We end our SEC Football Q & A sessions today with a few gambling related questions. We will take a look at South Carolina @ Vanderbilt and the big game between Alabama and Michigan in Dallas.
We are again joined by our panel of SEC football experts, including Kevin of College Football Zealots, Lisa Cornwell of So Fried Sports, and John Pennington from MrSEC. It’s time to handicap some SEC football.
Kevin – College Football Zealots: Let’s start this off by saying that I don’t gamble so I’m am by no means an expert in this area.
Last year South Carolina won by 18 at home but that was without Jordan Rodgers starting at QB for Vandy and with Stephen Garcia throwing four interceptions and trying to will the Dores to victory. I would probably stay away from this game because Vandy plays pretty well at home. Last year they were 5-2 with close losses to Arkansas (3 points) and Georgia (5 points). South Carolina only had four true road games last year and in those they beat Georgia by 3, Miss State by 2 and Tennessee by 11. They also lost to Arkansas by 16. If I had to bet on this game I would take Vanderbilt even though I came into this question expecting to take South Carolina. Another thing to factor is that South Carolina’s defense got rocked in the first two games of the season last year before settling in. They have a new defensive coordinator this year so there might be a slight learning curve (they also lost a ton of defensive talent, as did Vandy).
Lisa – So Fried Sports: If I had to put money on it, I would go with South Carolina. The Gamecocks should be even better than the team that won a school record 11 games last season. Vanderbilt is going to have trouble putting ten points on the board against, what I think will be, a top five defense. I’ll take South Carolina all day giving up ten to Vanderbilt in Nashville — unless Lattimore isn’t full-speed yet.
John – MrSEC: August is a long way off and we’re not sure who’ll have sprained ankles or suspended starters at this point, but I’d put my money on Vandy. The Commodores have often given Carolina trouble in recent years and until I see more from the Gamecocks’ passing game, I’m not sure they’ll be blowing anyone out. I like Carolina to win — things seems to be getting just a little bit too good, too quick in Nashville — but I think this will be a good ballgame. Most in the SEC are.
The Saturday Edge - I love underdogs, especially home underdogs, so my early lean would be towards Vanderbilt and the points. Both teams lost a lot of talent on defense, though I suspect South Carolina will have an easier time replacing their losses. Offensively Vanderbilt played better once Jordan Rodgers took over at QB, and with as many as 9 starters returning, they may show some continued improvement on offense. Vanderbilt was also an astounding 6-0 ATS at home last season, so there is no chance I wager against them. However as I stated in our SEC Football: Most Improved & Overrated Teams Q & A, the chances of them, or any team repeating that two years in a row is usually not very good.
Kevin – College Football Zealots: For me, the big question about Alabama is how their offense runs without their offensive coordinator from last year. I think the defense will be just fine because the Tide reload, they don’t rebuild. Michigan is a good team but they benefited from a very weak schedule last year in which they only played three teams in the Top 25 (#11 Mich State, #24 Nebraska, #21 Virginia Tech). Of those games, they lost to the highest ranked team (Mich State) by 14. I don’t think Michigan is quite as good as people think and I think they will have a tough time putting up points against Bama.
Lisa – So Fried Sports: Boy, that’s a really good line. Can I flip a coin? Honestly, it’s hard to bet against Alabama in non-conference games, even away from home. Sure, Michigan has Robinson. But I’ll put my money on Saban’s defense, which won’t give up much with a linebacking corp led by Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest.
John – MrSEC: Fourteen is a huge spread and that’s no doubt impacted by the name “Alabama.” First game of the year, I’m guessing the bookmakers expect some “softcore” gamblers to get involved and many of those folks will betting on the defending national champs. Nick Saban has recruited to the point now that guys replace departed starters the way sharks’ have rows of teeth that just move forward to replace the last row. Still, I don’t know if I’d touch a 14-point line early in the season between two name teams. Ten? Probably. Fourteen? No thanks.
The Saturday Edge – This line opened at 7 and was immediately bet up to 14. Now admittedly it doesn’t take much money to move these early season lines, but an increase of an entire TD is quite a jump. I suspect John is right and that the name “Alabama” has enticed some early gamblers to wager on the National Champs, however, I also agree that the line should probably be closer to 10 and some sharps got on this soft line early. I don’t believe Michigan will have another 11 win season, but there is just no way Alabama’s defense will be as dominant as the 2011 version. They lost too much talent and experience, and despite them “reloading” with possibly equal talent, they will still struggle to match last years defensive numbers. When the line hit 14 I wagered on the Wolverines. I anticipate the line settling closer to 10, thus allowing me an opportunity to layoff some of my wager with a nice middle opportunity.
Get more great college football analysis over at Saturday Edge.