Brace yourselves: college football is coming. There are only two and a half more months of off season left to endure. We have almost made it.
To help us pass the time, Vegas has released the over/under lines on every team in college football for this upcoming season; including the SEC West. I will go through each team in the hardest division of college football to figure out how each team will do based on their win totals.
It will be difficult to make these predictions based on personnel because many teams haven't named their starters, freshmen are not on campus yet, and injuries may sideline some potential game changers. In addition, it is arrest season (see LSU recently). With that in mind, I will be looking at each team's schedule to determine how likely it is to meet the set win totals. This is not intended to be a gambler's guide to win totals on the SEC West teams, but merely a look at where I think each team will end up based on the win totals.
Before proceeding, just know that betting actual money on Win totals for the SEC West teams is gambling suicide. The SEC West is a meat grinder and teams beat each other up week in and week out. There are no sure bets. Therefore, use these predictions at your own risk.
#3 ALABAMA 9.5 wins (over: -135)
1 #21 Wisconsin 2 Middle Tennessee 3 #10 Ole Miss 4 ULM 5 AT #12 Georgia 6 #23 Arkansas 7 AT Texas A&M 8 Tennessee 9 BYE 10 #13 LSU 11 AT #22 Mississippi State 12 Charleston Southern 13 AT #9 Auburn
Alabama opens at home against the preseason ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The rest of Alabama's non conference slate is full of cupcakes and should not give Coach Saban and whomever is named as starting QB for the Tide, much trouble. Alabama also faces the two of the tougher teams from the East in Tennessee and Georgia. Alabama's toughest stretch is the four games before its Bye week with @ Georgia, Arkansas, @Texas A&M, and Tennessee at home. The Tide have four home games and four road games against the SEC, and gets Wisconsin at home. So all in all, it is a tough but manageable schedule.
Prediction: ROLL TIDE OVER
I would not personally put any money on this one. Alabama has only lost one game in the regular season in each of its seasons since 2011. This will be a tight pick, and part of me wants to pick the under, as I was unimpressed with Alabama's options at QB after watching their spring game. But then I realize that spring game results should not be trusted. Alabama will rely on a power running game and an improved secondary to get to 10 wins.
#23 ARKANSAS 8 wins (under: -140)
1 UTEP 2 N - Toledo 3 Texas Tech 4 N - Texas A&M 5 AT Tennessee 6 AT #3 BAMA 7 Bye 8 #9 Auburn 9 UT Martin 10 AT #10 Ole Miss 11 AT #13 LSU 12 #22 Mississippi State 13 #20 Missouri
Arkansas has a light non conference schedule. Sorry Texas Tech, unless you can suddenly figure out how to stop the run, this will not be pretty for you on the road. Arkansas will probably roll through the first three opponents without throwing a pass.* Arkansas faces Missouri and Tennessee out of the East, a tougher draw than most SEC West teams. Also, Arkansas only plays three true SEC home games with five on the road (one is at a neutral sight against Texas A&M). Arkansas has two rough stretches. The first is after the three cupcakes with Texas A&M in Jerry World, @Tennessee, and @Alabama. The second is in November going @Ole Miss, @LSU, and finishing at home against Mississippi State and Missouri.
The more I look at this, the more I think that Arkansas will "push" here and hit exactly eight wins. You can't bet a push, so for the article's sake, I will predict the under. For Arkansas to hit the over, it must win five SEC games (must go 4-0 in non conference). Arkansas will be physical and will continue to run all over people with the league's biggest OLine. However, it will be difficult to hit the over with only three SEC home games. (The Hogs went 5-1 last year at home but 1-5 on the road/neutral site). I think eight is the magic number for Arkansas. However, Arkansas is the trendy dark horse pick for the SEC West, so be careful betting any under here.
#9 AUBURN 8.5 wins (over: -130)
1 Louisville 2 Jacksonville State 3 AT #13 LSU 4 #22 Mississippi State 5 San Jose State 6 BYE 7 AT Kentucky 8 AT #23 Arkansas 9 #10 Ole Miss 10 AT Texas A&M 11 #12 Georgia 12 Idaho 13 #3 BAMA
Auburn will face this season with a major upgrade at defensive coordinator with Will Muschamp; however, Nick Marshall is no longer under center. Auburn is excited about Jeremy Johnson, but he is not a runner like Marshall. However, Auburn may benefit more from an accurate passer, which appears to be Johnson's strength. Auburn faces Louisville in its opener, but the rest of its non conference schedule is light. Auburn does face Georgia and Kentucky out of the East, but gets Georgia at home. Auburn's worst stretch in the schedule starts at week eight on the road against Arkansas, then Ole Miss at home, @ Texas A&M, then Georgia at home. Of note, neither Auburn nor Texas A&M have won against the other on their home field. (WAR DAMN HORSE COLLAR). Also, Auburn's SEC home and away is split evenly at four apiece, and gets Alabama and Georgia at home.
Prediction: WAR DAMN OVER
The value is on the under based on the odds, but Auburn was able to win 8 games last season, and many expect them to be much improved on defense and offense. Auburn should be able to go 4-0 in non conference, pick up one against Kentucky, and have seven SEC games to win four to hit the over. I am on board with the Auburn picks, mainly because I see so many similarities with Texas A&M and see both improving on last season.
#13 LSU 8.5 wins (over: -130)
1 McNeese State 2 AT #22 Mississippi State 3 #9 Auburn 4 AT Syracuse 5 Eastern Michigan 6 AT USC 7 Florida 8 Western Kentucky 9 BYE 10 AT #3 BAMA 11 #23 Arkansas 12 AT #10 Ole Miss 13 Texas A&M
LSU plays all of its non conference and SEC East opponents in September and October, which seems rare for most SEC West schedules. LSU does have a road trip to Syracuse, but I do not see that game presenting too much trouble for Running Back Leonard Fournette and the ground game. LSU plays Mississippi State and Auburn in weeks two and three, which will be fun to have those types of match ups early in September for fans, but could put LSU in trouble if they drop one or both of those games. LSU's worse stretch of games is in the month of November after the Bye week in week nine. LSU plays @ Alabama, then Arkansas, then @ Ole Miss, and finishes at home against Texas A&M. Who did LSU anger in the SEC scheduling department?
LSU will be without Defensive Coordinator John Chavis, had four arrests in June, and has no real viable option at QB.* LSU does have talent everywhere else, depth, and Fournette at RB. Les Miles will find away to maddeningly win eight games this season. Not ready to decide if they will be by magically pulling games out, or finding ways to lose games he should win. Regardless, I think LSU will continue their step back in progress with another eight win season.
#22 MISSISSIPPI STATE 7 wins (under: -145)
1 Southern Miss 2 #13 LSU 3 Northwestern State 4 AT #9 Auburn 5 AT Texas A&M 6 Troy 7 La Tech 8 Kentucky 9 BYE 10 AT #20 Missouri 11 #3 BAMA 12 AT #23 Arkansas 13 #10 Ole Miss
Mississippi State is one of the hardest teams to figure out this off season. The dynamic Dak Prescott is back, but the Bulldogs lose so much more, as only seven total starters return. The non conference schedule should be a breeze, and Mississippi State gets Kentucky from the East. The worst stretch comes in November, going @ Missouri, back home to face Alabama, @ Arkansas, then back home for the Egg Bowl. Week four and five will be tough with back to back road trips to Auburn and Texas A&M.
The SEC West is crowded, and I think Mississippi State will be the one left out at the end. I think the schedule will be too difficult for even Dak Prescott to face without the support cast from last season. Dak is a special player though, which makes reading Mississippi State difficult. However, November will finish off any glimmer of hope left for State.
#10 OLE MISS 8.5 wins
1 UT Martin 2 Fresno State 3 AT #3 BAMA 4 Vanderbilt 5 AT Florida 6 New Mexico State 7 AT Memphis 8 Texas A&M 9 AT #9 Aubrun 10 #23 Arkansas 11 BYE 12 #13 LSU 13 AT #22 Mississippi State
The non-conference schedule for Ole Miss is full of specialty cupcakes ready to be consumed for Wins. Fresno State can cause trouble, but Ole Miss plays them at home and should be able to take care of business. Ole Miss also gets an easier draw from the SEC East with Vanderbilt, but does have to go The Swamp and face Florida. The Bye week will be cruel to Ole Miss as it does not come until week eleven. Ten straight weeks of football can be tough on any team, but more so on a team starting a new QB. To compound the difficulty, Ole Miss will face its toughest stretch before the bye week with Texas A&M at home (where it has never beaten the Aggies), @ Auburn, and back home to face Arkansas.
Prediction: HOTTY TODDY OVER
Nine regular season wins seems high for Ole Miss this season, with Alabama, Florida, Auburn, and the Egg Bowl on the road. However, not having Dr. Bo (Bo Wallace) committing malpractice for the Rebels may actually prove to be beneficial. Ole Miss will continue to rely on its defense to set the tone for their season, and gets several of their players back from injury. This one was really tough to call and I have gone back and forth, but in the end, I think Hugh Freeze will have his team playing it cool. Nine wins it is.
TEXAS A&M 8 wins (over: -120)
1 N- #14 Arizona State 2 Ball State 3 Nevada 4 N- #23 Arkansas 5 #22 Mississippi State 6 Bye 7 #3 BAMA 8 AT #10 Ole Miss 9 USC 10 #9 Auburn 11 Western Carolina 12 AT Vanderbilt 13 AT #13 LSU
Texas A&M starts off the year with three non-conference games, but is one of two SEC West teams to play a SBNation Preseason Ranked team. #14 Arizona State will be a tough but exciting early match-up, with lots of expectations of points. The rest of the non-conference schedule is fairly light, as a Colin Kaepernickless Nevada team comes to Kyle Field. Texas A&M is the only SEC West team not ranked in the preseason, which means Texas A&M has a difficult road ahead to get to 8 wins. Texas A&M has seven home games, but will play nine games in the state of Texas. A&M also gets Vanderbilt and USC out of the East, a much easier draw than most of the SEC West schools. Texas A&M's worst stretch comes after the Bye week facing Alabama at home, @ Ole Miss, then USC and Auburn at home. Also of note, Texas A&M gets LSU, a team A&M has not beaten since joining the SEC, after playing cupcake Western Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Whereas, LSU plays its toughest stretch (see above) before playing the Aggies. However, it will still be a night game (most likely) in Tiger Stadium.
Prediction: GIG THEM OVER
I see Texas A&M winning eight games this season, with the possibility to go up or down one depending on how the ball bounces. But will pick the over because it's the offseason and this is a Texas A&M Blog. Texas A&M should improve on defense with new Defensive Coordinator, John Chavis, which is what A&M has sorely lacked the past two seasons. Myles Garrett hopes to change that. Also, this is now Kyle Allen's team and he appears to be ready to improve on his MVP performance in the 2014 Liberty Bowl. In addition, the new hires on the offensive side of the ball, should help A&M produce a power running game and catch the ball.
Remember to bet responsibly, if at all. Predicting these win totals is extremely difficult in the SEC West. Please leave your comments below on how wrong I am.