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This time of year can be difficult to write about, in terms of SEC football. This year is particularly hard because of the lack of returning QBs, the issues presented by off-the-field- issues and turnover of coaches and coordinators, just to start.
So, substance is fairly hard to come by. One of the exceptions is usually the over/udner win totals for each team. While the particular pieces that will really define the teams may still be dynamic, the overall talent and philosophies of each team are pretty well understood. That's why over/under win totals are some of the very first odds that Vegas puts out. In addition, it is the perfect place for me to start talking about my thoughts on the upcoming season.
Here is the list of REGULAR SEASON over/unders for each team. I will follow with my own predictions.
Alabama: 9.5- The biggest question comes right out the gate. The Wisconsin matchup is another in a long line of (seemingly) premier non-conference matchups. But, Alabama has yet to play a legitimate non-conference contender. This one is no different. I have Bama pegged for 8 for sure wins. I will take UGA in Athens. I will take Auburn in Auburn. I feel that Arkansas and Ole Miss are potential sleeper games. However, Ole Miss is bookended by two lightweight games and Arkansas follows the game against UGA. Ole Miss has no run game, which is something you will have to have to win. The chances of Bama losing back to back games is non-existent. I will take the over.
Arkansas 8- If Arkansas can fill the voids on defense, they could be a game better than last year. I think Brandon Allen is going to be super efficient. And, the running game will be solid. I have Arkansas starting the season 5-0 before dropping two straight against Alabama and Auburn. I think they knock off an Ole Miss team who matches up well up front (Ole Miss defense vs Arkansas offense) but the losses in the secondary will allow Allen to tear up the Rebels. I think the hogs get 2 wins in the last 3 games. The Hogs will be the surprise team in the SEC. I will take the over.
Auburn: 8.5- Honestly, this is the best place to make some money. Auburn won 8 games in 2014 with one of the worst defenses in the Tiger's history. I think this offense is just as good as previous units and certainly more balanced. Muschamp is worth 2 wins. I count 8 games that I would bet on, straight up. Then I have tough games versus LSU (at LSU), UGA, Bama, and the two Mississippi schools. LSU is at LSU, but they will be 1-dimensional this yearly in the season, which benefits Auburn. UGA and Bama are at home and I think these two games are the two games Muschamp wins for Auburn. The two Mississippi state schools are interesting. I don't think State matches up at all with Auburn, despite having the best player in the conference. The Ole Miss front 7 on defense is STOUT. But, I think Auburn exploits that. I think Auburn gets 10 wins. I will take the over.
Florida: 7- I think this is going to be another tough year for the Gators. I am not sold on McElwain. I see them starting 3-0 and then beating Vandy and FIU. Other than that, I see them dropping the two SEC West showdown games as well as the Mizzu and UGA games for sure. That means they will need to beat both FSU and South Carolina. I think they might could win one of those games, but not both. Granted, FSU has now had it's entire backfield arrested and kicked off the team. Still, the talent gap is wide. I will take the under.
Georgia: 9- Next to Auburn, this is where I think there is money to be made. 4-0 with Bama coming to town. I think UGA can (And will) win this game. UGA has had a history of dropping an SEC East game they shouldn't. They would have to loose two to not make it to 9 wins. I only see Mizzu as a legitimate threat, but they get them between the hedges. Tennessee is getting hyped and would look to be another threat, AND the game is on Rocky Top. But, ultimately, I don't think UT has the talent, top to bottom....specifically on the offensive line. I think Auburn takes a win (again, Muschamp can win this one). Even dropping the one SEC East game and one against Auburn, that's still 10 games. I will take the over.
Kentucky: 5.5- This is some super tough sledding to get to 5.5. I simply don't see it. They can, and will, win against LA-Lafeyette and Eastern Kentucky. South Carolina is down and beatable for most of the SEC East, but I don't think UK can go to Columbia and pull it off. Two very tough SEC West draws are both losses. They can beat Vandy and Charlotte. But, I think Louisville takes the 'Cats. I will take the under.
LSU: 8.5- It's the Fouronette show. LSU will not have a servicable QB that can stretch the field. I really feel that the streak of NFL-talent WRs that LSU has recruited is coming to an end. Who wants to play on a team that can't throw? LSU will pound the rock but I think the defense will initially struggle under their 1st year coordinator. I think MSU gets them in Starkvegas and Auburn pounds them in Jordan-Hare. Wins against Eastern Michigan and Syracuse are guarenteed, but the Western Kentucky could be a lot closer than people think. WKU has one of the most prolific offenses out there and they will likely be just as good this year. However, they have the worst defense in college football. This could likely be a game to watch. I think they lose to Bama and Arkansas before dropping one of the last two games against Ole Miss and TAMU. I have them for 7 wins with a chance at 8. I think they have a small chance to win against TAMU late in the season, but that only gets them to 8. I will take the under.
Ole Miss: 8.5 - Ole Miss will have a front loaded schedule that will drive the hype right back to where it has been the last few years. Aside from a loss at Bama, they start 6-1 heading to College Station. I think their depleted secondary fails them against a high-octane TAMU offense which is particularly good is September and October. Additionally, this is a game where the change at defensive coordinator and excellent recruiting by Chavis will pay off. So starts the Ole Miss slide as we have seen each year under Freeze. Can they stick it to LSU late? It's possible. Even winning against State will put them at 8 wins. So, even a win to break up that 4 game slide won't cover. I will take the under.
Mississippi State: 7 I have the Dogs starting 3-0 before a loss to Auburn. TAMU is a pick 'em, though I lean towards TAMU at home. They can win 3 of the next 4 with that game vs Mizzu being crucial. They drop the game to Bama and Arkansas. That puts them at 6 wins and they will need to beat Ole Miss to make 7. I'm not sure they can make that happen. I will take the under.
Missouri: 7.5 - Mizzu has a pretty tough schedule for an east team. I see them starting 4-0 before taking on South Carolina at home. The Old Ball Coach has to win this game to have a chance to stay relevant. These two teams stack up very well in coaching and talent. I see this as a push. If UGA does what UGA should do, I think they win a tough game in Columbia. Then the schedule hits another gear. Miss St, UT, BYU, and Arkansas. I see them getting UT and maybe BYU. But, it's hard to bet against Pinkel and I see 8 winnable games. That non-conference BYU game is a big one. Taysome Hill, BYU's QB, has yet to make it through a whole year. This year probably won't be any different. I will take the over.
South Carolina: 6.5 - Would you ever think that Spurrier could be a hot seat? Well, it's happening. The game against UNC is very compelling. UNC has a very dynamic QB. Their defense will be much improved with Chizik manning the defense. But, USC has been very good on Thursday nights in the past. Expect this to be the P Cooper show. October 10th will be a litmus test. LSU should be hitting stride on offense, if they haven't fallen completely on their face. They play at College Station and I think TAMU gets them for the second time in 2 years. Can they beat UT in Rocky Top? Let's call that a push, as I am not sold on UT. I think Florida experiences a lot of growing pains and the Gamecocks win in Columbia. Citadel is a win. Then, they get Clemson, which they have beaten for something like 7 times in a row. Now, they have no Chad Morris, which I think was the power behind the throne. I see them winning 7 games, so I will take the over.
Tennessee: 8 - I think this one is fairly easy. Big Game Bob Stoops HAS to win this game. His whole conference will be looking at him. OU has the talent. I think he reels off a big win. UT drops 3 straight against Arkansas, UGA, and Bama. Either Mizzu or South Carolina pulls out a big win down the stretch. Even if UT wins both those games, they are stuck on the line at 8. I don't see that happening. I will take the under.
Texas A&M: 8 - To win 8 games, TAMU must beat Arizona State in the opener. That's going to be a big time offensive showcase. It will be interesting to see the over/under on points. ASU does have to replace a top NFL draft pick in Strong as well as their QB. However, DJ Foster moves to wideout to make way for a talented backfield. Ultimately, I think the TAMU defense wins when they have to. I have them down for 8 wins plus a pickem for LSU in the last game of the season. TAMU has been exposed late in the season and I think that LSU's QB situation won't be great, but it will be better. The matchup between Chavis and Miles will tell the tale. I got to think TAMU has the edge.
Vanderbilt: 3.5 Who care. I see 1 win on this schedule with a possible win against MTSU. I will take the under.