Without the daily grind for oddsmakers to push out spreads for the NBA and odds for MLB games, many books are hooking us up with 2020 college football lines earlier than usual.
FanDuel was the first (to my knowledge) last week, DraftKings has joined the fray and so has BetOnline. (I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones I’ve noticed with the most options.)
We’re just going to focus on the SEC in this piece, but we’ll follow up with other columns that span the entire college football landscape.
Alabama is set to open up against USC just like it did in 2016, when the top-ranked Crimson Tide clobbered the Trojans 52-6 as a 12-point favorite at Jerry World. A smothering defense and true freshman QB Jalen Hurts, who came off the bench in his ‘Bama debut, were the catalysts in the blowout victory.
Once again, Alabama and Clay Helton’s squad will collide at Jerry World in Arlington, TX. FanDuel has Nick Saban’s team listed as a 12.5-point favorite, while DraftKings has the Tide at -14. DraftKings has the Trojans at +510 odds on the money line.
If you have a BetOnline account and are bullish on USC, the Tojans are +14.5 (albeit at a -120 price — either way) at the offshore betting shop.
Alabama lost a ton of talent, including six potential first-round picks, but it returns four players in WR Devonta Smith, OT Alex Leatherwood, LB Dylan Moses and RB Najee Harris, who chose to return even though each could’ve easily bolted Tuscaloosa early.
QB Mac Jones might be pushed by true freshman and five-star recruit Bryce Jones, but the elder Jones acquitted himself well in four starts and relief duty last season. Jones, a rising true junior, connected on 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,503 yards with a 14/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
This will be Helton’s fifth double-digit underdog situation. USC is 2-2 against the spread with zero outright victories in four games as a doube-digit ‘dog on Helton’s watch.
Also in Week 1 of the 2020 campaign at FanDuel, Georgia is a 17-point ‘chalk’ vs. Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. UGA has played in this game twice before, getting thumped 35-21 by Boise State during the Kellen Moore Era before beating North Carolina 33-24 in 2016.
UGA and UVA have twice met in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Bulldogs beat the Cavaliers 34-27 in 1995, but the Wahoos avenged that defeat in a 35-33 win in 1998.
In Week 2 on Sept. 13, Texas will be looking for revenge after losing at home to eventual national champion, LSU, last year. The Longhorns are six-point underdogs for their trip to Baton Rouge at FanDuel, while DraftKings has the Tigers as 5.5-point home favorites. Tom Herman’s team is +170 on the money line at DraftKings.
Texas returns rising senior QB Sam Ehlinger, while LSU will try to replace Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow, with rising fourth-year junior QB Myles Brennan, who has appeared in 17 career games but mostly in mop-up duty.
In Week 3, FanDuel has Alabama listed as a seven-point home favorite (at a -115 price) vs. Georgia (+7 at -105 price). DraftKings is using the same number, but it has the Bulldogs offered for a +220 return if they win outright.
During Kirby Smart’s tenure, UGA has only been a road underdog twice, going 1-1 ATS.
Auburn is a 9.5-point road favorite on Sept. 19 at Ole Miss. The Rebels gave Auburn fits on The Plains last year, dropping a 20-14 decision but easily taking the cash as 17-point road underdogs.
In Week 4, FanDuel has Florida installed as a 7.5-point road favorite at Tennessee. Also, Texas A&M is favored by 17 points (with a -115 price) against Arkansas (+17, -105 price) at Jerry World.
UF has won three consecutive games over the Volunteers and is 14-1 in the rivalry since 2005. Nine of those 14 victories for the Gators have been by double-digit margins.
Since Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville, Florida has beaten UT by a combined score of 81-24. The Gators captured a 47-21 win at Neyland Stadium in 2018, before blasting the Vols 34-3 at The Swamp on Sept. 21 of 2019.
Texas A&M has won eight consecutive head-to-head meetings over the Razorbacks, but five of the last six have been one-possession games, including three overtime victories for the Aggies.
Since Ole Miss beat Alabama back-to-back times under Hugh Freeze in 2014 and ’15, Saban has done his best to put it on the Rebels, who are now coached by his former offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin.
Saban owns a 19-0 career record against his former assistants, which includes the likes of Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher (3-0), South Carolina’s Will Muschamp (3-0), former UF and Colorado State HC Jim McElwain (3-0), former Tennessee HC Derek Dooley (3-0), former Michigan State HC Mark Dantonio (2-0), Georgia’s Kirby Smart (2-0), Louisiana’s Billy Napier (1-0) and Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt (2-0).
In Alabama’s last four games vs. Ole Miss, it has won by scores of 48-43, 66-3, 62-7 and 59-31. FanDuel has the Tide as a 19.5-point road ‘chalk’ in Oxford.
Another Week 5 clash has Auburn hosting Kentucky as a 17-point home favorite.
At both FanDuel and Draftkings on Oct. 10, Florida is a 2.5-point home favorite vs. LSU. However, if you like the Gators, they can be had on the money line at DraftKings for a -129 price. The Tigers are +106 to win outright.
UF took a 28-21 lead at LSU in the third quarter last season, but the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points. UF came up short on two fourth-and-goal attempts deep in LSU territory in the final stanza, with the Tigers pushing past the Gators 42-28 as 14-point home ‘chalk.’
Another Week 6 SEC showdown has UGA as a 7.5-point home favorite vs. Auburn at DraftKings, which has the Tigers at +245 on the money line. FanDuel has Georgia -7.5 (at a -115 price), leaving AU at +7.5 (-105).
In Week 7, FanDuel has Saban’s squad listed as a 24-point home favorite vs. Mike Leach’s Mississippi State team.
Moving to Week 8 on Oct. 24, FanDuel has a trio of lined SEC contests. Tennessee is a 15-point home underdog vs. Alabama. The Vols knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of last year’s game, and they were an inch or so from slicing the Tide’s lead to 28-20 in the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
However, UT signal caller Jarrett Guarantano’s QB keeper came up short and when he attempted to reach the ball toward the plane of the end zone, it was jarred loose and resulted in a 100-yard fumble return for a TD that was a 14-point swing. Alabama went on to win 35-13, although the Vols covered the number as 34-point underdogs.
South Carolina has lost all six of its games against Texas A&M since the Aggies entered the SEC. The Gamecocks, who are 3-3 ATS in those six defeats, are seven-point home underdogs at FanDuel. They lost 30-6 in College Station in 2019.
LSU is a 20.5-point home favorite vs. Mississippi State. The Tigers are 20-2 straight up in their last 22 games against the Bulldogs, who are 12-18 ATS in their last 30 outings as road underdogs. Ed Orgeron’s club won 36-13 in Starkville last season.
In a game that’s expected to decide the SEC East, Georgia will try to beat Florida four times in a row for the first time since the early 1980s. FanDuel and DraftKings have the Bulldogs installed as 3.5-point favorites, while DrafKings is offering the Gators at +140 on the money line.
BetOnline is where you want to bet UGA, though. The offshore shop has UGA at -2 with a -115 price. UF is +2 for a +104 return.
On Nov. 7 in Week 10, both FanDuel and DraftKings have the Crimson Tide listed as a three-point road favorite at LSU. DraftKings has ‘Bama at -139 on the money line, with the Tigers sporting +115 odds to win outright.
LSU ended an eight-game losing streak to ‘Bama by holding off a late rally and securing a 46-41 triumph in Tuscaloosa last year.
Mississippi State is a four-point home favorite vs. Missouri. The Tigers fired Barry Odom, who is now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas, and hired Appalachian State HC Eli Drinkwitz to replace Odom. In his first season as a head coach, Drinkwitz led the Mountaineers to a 12-1 record and a Sun Belt title.
Tennessee is a seven-point home favorite vs. Kentucky, while UGA is a 13-point road ‘chalk’ at South Carolina. Muschamp led the Gamecocks into Athens last year and won a 20-17 decision in double overtime as 22-point underdogs.
Muschamp, who played at UGA but has had coaching stints as an assistant at both LSU and Auburn, in addition to his head-coaching duties at UF and now South Carolina, has hired another UGA alum as his new offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo.
Bobo was recently the head coach at Colorado State, replacing McElwain when he took the Florida gig (in what was another abysmal hire by former AD Jeremy Foley). Bobo played QB at Georgia in the 1990s and was Mark Richt’s OC in Athens for more than a decade.
On Nov. 14, the only lined SEC tilt has the Gators as 17.5-point home favorites vs. Missouri at FanDuel. The Tigers have won in lopsided fashion — 38-17 in 2018 and 42-13 in ’14 — in two of their last three trips to Gainesville, but Florida won 23-6 in Columbia last year.
For Nov. 21, FanDuel has LSU as a one-point road favorite at Auburn. Also, Alabama is a 14-point home favorite vs. Texas A&M.
Four consecutive Auburn-LSU games have been one-possession affairs, with LSU winning the last three by eight combined points. The Tide won 47-28 over the Aggies and covered as a 17-point road favorite at Kyle Field in 2019.
Moving to Rivalry Weekend, we have the following games involving SEC schools via FanDuel: Ole Miss -3.5 vs. Mississippi State (Thanksgiving night), Florida -10.5 vs. FSU, Tennessee -13 at Vanderbilt, LSU -1 at Texas A&M, Clemson -23.5 vs. South Carolina, Missouri -9.5 vs. Arkansas, Louisville -4 vs. Kentucky, UGA -24.5 vs. Ga. Tech and Alabama -13 vs. Auburn.
DraftKings also has Alabama -13 vs. Auburn, with the Tigers at +450 on the money line. However, if you have a BetOnline account, that’s where you want to back the Crimson Tide, which is only -7.5 (with a -113 price, leaving AU +7.5 for a +102 payout) for the 2020 edition of the Iron Bowl.