A long, arduous summer stands between us and another college football season.
Nowhere will that trek be longer — or hotter — than SEC country. At least the good folks at BetOnline have given us some lines to consider while they wait.
Here are five SEC games on which I’m already forming a betting opinion in April.
Tennessee at Florida (-14.5)
Sept. 21, 2019 in Gainesville, Fla.
Florida won 10 games in Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville, and the Gators should compete in the SEC East in 2019.
Entering Jeremy Pruitt’s second season as a head coach, with veteran quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and an influx of talented recruits, Tennessee should be better.
Assuming this line holds, Florida will be a double-digit home favorite over Tennessee for the fifth time since 2000.
The Gators went 0-3-1 against the spread in the previous four instances, according to OddsShark. Florida is 1-3-1 ATS against Tennessee in The Swamp since 2009 and 3-5-1 since 2001, also according to OddsShark.
Florida should win, but Tennessee is good enough to keep the game relatively close. More than two touchdowns is too large of a number.
The bet: Tennessee +14.5
Alabama at Texas A&M (+13)
Oct. 12, 2019 in College Station, Texas
It’s not often you see a double-digit home underdog and want to run in the other direction.
Alabama returns a healthy chunk of its offensive production, and will be motivated this offseason after a championship-game failure. QB Tua Tagovailoa, RB Najee Harris, WR Jerry Jeudy and WR Jaylen Waddle all return.
Texas A&M can’t yet match Alabama’s level. Starting QB Kellen Mond returns, but he needs to play with more consistency. He completed just 57 percent of his passes last season and averaged just 7.7 yards per attempt. He also threw nine interceptions and didn’t add much in the running game (just 3.2 yards per carry). He’s shown flashes, but the Aggies need a difference-maker at quarterback to compete for championships.
Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the Tide are 18-9 ATS as double-digit road favorites (and 29-1 straight up).
The bet: Alabama -13.
Auburn at LSU (-7.5)
Oct. 26, 2019 in Baton Rouge, La.
Auburn and LSU are the moles in an unending, remarkably successful game of whack-a-mole that Alabama is playing at the top of the SEC West.
Both programs also employ experienced coaches falling out of favor with their respective fan bases to various degrees.
Gus Malzahn must replace quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and he has some good options. Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix will continue their battle through the summer and fall. Malzahn also has decided to exert his authority when it comes to calling plays, leading to an offensive coordinator change that seems minimally important.
Auburn returns its two leading rushers from a season ago, JaTarvious Whitlow and Kam Martin.
Ed Orgeron doesn’t have as much work on offense. Joe Burrow is back for another year in Baton Rouge. Burrow proved to be a game-manager last season, sporting a 3-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio while completing just 57.8 percent of his passes. LSU’s offense isn’t explosive, but its defense is good enough to still win games.
Auburn is 10-20 ATS as a road underdog since 2007, including a more recent stretch of 3-7 ATS in the last five seasons. Auburn hasn’t won straight up as an underdog at Tiger Stadium since 2001.
The bet: LSU -7.5
Georgia vs Florida (+4)
Nov. 2, 2019 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Georgia enters 2019 looking to set itself up for a higher level of success in the next decade. The Bulldogs came close to winning the national championship two seasons ago and nearly won the SEC championship in 2018. Jake Fromm leads a capable offense that’s paired with an elite defense.
Florida does have Dan Mullen, one of the nation’s most underrated coaches. But to win even a division championship, Mullen needs to find a quarterback that can produce like Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald. QB Feleipe Franks is expected to start again, but he completed just 58 percent of his passes last season.
A repeat of the last two seasons — dominating wins by Georgia — is the most likely scenario. Georgia rarely has played Florida as the favorite this century, but the Bulldogs are 4-2-1 ATS in such instances. Georgia has covered in each of the last two seasons.
The bet: Georgia -4
LSU at Alabama -17
Nov. 9, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama and LSU had one of the best rivalries in college football last decade, but that competitiveness has faded. In their last three matchups, the Tigers have managed just one total touchdown against the Tide.
Nick Saban’s team beat LSU by 29 in Baton Rouge last season. The matchup features Alabama’s explosive offense against LSU’s elite defense, and Alabama’s elite defense against LSU’s vanilla offense. The only reason to bet on the Tigers is if you think LSU’s defense holds Alabama to 21 or fewer points, something no SEC team accomplished last season.
Alabama is 4-1-1 ATS as a favorite against LSU since 2013. The Tide have won seven straight in the series. Alabama is 17-11 ATS at home vs. SEC opponents since 2012.
The bet: Alabama -17