Published November 20, 2014
Only two of the 11 conferences have the-spread records in non-conference games each of 12 ran its record to 12 straight campaigns in that league's preview. However, the 56% winning percentage since '07 is a shade lower than the Southeastern Conference's 57%. More importantly, the SEC has produced the National Champion the last five years after Auburn won and covered against Oregon this past January.
When wagering inside the SEC, favorites dominated last year with a 32-17 record for an amazing 65% winning percentage. The powerful mark came as quite a shock since favorites finished below .500 every season between 2007 and 2009 while combining for a 44% winning percentage.
Time now to take a team-by-team look at the league with predicted SU overall and conference records for those wagering on over/unders for total victories.
6) VANDERBILT - The Commodores went 3-9 ATS last season. They are 1-8 as home underdogs the last two years.
Offense - The Commodores ranked dead last inside SEC play in almost every offensive category last year. This year could be different with all 11 starters back in the fold. However, the last two times they returned 10 or more starters, the offense actually failed to match the previous year's scoring average.
Defense - Vanderbilt allowed 31 points per game last season, an eight-point increase from the 23 the squad gave up two years ago. With the return of nine of the top 12 tacklers, the defense should revert to '09 standards but that will not be good enough to send Vanderbilt into the postseason.
Prediction - The Commodores won and covered just one SEC game last year. Expect more of the same this season. (4-8, 1-7).
5) KENTUCKY - The Wildcats finished 6-6 ATS for the fourth straight season. They are 4-0 as road favorites the last five years.
Offense - The Wildcats gained over 100 yards more per game last season (compared to '09) in league play moving from 10th to third in total offense. However, the club remained seventh in scoring. The totals should drop even further with the loss of their top three rushers, starting quarterback, and top two receiving leaders.
Defense - Kentucky has its most experienced defense in over 20 years with the return of the top 11 tacklers. Look for a sharp improvement after allowing 28 ppg last season.
Prediction - Kentucky always seems to overachieve, so a fifth consecutive 6-6 ATS campaign is certainly not out of the question. (5-7, 1-7).
4) TENNESSEE - The Volunteers went 6-6 ATS last season. They are 7-3 as road underdogs over the last three years.
Offense - The Volunteers returned only three starters last year but averaged just two points fewer per game. This year's group will certainly not finish 10th in league play in scoring as last year's crew did, especially with seven returning starters and a more experienced offensive line.
Defense - Tennessee lost its four leading tacklers last year yet the defense held tough allowing just three more points per game. This year, six of the top eight return so improvement is expected.
Prediction - The Volunteers covered their last five regular season games after starting the season 1-5 ATS. Expect a more balanced campaign with a positive return on investment. (7-5, 3-5).
3) GEORGIA - The Bulldogs went 4-8 ATS last season. They are 7-16-1 in conference play the last three years.
Offense - Aaron Murray is the SEC's returning leader in passing efficiency but his numbers should drop with only four other returning starters. Last year's offense was explosive but it was also extremely experienced. The '11 version is young with a difficult schedule early on.
Defense - This unit knocked off four points per game from '09 even though it allowed more yards per play. This year, the defense loses players that recorded 75% of its sacks after it brought back 65% a season ago. Look for Georgia to give up more than last year's 22 ppg number.
Prediction - The Bulldogs have been a combined minus 28 in turnover differential the last three seasons following a plus-nine or more year. They were a plus 10 in '10 so look for the turnovers to plague them this season. (8-4, 5-3).
2) FLORIDA - The Gators went 6-6 ATS last season. They are 8-3 as road favorites the last four years.
Offense - One statistic highlighted Florida's offensive struggles last year and that was John Brantley's nine touchdowns in 329 passes. Don't forget, he threw seven touchdowns in just 48 attempts the year before. Furthermore, the Gators ranked 10th in total offense in the SEC last year. Improvement is expected under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
Defense - The Gators have allowed fewer than 20 ppg in 10 of the last 11 seasons they returned six or more starters. Moreover, they have given up 20 or more all seven times they brought back five or less. This year, just four come back to Gainesville and the team moves forward without seven of last season's top nine tacklers.
Prediction - Florida doesn't have much experience on either side of the trenches and that will be a huge factor when Florida finishes the season below .500 ATS. (9-3, 5-3).
1) SOUTH CAROLINA - The Gamecocks went 7-6 ATS last season. They are 6-3 as road favorites the last five years.
Offense - The Gamecocks improved from 11th in scoring inside SEC play to fifth as Marcus Lattimore lived up to his advance billing with 1,197 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. With the return of Stephen Garcia and a host of improving wide receivers, look for South Carolina to jump to the top of the league in scoring.
Defense - The defense ranked first in league play against the run allowing an average of 107 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Expect another strong showing, especially with the insertion of Jadeveon Clowney into the lineup at defensive end. The one problem area last season was a secondary that was lit up for over 300 yards on six occasions. Improved play is expected after an off year.
Prediction - South Carolina is my 30-1 longshot special to win the BCS National Championship. (11-1, 7-1).
6) AUBURN - The Tigers went 10-3 ATS last season. They are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games.
Offense - How will Auburn replace Cam Newton's production, along with four starting offensive linemen, and its top two receivers? It is hard to say since there is a severe lack of proven talent outside of running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, and wide receiver Emory Blake. Look for the offense to average around two touchdowns less per game this year.
Defense - The Tigers returned their top five tacklers last year but bring back just one of last season's top seven tacklers. Furthermore, it wasn't as if the "D" won them the title since it ranked eighth inside the SEC in scoring defense.
Prediction -Auburn won six games by a touchdown or less last year. Expect the reigning champs to lose most of those close games this season. (4-8, 1-7).
5) OLE MISS - The Rebels went 4-7 ATS last season. They are 2-8 as road favorites over the last seven years.
Offense - The Rebels' offense has been very consistent over the last three years, averaging between 30 and 32 ppg. Nine starters return to Oxford this season, and if former West Virginia quarterback Barry Brunetti can improve on Jeremiah Masoli's average numbers, the offense will once again hit for 30 or more.
Defense - Houston Nutt has recruited a ton of top high school linemen and linebackers over the last two years. Unfortunately, many of them will be pressed into action due to the loss of so many front seven starters. The Rebels have the makings of a solid defense but for 2012.
Prediction - Ole Miss is a year away from making noise but given the poor '10 record, the team should improve its ATS mark this season. (7-5, 3-5).
4) ARKANSAS - The Razorbacks went 9-3 ATS last season, 7-1 in league play. The last time they finished below .500 in the eight regular season conference games was all the way back in 1999.
Offense - Quarterback Tyler Wilson has looked good in practice but he has thrown seven interceptions in only 109 career game-day attempts. Furthermore, he won't have the luxury of handing the ball off to Knile Davis now that the running back is out for the year. In addition, three longtime offensive line starters have departed so there is a good chance Arkansas drops at least a touchdown off last year's 36.5 ppg average.
Defense - This defense has a chance to be special as 15 of the top 19 tacklers return to Fayetteville. However, if the offense doesn't sparkle, the 'D' could be on the field a lot more than it was last year.
Prediction - Arkansas was 6-1 against the over in its last seven regular season games. Expect a lot more unders in '11. (7-5, 4-4).
3) MISSISSIPPI STATE - The Bulldogs finished 7-5 ATS last season. They are 4-8 as road underdogs the last three years.
Offense - Even though the Bulldogs averaged 29 ppg last year, most of their points came in non-conference play. Inside the SEC, only Vanderbilt scored fewer points. Improvement is expected with nine returning starters, but it is also unlikely they will repeat their 65% red zone touchdown percentage.
Defense - Mississippi State ranked third in the league allowing just 19.8 ppg. Nevertheless, the defense finished eighth in yards allowed with 357. It is important to note that the unit chopped a full touchdown off its '09 scoring average but allowed only nine fewer yards per game. Expect the numbers to rise with the loss of the club's top three tackles for loss leaders.
Prediction - Look for another .500 record inside the SEC - both SU and ATS. (8-4, 4-4).
2) LSU - The Tigers were 6-7 ATS last season. They are 3-14-1 ATS in their last 18 conference home games.
Offense - The Tigers will go only as far as quarterback Jordan Jefferson will take them. His inability to read defenses has yet to improve after 27 career starts, and if he doesn't improve in that department, LSU will not move forward offensively.
Defense - Nine of last year's top 12 tacklers return to Baton Rouge. However, the Tigers did lose their top lineman, linebacker, and cornerback. On the other hand, they came into last season without four of their top five tacklers and still finished 12th nationally in total defense. Expect another exceptional unit in '11.
Prediction - LSU has not had a winning ATS record since '05. The Tigers will keep that streak alive. (9-3, 6-2).
1) ALABAMA - The Crimson Tide went 8-5 ATS last season for a three-year 26-14 total. They are 8-1 ATS in non-conference play the last two years.
Offense - Alabama's scoring average has gone up each of the last five years. It is doubtful number six is in the cards without last season's starting quarterback and leading rusher and receiver. There is still an abundance of talent in Tuscaloosa, but how well the offense performs will depend on the play of the two quarterbacks.
Defense - All one needs to know about last year's defense was that it finished tied for third nationally in scoring despite only two returning starters and three of the top 16 tacklers. This year, 13 of the top 14 come back which should give the Crimson Tide the No. 1 defense in the country.
Prediction - Two things you can bank on this year - Alabama going above .500 ATS and winning the BCS National Championship Game. (12-0, 8-0).