As we draw closer to the college football season, the oddsmakers are going to start cranking out lists of games and their projected lines for those games. One of the more complete lists to come out so far this year is the Golden Nugget's 200 "games of the year." It's a somewhat arbitrary list -- what makes Alabama-Ole Miss more of a "game of the year" than the Egg Bowl? -- and we'll talk about some of the problems with relying on it too much in a moment.
However, it does give us a peek into what the Golden Nugget is thinking about these games -- or, more accurately, what the Golden Nugget thinks bettors are thinking about these games. And this look is for entertainment purposes only, in part because I would discourage anyone from betting on the athletic performance of college students in nationally-televised sporting events. The chart below is the record of each team as projected by the betting lines, with the teams ranked by winning percentage.
|SEC West||SEC East|
|SEC W||SEC L||SEC pct
||W||L||pct||SEC W||SEC L||SEC pct||W||L||pct|
Let's start off with the caveat that there are all sorts of reasons to be cautious about extrapolating too much from these numbers. Because the list includes only 200 games, none of the teams have their complete schedules represented here, and only two -- Auburn and Texas A&M -- have their complete conference schedules portrayed. And some of the lines are set to encourage betting action, not because the Golden Nugget oddsmakers actually believe that's how a particular game is going to play out.
That said, let's extrapolate wildly.
- The divisions are not out of line with what most people are expecting. You can quibble with some of the win-loss records, but for the most part, it's a Georgia-South Carolina-maybe Florida race in the SEC East and an Alabama-Auburn-LSU race in the West. (Though with four losses, Florida probably wouldn't be a factor in the division race.)
- The schedules of the teams teams that intrigue me the most in 2014 -- Mississippi State and Vanderbilt -- are underrepresented here. And that might be for the same reasons that they intrigue me: I don't think either is going to win its division, but both could be wild cards in figuring out who does, and both could end up in decent bowls.
- The one Alabama SEC game not included is its game against Mississippi State, which is in Tuscaloosa; the three non-conference games not shown are home tilts against Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Western Carolina. If every game ends up playing out according to the lines, you'd have to give the Crimson Tide a pretty good shot at going undefeated. Mississippi State is getting some attention as a potentially improved team in 2014, but few see them taking down Alabama at home, and it's almost impossible to see FAU, Southern Miss or WCU beating the Tide.
- Auburn's losses come against Alabama (natch) and Georgia. Which is interesting. These numbers set up Auburn as a likely 10-win team, though they do much the same for Georgia. And I get that Auburn only beat Georgia last year because of an incredibly flukey play. But -- this is still a Georgia team where the defense has to prove itself and where Aaron Murray is off to the NFL. Georgia is only -1 at home in this one, but I'd still probably go with Auburn at this point in the preseason were I making the odds.
- Tennessee is left out of a bowl for the fourth straight year. On the surface, I'm kind of skeptical of that, but then you take a look at the fact that the Vols get Alabama and Ole Miss out of the West and Oklahoma on the non-conference schedule, and you start to see how little margin for error Tennessee has. If they go 3-1 against the out-of-league slate, which is doable, they need at least three SEC wins. Give them Vanderbilt and Kentucky, with only the latter a sure thing, and they're at two. In that case, the Ole Miss game (which is at Ole Miss) and the Missouri game (in Knoxville) become swing games. Lose both of those, which is something that Golden Nugget's numbers project, and the Vols need to pull a pretty sizable upset for a bowl bid.
- Oh, Arkansas. But while Razorbacks fans might not like their projected record, they should look on the bright side: At least their seven losses were worth noting. Only Kentucky's game against Louisville was even included, and the Wildcats are 15-point underdogs in that one.
- The conference's teams are projected to go 7-3 in the odds list against teams from outside the SEC, including wins against Boise State (Ole Miss), Clemson and Georgia Tech (Georgia), West Virginia (Alabama), Wisconsin (LSU), Kansas State (Auburn) and Clemson again (South Carolina). The losses come against Oklahoma (Tennessee), Florida State (Florida) and Louisville (Kentucky). SEC! SEC! SEC!
If you want to peruse the whole list, take a look: