Favorite, Value, Longshot is back. I am going to assume you are familiar with these bet types, but if not, read last week’s installment, here. I will offer up one favorite, one value, and one longshot bet for the SEC that I feel could pay out big this year. Let’s dive in!
The Favorite – Alabama
Of course, Alabama is the favorite coming out of the SEC. The Tide have won the conference four of the last six years and have won the National Championship in three of those six seasons. Alabama are large favorites to win their West division at -225 but are slimmer favorites to win the SEC at -125.
In last season’s championship run, Alabama had only one blemish – losing the Iron Bowl in Auburn. Both Texas A&M and Mississippi State played the Tide close, but Alabama has the luxury of playing all three of these teams at home in 2018, a major advantage.
The Tide have two main concerns heading into this season. The first is a very young and inexperienced defensive line. Experts predict that Bama may struggle defensively early in the season until these guys get comfortable with each other and gain some confidence. The other is a brewing quarterback controversy between the junior Jalen Hurts and the championship game-winning sophomore Tua Tagovailoa.
These question marks may scare some away, but betting against Alabama has not been a smart strategy in recent years. Also, the Tide have the best odds to win the National Championship again this season, yet another deterrent for betting against them.
The Value Pick – Florida
The Florida Gators have something this season that even Alabama cannot claim – an elite defense. I know that Florida’s 3-5 conference record did not look very impressive last year, but they lost some close games and now have a very favorable schedule in 2018.
Oddsmakers list Florida at +1800 to win the SEC, but they are given the second-best odds to win the East division at +450. This means that the idea of Florida playing in the SEC Championship game is not too far-fetched. You may not remember it, but Florida did make the SEC Championship game in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016, losing to Alabama each time.
Last year, Florida really struggled offensively. New coach Dan Mullen is known for his ability to put up points, however, and should help turn things around. Running back Jordan Scarlett is returning to the Gator backfield after sitting out 2017 with a suspension and will surely provide a big boost to this offense. If Scarlett plays well, the combination of a strong running game and an elite defense could allow Florida to make some noise in the SEC this year.
The Longshot – Ole Miss
At +5000 odds, a lot will need to go Ole Miss’ way for them to even think about the SEC championship game. This is perfect, however, as big odds are one of the two requirements for me to consider a team a solid longshot pick. The other is that they must excel at something, and Ole Miss rosters what is arguably the best receiving corps in the country.
Playing postseason SEC football would be a new experience in Oxford as the Rebels have never played in an SEC championship game. Their 3-5 conference record did not turn heads last year, but they did manage to win three of their non-conference games and finish 6-6.
#1 receiver A.J Brown is a stud and a future high draft pick, probably after this season. DaMarkus Lodge, D.K. Metcalf, and Dawson Knox are all returning from a 2017 season in which they combined for nearly 2,000 receiving yards.
Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu is packed with potential. The senior took a long route toward becoming a Rebel but held his own in 2017 as a first-year starter. He has an experienced offensive line protecting him and now has had an entire offseason in which to get first-string reps. No one quite knows what the Hawaiian product is capable of.
Do I believe the Rebels can win the SEC? Maybe. Do I believe their offense will lead to an upset or two? Definitely. At +5000, it is worth a shot.