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NFL Draft

Who’s Best Bet To Win SEC West?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 3, 2020
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As absurd as it sounds, it’s time to start getting ready for the college football season. Due to the limitations on programs and the danger of having students on campus, college football is in a far more tenuous spot than pro football, but the SEC is preparing to play ball, and as such, we’re preparing to bet on them.

As provided by BetOnline, here are the odds for favorites to win the SEC West.

  • Alabama (-220)
  • LSU (+300)
  • Auburn (+500)
  • Texas A&M (+800)
  • Mississippi State (+2000)
  • Ole Miss (+2500)
  • Arkansas (+8000)

Alabama is the heavy favorite over LSU, and understandably so. Back in June, even before the numerous LSU opt-outs, Alabama received the most votes among AL.com’s SEC Football Report and was projected to win the division. Alabama has won the SEC West in five of the last eight seasons, with last season’s loss to LSU serving as their only outright defeat within divisional play—their other two were tiebreaker losses due to head-to-head records against Auburn. 

Mac Jones will hold the starting job at quarterback for the Tide after a pretty solid audition in replacing Tua Tagovailoa at the end of last season. Jones went 4-1 as a starter last year and 2-1 against the SEC West, generally playing mistake-free football and maximizing Alabama’s cadre of weapons. While the Tide did lose two first-round receivers in Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, as well as first-round offensive tackle Jedrick Wills, they have another two first-round receivers in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle waiting in the wings, and starting left tackle Alex Leatherwood may also push for an early-round selection. The machine keeps on turning in Alabama, and for as long as Nick Saban is running the show, they should be expected to win the division.

Is there anyone with a shot to challenge Alabama? LSU, coming off such a dominant season, simply doesn’t have the horses this year. Following the most recent opt-out of nose tackle Tyler Shelvin, the Tigers’ depth chart now looks even thinner across the combined attrition of graduations and early declarations.

https://twitter.com/BryanDFischer/status/1300125259878735873

Keep in mind that the Tigers also have to install an entirely new defense after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda departed for Baylor, and also rework their offensive flow as passing game coordinator Joe Brady took the offensive coordinator job in Carolina. Little is known of quarterback Myles Brennan other than his positive intangibles, measurables, and recruiting background—what he is on the football field is largely unknown. He actually saw significant playing time last season in garbage time, given how many games LSU had an unconquerable lead—but what he is as a true starter is yet unmeasured.

We’ll put LSU off to the side for now. Behind them is Auburn, who actually has the most experienced quarterback of the three teams we’ve covered thus far. Bo Nix was a true freshman last year, and actually won the SEC Freshman of the Year award over LSU cornerback Derek Stingley—a decision that was met with some controversy. 

But with Chad Morris on the Auburn offensive staff, there are reasons to be excited about Nix’s development, especially as he retains his primary targets from last season: wide receivers Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove. There will be turnover at offensive line as last season’s top tackles Prince Tega Wanogho and Jack Driscoll both left for the NFL, and in the defensive trenches as well, where Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown also vacated starting spots. 

It is reasonable to expect Auburn to perform better in the SEC West than LSU, though Auburn does catch Georgia in the divisional crossover schedule, while LSU escapes them this year. Auburn plays LSU at home this year and brings more talent given LSU’s extensive opt-outs—it’s the game against Alabama in Bryant-Denny that is the big one to circle. If Auburn can win that game, they’ll likely be your SEC West champions.

As such, in a simplification, you can look at Alabama’s -220 and Auburn’s +500 as implied odds for that game in late November of the SEC football schedule. Coming into the game last year, The 10-1 Crimson Tide were -175 to win outright as they stayed in playoff contention, whereas 8-3 Auburn was +150 on the moneyline. Remember, Jones started that game for the Tide, as Tagovailoa was already lost for the season following his injury.

So I like Auburn as the flier here. They shouldn’t be priced below LSU at all, and with their returning talent on offense, figure to have the firepower to win any game in the SEC, so long as you believe in Nix’s continued development. The smart money will always be on Alabama in this division, but if you’re feeling spicy, roll with Auburn.

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