With the start of the college football season just days away, the one question asked the most is: Can Georgia become the first three-peat champion since the mighty Minnesota Gophers did it back in the mid-30s? This is also the last year before the SEC brings in the Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas. The Big Ten may have the geographic footprint, but the SEC has an impressive consolidation of power in the football landscape. You have to go back to 2018, with Clemson, to find the last time a non-SEC school won the National Championship in football. Odds makers are betting that Georgia will pull off the historic 3-peat and the SEC will continue its dominance over the rest of the football world as they are installed as the favorites to win the National Championship in Houston.
The Favorite: Georgia (-115/ +220)
Vegas is pricing this team as though they are the greatest team ever. Georgia’s run over the past 2 seasons has been amazing, but they lost a lot of talent from last year’s squad. They will be breaking in a new QB (presumably Carson Beck) and a former offensive coordinator (Mike Bobo) returns. Their defense is stacked and their out-of-conference schedule is a joke and I think the last two teams had a little more stability. I think they’ll make the SEC Championship and into the CFP, but think they slip up somewhere and would take the under 11.5 and look elsewhere for a National Champion. Just like the surviving members of the ’72 Dolphins celebrate when the last remaining undefeated NFL team loses, the Golden Gophers from the 30s will be popping champagne bottles in heaven as they remain the only college football team to 3-peat.
The Challenger: Alabama (+300/ +650)
2020, the last time Alabama won a National Championship, sure seems like a long time ago for Crimson Tide fans. Like Georgia, they are loaded on defense but have several questions on offense, losing their Heisman-finalist QB Bryce Young and leading rusher. They travel to College Station, a place they have historically struggled in. They have a win total of 10.5 and I think they fall short of that.
Best Value: LSU (+450/ +1200)
LSU has a very experienced team, with eight offensive starters, including the electrifying QB Jayden Daniels. They return 86% of their offense from last season, which averaged 34.5 PPG and 453 yards per contest. They open up against Florida State the first weekend of the season but should be favored all the way until Nov. 4th, when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Bama. That game will determine if they make the SEC Championship or not. The over their 9.5-win total looks like one of the best bets in the SEC.
The Darkhorse: Texas A&M (+1400/ +6000)
The Aggies return a staggering 10 players on each side of the ball and head coach Jimbo Fisher brought in Bobby Petrino to run his offense. While Petrino may make questionable moral decisions, he can run an offense. A&M was 1-5 last year in one-possession games. This is too good of a squad not to reverse those numbers. Over the 8.5-season win total looks very strong and a trip to the SEC Championship game isn’t out of the question either,
The Joker: Tennessee (+1400/ +3500)
Defeating six ranked teams last year (after having only three ranked wins over the previous five seasons), the Vols were the darlings of the SEC. Unfortunately, graduation stripped away their starting QB and his top two targets. I’m circling their game on Sept. 30th against South Carolina and will lay whatever the books post the line at (Vols were destroyed last year 63-38). I think they’ll go 10-2 again, losing to Bama and Georgia.
Mississippi (+4500/ +12500)
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, the self-proclaimed “Portal King”, may have won the Transfer Portal battles but it remains to be seen if that will translate to winning the regular season war. The offense wasn’t a problem in last season’s 8-5 record, scoring 33.5 PPG. it was the defense that gave up 25.5 PPG that needs a little work. Their weak out-of-conference schedule alone gets them over halfway to their 7.5-win total. They pick up the remaining four games in the conference to go over their total.
Florida (+7000/ +20000)
One of the more perplexing teams last season, the Gators opened with a victory against Utah but inexplicably lost to Vanderbilt in November. They return 11 starters from last year’s squad and replace QB Anthony Richardson with Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz. I think Mertz is a better overall QB than the athletic but inaccurate Richardson, but he’ll be lacking in targets. Going north of 5.5 wins should prove challenging.
Auburn (+8000/ +20000)
New head coach Hugh Freeze has plenty of tools to work with to improve last year’s 5-7 record. 17 starters return and highly-touted sophomore QB Robby Ashford should be vastly improved. They are deep in skill positions and Freeze is a capable coach. They have a win total of 7 and while it’s likely to push, I would take the over.
South Carolina (+9000/ +20000)
Former Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler was impressive in his first season in the SEC but loses his top two running backs as well as four of his five top receivers. Defense is also a huge question mark, returning four starters from a unit that gave up 28.8 PPG. Their win total of 6 looks to push, but leaning toward the under.
Kentucky (+10000/ +25000)
QB Will Levis leaves and transfer QB Devin Leary, a 4-year starter at NC State, steps in. He has nine returning starters around him, but learning a new system in one season, especially in the SEC, is a tough road to hoe. Their stout defense must replace seven starters. They need to win 7 games to go over their 6.5 total and I don’t see that happening.
Arkansas (+10000/ +25000)
The Razorbacks return their impressive backfield duo of RB Raheim Sanders and QB K.J. Jefferson, but unfortunately, that’s about it. Serious questions exist in receivers and offensive line, as well as a defense that gave up 30.6 PPG and 465 yards of total offense. Books have set their total wins to 7 and I think they’ll push but leans towards the under.
Mississippi State (+12000/ +30000)
I was a big fan of the late Mike Leach and I think his untimely passing will affect this year’s Bulldogs a great deal. They do return eight starters on offense with their QB Will Rogers, but very few people had the offensive mindset that Leach did. I expect to see regression in the aerial attack and as such, will take the under 6.5 wins.
Missouri (+15000/ +40000)
The Tigers return 15 starters, including their QB Brady Cook, but have questions on the offensive line and receiving corps after losing their top 2 wideouts. They open up against South Dakota and have never lost to an FCS school, but I’m calling for the upset here, which would make their 6.5-win total very tough to reach.
Vanderbilt (+50000/ +200000)
Even after going 5-7 and returning 15 starters on both sides of the ball, oddsmakers have set Vandy’s season total at 3.5. If they can sneak out a win when they visit Wake Forest, I think they can go over. I just don’t have the heart to bet against the Commodores under the 3.5.
Projected Order of Finish
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Miss. St