With the college football season just over three months away, CBS Sports is here to take a closer look at the win totals for every team from the Power Five (and AAC) and pick a side ahead of the 2016 campaign.
We start with the SEC West, which has been the most dominant division in college football since 2000. The SEC West has produced seven national champions since 2000, including reigning champion Alabama. No division has produced more than two national champions in that same time frame.
The SEC West has two title contenders once again in 2016 as Alabama is the co-favorite to repeat at 8-1 and LSU is fifth in the nation at 12-1 to win the College Football Playoff. The Tide and Tigers are the clear favorites, which creates an obvious question: Which (if any) division foe can find a way to trip up either team in their efforts to reach the SEC Championship Game (and beyond).
Here are my picks of win total lines for the seven SEC West teams, beginning with the champs. All win total odds provided by South Point casino in Las Vegas, which released win totals for all 128 college football teams.
Alabama, 10 wins (+100 over, -120 under): The Tide haven't lost more than two games in a season since 2010. There are reasons to question whether Alabama can reach the pinnacle of college football again in 2016 as, once again, the Tide must find a new starting quarterback, replace a Heisman Trophy winning running back and find players to step in for some of their top defensive stars. For most teams, that's a near impossible task. For Alabama, that's just called the offseason.
The Tide's roster goes three-deep with starting caliber players at most positions, so I'm not concerned about the defense or running back -- Bo Scarborough is terrifying -- but quarterback is the big question. That said, Lane Kiffin's been the new-QB whisperer in his two years as offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Tide open with a tough task in a neutral site game with USC, but I think they get past a Trojans team also replacing stars in big spots and then you're looking for three games they can lose. At LSU and at Tennessee jump out as potential losses, but I think they split those and take 11 games in 2016 with potential for a push. Pick: OVER (+100)
LSU, 10 wins (+100 over, -120 under): LSU hasn't topped 10 wins in a regular season since 2012, but this is a loaded Tigers team. Leonard Fournette is a Heisman favorite and the defense returns 10 of its top 11 tacklers from a year ago; it is expected to take a step forward after finishing 41st in scoring defense in 2015.
The schedule is also pretty favorable for the Tigers. The two toughest road games on paper are at Wisconsin -- it's a "neutral site" game in Lambeau Field, a.k.a. a road game -- and at Florida. The Gators have plenty of questions, but LSU should be able to get past Florida and Wisconsin even in hostile environments. If I'm taking those as wins, there's the home game against Alabama (with both teams coming off a bye week), at Arkansas the next week (teams often struggle the week after playing Alabama) and then games at Texas A&M and Auburn, which the Tigers should be better than.
LSU has a knack for losing a random game they shouldn't, but I'm buying in (maybe foolishly) on there being an improvement from Brandon Harris at quarterback. And while I think this ends up being a push right on the 10 number, I'll take the over for the better juice. This is one Fournette injury from imploding. Pick: OVER (+100)
Ole Miss, 8.5 wins (+100, -120): Here's where you begin to find out that I'm not a big believer in much of the rest of the division behind Alabama and LSU. Ole Miss is dealing with plenty off the field but that doesn't concern me too much. What I am worried about is what the Rebels have to replace.
Some big defensive pieces leave, headlined by Robert Nkemdiche, whose production might have been lacking but he commanded attention at all times, and Trae Elston in the back end. On offense, the offensive line struggled to give the Rebels a running game in 2015. With the departure of Laremy Tunsil and four others, that line will be shaky on depth for 2016. Chad Kelly is back and, despite losing Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core, there are talented receivers, but I worry about whether they can deal with the lack of balance again this year.
The schedule also does them few favors. They open in Orlando against Florida State, must go to LSU and have Georgia and Alabama coming to Oxford, Mississippi. I'm thinking it's a bit of a step back this year and an eight-win season for Ole Miss. Pick: UNDER (-120)
Arkansas, 7.5 wins (-120, +100): The Razorbacks have to replace their best three offensive playmakers, and the offensive line that has long been the strength of the program is really young this year -- stud tackle Dan Skipper is the lone senior on the roster that only has two juniors. They've developed offensive line talent as well as anyone in recent years, but coach Sam Pittman is now in Athens with Georgia and that's a big loss.
The Razorbacks get Alabama, Florida and LSU at home, but I think they'll be lucky to grab one of those games. Trips to TCU, Texas A&M (in Arlington, Texas) and Auburn won't be easy, and I just think there's too much turnover for them to overcome this year. I love Bielema's system, but I think this will be a rebuilding year and Arkansas will be scrapping for a bowl bid. Pick: UNDER (+100)
Auburn, 6.5 wins (-110, -110): I never bought into the Tigers hype as a title contender in 2015, but no one saw their 6-6 regular season coming. The quarterback situation is still a mess, and Gus Malzahn's seat is getting a bit toasty. I think the defense will continue to improve as there's some serious talent, led by a really good defensive line with Carl Lawson and Montravious Adams, but the offense is still a concern.
Running back depth took a hit when Roc Thomas decided to transfer, and I just don't believe in either quarterback option right now. The schedule this year is also no fun. Auburn opens with Clemson at home then there's LSU (home), Ole Miss (road), Georgia (road) and Alabama (road). I've got all of those as losses and think they could slip up at home against Texas A&M, Arkansas or Vanderbilt (yes, Vandy, I love that defense and that's going to be a slopfest).
Even if they go 2-1 in those home games, that's another 6-6 season. Maybe Malzahn has something up his sleeve and can make me look foolish, but I'm not bullish on the Tigers this year. Pick: UNDER (-110)
Mississippi State, 6.5 wins (-120, +100): Dak's gone. You can't overstate how important he was to Mississippi State's offense, throwing for over 3,700 yards and serving as the team's leading rusher. I don't know where the Bulldogs turn on offense without him.
The best news for Mississippi State is it gets South Carolina and Kentucky out of the SEC East this year -- both winnable games. Add in South Alabama, UMass and Samford and there's five wins, but after that, um, I'm not sure. Auburn at home? Texas A&M at home? Maybe one of those, but I don't see more than six wins on the schedule here. Sorry, Clanga. Pick: UNDER (+100)
Texas A&M, 6 wins (-120, +100): A disclaimer here is that I love Myles Garrett more than some family members. That man is a monster. With that out of the way, I think we see the Aggies' defense take a step forward finally. Garrett, Daylon Mack (another of my very favorite players in college football) and Daeshon Hall make for a beastly defensive front, and Armani Watts is a missile in the secondary. It's year two under John Chavis, and if he can find some linebackers to help stop the run (a big if), that defense will surprise folks.
On offense, Trevor Knight will take over the offense at quarterback and there's no controversy there for the first time since Johnny Manziel. He might not be as dynamic as Kyler Murray or have anywhere near the arm talent of Kyle Allen, but I think that'll help the offense as they'll play within themselves. Christian Kirk is a phenomenal talent as an all-purpose yardage machine and there are still some very talented receivers on the roster. Serious improvement is needed from the offensive line, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the offense will be at the very least a more consistent unit in 2016.
On the schedule, you chalk up wins against Prairie View A&M, South Carolina, New Mexico State and UTSA. That's four! That means they only need two more to push and three to break through. I'm not going to tell you A&M is a sleeper to win the SEC West (absolutely not), but they could sneak up and grab third or fourth -- maybe. Pick: OVER (-120)