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September 17, 2014

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Vegas-style college football preview: SEC at the sports book

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Associated Press

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is joined by wide receiver Kenric McNeal (5) and defensive back Dustin Harris (22) as they celebrate a win over top ranked Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Texas A&M won 29-24.

Odds to win the SEC

  • Alabama: 4-to-5
  • Georgia: 4-to-1
  • South Carolina: 6-to-1
  • Texas A&M: 8-to-1
  • Florida: 8-to-1
  • LSU: 10-to-1
  • Ole Miss: 25-to-1
  • Missouri: 50-to-1
  • Vanderbilt: 60-to-1
  • Auburn: 60-to-1
  • Tennessee: 60-to-1
  • Mississippi State: 75-to-1
  • Arkansas: 100-to-1
  • Kentucky: 500-to-1
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Pac-12 conference win totals

  • Alabama: 11 (over minus-110, under minus-110)
  • Georgia: 9.5 (over minus-130, under plus-110)
  • South Carolina: 9.5 (over Even, under plus-110)
  • Florida: 9 (over plus-120, under minus-140)
  • LSU: 8.5 (over minus-120, under Even)
  • Ole Miss: 7.5 (over Even, under minus-120)
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Note: Talking Points is previewing all of college football's power conferences leading up to kickoff. This is part three. Check out the Mountain West here and the Pac-12 here. Scroll to the bottom of the page for odds on all the SEC games released so far.

Betting slips against Texas A&M for the upcoming college football season have gone the way of Johnny Manziel-autographed Aggies mini-helmets over the last few days. They’ve risen in value.

Since the NCAA began probing whether Johnny Football violated rules by allegedly scribbling his name on memorabilia for profit, Las Vegas sports books have taken down all Texas A&M individual game and win total betting lines.

The spread for any game Manziel potentially misses to suspension, according to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, could shift up to seven points toward the Aggies opponent. Texas A&M’s over/under win total of nine games would downgrade to 7.5 without its best player.

Based on line moves from earlier this summer, Las Vegas might be home to as many wagers against Texas A&M as College Station, Texas, is to signed pictures of Manziel hoisting his Heisman trophy.

Texas A&M wasn’t even a popular choice in future bets to win the national championship, where the type of public money that would usually be enamored with the way Manziel finished last season reigns. At the LVH Superbook, the Aggies stagnated at 12-to-1 to win the title for months before recently getting knocked up to 15-to-1.

The Golden Nugget posted “Game of the Year” lines on seven Aggies contests, and money came in against them to trigger a move in more than half. None went the other way, in favor of Texas A&M.

The most scrutinized game of the year in all of college football is Alabama’s trip to Texas A&M on Sept. 14. Some national media members couldn’t believe when the Crimson Tide opened as a six-point road favorite, but no matter, the spread turned into minus-7.

That now looks like a moneymaking opportunity as easy as signing a couple hundred autographs for a five-figure payday with the Manziel news taking the game off the board.

Yes, the sophomore quarterback has a grip on the college football world that extends all the way to Las Vegas. And quite a reach, too, with Manziel’s plight knocking out Alabama’s third straight championship quest and the SEC’s historical dominance for the title of biggest preseason story.

Don’t scoff at the SEC’s obliteration of opposition being included in that category. The topic has started to nauseate fans outside of the Bible belt but here in the desert, oddsmakers are showing all the acclaim is deserved.

Winning seven straight national championships is no fluke. William Hill sports books posted a proposition wager asking bettors if the SEC would get to eight this season with the “yes” listed at minus-200 and the “no” at plus-175.

Those numbers imply a 65 percent chance that the crystal football stays in the Deep South.

In addition to Alabama and Texas A&M, four other teams from the SEC are listed at 25-to-1 or less to win the title at the LVH Superbook — Georgia at 12-to-1, South Carolina at 20-to-1, Florida at 25-to-1 and LSU at 25-to-1. That means six of the nation’s 12 favorites compete in the same league.

The SEC has trounced other conferences during its championship streak, going 332-74 in non-conference games since 2006. But betting blindly on those teams has only produced an edge-of-the-nose profit, with the SEC clocking in with a 53 percent success rate at covering the spread in non-conference play.

The foremost reason why eight in a row is favored to happen, of course, is Alabama. The Crimson Tide are plus-250 (risking $1 to win $2.50) in the futures book at the LVH, an astronomically low figure for a sport where 124 teams compete for the title.

Click to enlarge photo

Alabama 's Eddie Lacy (42), Kenny Bell (7) and Kevin Norwood (83) celebrate after the BCS National Championship college football game against Notre Dame Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, in Miami. Alabama won 42-14.

Nick Saban has won three titles in his seven years in Tuscaloosa, Ala., so far, but this might be his best team. Alabama returns 13 starters, the most Saban can claim since his first year on the job.

Including the presently nixed Texas A&M spread, the Golden Nugget put up numbers for 10 Alabama games this season and favored the defending champions by an average of 22.5 points per game. But that wasn’t enough, as four lines grew larger once released for action and none went the other direction.

The shortest spread featuring Alabama at the moment is minus-11.5 for its Nov. 9 home game against LSU.

Every other SEC team, even the highly ranked ones, has at least one wart or uncertainty.

Despite coming within seconds of reaching the national championship last year and returning the nation’s career touchdown-pass leader in Aaron Murray, Georgia hasn’t attracted much sharp money. Four of six line moves have gone against the Bulldogs, who lose all but three starters on defense.

Florida’s 11-2 record last year looked less impressive in Las Vegas, where it was favored in all but two games and went 7-6 against the spread. The Gators often had to win in spite of their offense, which ranked 105th in the nation. Other than a plan to bring over cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for some offensive snaps this season, no upgrades look undoubtedly imminent.

Professional bettors have sung the merits of betting against LSU coach Les Miles for years, and it’s paid off. LSU is lousy against the spread, especially in SEC play, where Miles has gone 26-38-4 in eight years on the job.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, on the other hand, has lined gamblers’ pockets by covering in 56 percent of games since taking over the same year Miles did. The Ol’ Ball Coach has led the Gamecocks to two straight 11-win seasons for the first time in program history, but is still empty-handed when it comes to SEC championships.

There are some live teams with long odds in the middle of the conference. Ole Miss, which returns 19 starters off of a team that went 10-3 against the spread, is a favorite of bettors.

The Rebels have gone from 1,000-to-1 to 100-to-1 in odds to win the national championship at the LVH Superbook.

Missouri, with a 500-to-1 future price, projects to improve with both quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey returning to health.

Click to enlarge photo

Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema, left, speaks to the media as his wife, Jen, rear right, looks on during a news conference to announce Bielema's hire in Fayetteville, Ark., Wednesday, Dec 5, 2012. Bielema, who left Wisconsin for Arkansas, will be paid $3.2 million annually for six years.

Arkansas and Auburn combined to go 6-19 against the spread last season, a mark some gamblers can’t envision not improving under new coaches. Four lines at the Golden Nugget have shifted in Auburn’s favor under new coach and ex-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. One line move went against Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks, but they attracted steam in three other contests.

One fresh face the sports betting market doesn’t believe in, at least immediately, is Tennessee’s Butch Jones. The Volunteers are underdogs in four posted games by an average of 19 points. They’re favored in three, but only at an average of five points after cash flowed on the other side.

Tennessee might have morphed into the most popular bet-against team in the SEC with Texas A&M falling out of the running. No one knows when the Aggies lines will be back.

Good thing it’s the SEC, where there’s plenty of action to go around, with or without Manziel.

Golden Nugget game lines

Aug. 29: Ole Miss -2 at Vanderbilt

Aug. 29: North Carolina +12 at South Carolina

Aug. 31: Alabama -18 vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta

Aug. 31: Washington State +12.5 at Auburn

Aug. 31: Georgia -2.5 at Clemson

Aug. 31: LSU -4.5 at TCU

Aug. 31: Mississippi State +11.5 vs. Oklahoma State in Houston

Sept. 7: Florida -4 at Miami

Sept. 7: South Carolina +4 at Georgia

Sept. 14: Mississippi State +1 at Auburn

Sept. 14: Louisville -14 at Kentucky

Sept. 14: Ole Miss +8 at Texas

Sept. 14: Vanderbilt +13.5 at South Carolina

Sept. 15: Tennessee +23.5 at Oregon

Sept. 21: Colorado State +41 at Alabama

Sept. 21: Arkansas -2.5 at Rutgers

Sept. 21: Auburn +16.5 at LSU

Sept. 21: Tennessee +14.5 at Florida

Sept. 28: Ole Miss +17.5 at Alabama

Sept. 28: Florida -20 at Kentucky

Sept. 28: LSU +6.5 at Georgia

Sept. 28: South Carolina -14 at Central Florida

Oct. 5: Arkansas +16.5 at Florida

Oct. 5: Georgia -12 at Tennessee

Oct. 5: Kentucky +23.5 at South Carolina

Oct. 5: LSU -8 at Mississippi State

Oct. 12: Alabama -30 at Kentucky

Oct. 12: South Carolina +11 at Arkansas

Oct. 12: Florida +3.5 at LSU

Oct. 12: Missouri +16.5 at Georgia

Oct. 19: Arkansas +29.5 at Alabama

Oct. 19: Florida -7 at Missouri

Oct. 19: Georgia -10 at Vanderbilt

Oct. 19: LSU -2 at Ole Miss

Oct. 26: Tennessee +27 at Alabama

Oct. 26: South Carolina -7 at Missouri

Nov. 2: Auburn +3.5 at Arkansas

Nov. 2: Florida +3 vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.

Nov. 2: Mississippi State +15 at South Carolina

Nov. 9: LSU +11.5 at Alabama

Nov. 9: Auburn +5.5 at Tennessee

Nov. 16: Alabama -23 at Mississippi State

Nov. 16: Georgia -14 at Auburn

Nov. 16: Florida +5 at South Carolina

Nov. 23: Kentucky +29 at Georgia

Nov. 23: Vanderbilt +1 at Tennessee

Nov. 28: Ole Miss -6.5 at Mississippi State

Nov. 30: Alabama -24 at Auburn

Nov. 30: Arkansas +17 at LSU

Nov. 30: Florida State +2.5 at Florida

Nov. 30: Georgia +9 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 30: Tennessee -7 at Kentucky

Nov. 30: Clemson +4.5 at South Carolina

Three early leans: Missouri +7.5 vs. South Carolina (available at LVH), Arkansas -3.5 vs. Auburn, Tennessee -1 vs. Vanderbilt

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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