Newton, three wins out of those four might be possible. But after Auburn's disastrous 2012, it's hard to expect that great a leap forward. Projection: Under

LSU, 9.5 wins (over +150, under -190)

Not that we agree with Les Miles' position on cross-division scheduling, but when you see his Tigers saddled with Georgia and Florida while the Tide take on Kentucky and Tennessee, you can understand why he's angry. That bad bit of luck means LSU has just five comfortable wins on the schedule and, to hit the over, would need to avoid any more than two losses against this seven-game slate: TCU at Cowboys Stadium, at Georgia, at Missississippi State, vs. Florida, at Ole Miss, at Alabama, vs. Texas A&M. It's possible, especially if the defensive line develops quickly. But even with the under juiced, it's not likely enough to squeeze the trigger on the over. Projection: Under

Ole Miss, 8.5 wins (over +130, under -170)

The Rebels could have easily won eight regular-season games a year ago (with A&M and Vandy dead-to-rights and LSU on the ropes). So with everyone back and Missouri replacing Georgia on the SEC slate, the over's the easy pick, right? Not so fast -- there are three easy home nonconference wins and two likely home league wins ( Missouri and Arkansas), but the other four wins will come much harder: Vandy, Texas, Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State on the road, and Texas A&M and LSU at home. But the guess here is that Hugh Freeze is shrewd enough to get the Rebels those four wins, three of them coming on the road and one in a big upset at home. Projection: Over

Mississippi State, 5.5 wins (over +140, under -180)

No team in the SEC takes a bigger step up in scheduling difficulty from 2012 to 2013 than the Bulldogs, who add Oklahoma State to the nonleague slate, swap Tennessee for South Carolina out of the East and "waste" two home games in potentially nonwinnable matchups vs. Alabama and LSU. Dan Mullen's team likely won't be any worse than it was last year, but the way the 2012 Bulldogs were manhandled by good teams (average margin of defeat of 21 points in their five losses), they wouldn't have won six games against this schedule, either. Projection: Under

Texas A&M, 9.5 wins (over -165, under +125)

Say hello to the friendliest schedule in the 2013 SEC: four patsies outside of conference plus Missouri and Vanderbilt out of the East. Unless the Aggies have a stunning slip-up in Fayetteville, they should cruise to nine wins, meaning they'd need just one from trips to Ole Miss and LSU and their home showdown with the Tide. From here, 0-3 looks more likely than even 2-1, given the Aggies' seeming self-satisfaction this offseason. But Kevin Sumlin, Johnny Manziel and Co. are simply too good not to grab one of those W's. Projection: Over

Can Aaron Murray get past South Carolina for another SEC East title? (USATSI)
Can Aaron Murray get past South Carolina for another SEC East title? (USATSI)
EAST DIVISION

Florida, 9.5 wins (over +240, under -320)

As you can see by the heavy, heavy juice on the under, very few bettors expect the Gators to crack the 10-win barrier again this season. But that might not be wise; the Gators will be decided favorites in seven games, meaning they'd likely need to go 3-2 from this set of five matchups: at Miami, at LSU, Georgia in Jacksonville, at South Carolina, vs. Florida State. With playmakers all over Will Muschamp's defense and a more seasoned Jeff Driskel, is that really so far fetched? This looks like a "stay-away" bet. But if we had to make one, at these prices ... Projection: Over

Georgia, 9.5 wins (over -180, under +140)

It's impossible not to be in awe of Georgia's offensive firepower -- Aaron Murray, Malcolm Mitchell, an offensive line with five returning starters -- but it's very, very possible not to be in awe of Mark Richt's track record when his team faces the kind of expectations they'll face this season. As with the West's set of Bulldogs, Georgia's defense won't actually be any worse than it was last season, but last season's defense against this season's schedule -- featuring Clemson, LSU and potentially tricky road trips to improved teams like Tennessee and Auburn -- would have yielded more losses, anyway. The margin is thin, but the guess here is that from Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Florida and the outside chance of an upset somewhere along the line, the extra payout makes the under the pick. Projection: Under

Kentucky, 3.5 wins (over -190, under +150)

Mark Stoops is already making serious hay on the recruiting trail, and the schedule should give him the chance to do some good work on the field as well. Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and Alabama State should be three nonconference wins, and there could be as many as two SEC victories thanks to road dates with Mississippi State and Vandy and home games vs. Missouri and Tennessee. If quarterback Max Smith takes to Neal Brown's offense the way that he very well could, it's just too hard to see the Wildcats going 3-9 against this slate. Projection: Over

Missouri, 5.5 wins (over -260, under +180)

The good news: Murray State, Toledo, (at) Indiana and Arkansas State will give the Tigers a solid shot at a 4-0 start. The bad news: playing at Georgia and Ole Miss and vs. Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M give the Tigers an equally solid shot at dropping at least five games. What's left are games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky and home against Tennessee. 2-1 is ever-ever-ever-so-slightly more likely than 1-2 if Gary Pinkel can find a quarterback, but that margin is too small to bet on it at -260 -- especially since even a win in Bloomington is no lock. Projection: Under

South Carolina, 9.5 wins (over -160, under +120)

The way that Connor Shaw has played at home -- going 8-1 against the spread as a starter vs. FBS teams -- it's hard not to expect the Gamecocks to sweep their seven home contests, even with Florida and Clemson on the docket. So, are there three losses looming among the road slate of Georgia (whom the Gamecocks have defeated three straight seasons and flattened last season), UCF, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri? Two? Yes. But even at -160, finding a third loss is too difficult given the Gamecocks' home record. Projection: Over

Tennessee, 5.5 wins (over -210, under +160)

The Vols will undoubtedly be a better-coached team under Butch Jones and have the kind of talent on the roster that says .500 should be doable. But road games at Oregon, Florida and Alabama look rough, and the Vols will be decided dogs to Georgia and South Carolina as well. Win the three nonleague tuneups, lose those five -- not a given -- and the Vols will need three wins from the foursome of Auburn and Vanderbilt (at home) and Missouri and Kentucky (on the road). But having the weaker of those two pairings on the road ups the Vols' chances, and given the outside shot of an upset vs. the Dawgs or 'Cocks, the over is the pick. Projection: Over

Vanderbilt, 7.5 wins (over +100, under -140)

First of all, did you ever think you would see the Commodores' win total set higher than any of Missouri's, Kentucky's, Arkansas', Auburn's, or Tennessee's? James Franklin has arguably been the best coach in the FBS the past two seasons and should get another bowl bid, but eight wins is too big an ask. Four nonconference wins and home W's over Missouri and Kentucky should get them close. But from there, the 'Dores would need to pick up two wins vs. Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida and Tennessee -- and the latter four of those come on the road. One upset for that seventh victory is possible, but the eighth seems unlikely. Projection: Under

So, to review: Best bets: Vanderbilt under 7.5 (-140); Mississippi State under 5.5 (-180); Alabama over 11.5 (+170). Worth thinking about: Kentucky over 3.5 (-190); South Carolina over 9.5 (-160); Arkansas under 5.5 (+100); Texas A&M over 9.5 (-165). Only if you like danger: Auburn under 6.5 (-180); Tennessee over 5.5 (-210); Ole Miss over 8.5 (+130); LSU under 9.5 (-190). Stay away: Missouri under 5.5 (+180); Florida over 9.5 (+240); Georgia under 9.5 (+140).

 
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