For your humble Auburn Blogger, being a sports gambler is like being an astronaut, a soap opera actor, third-string QB behind Peyton Manning on the Colts, or the designated steak taste-tester for a secret cabal of world-renowned chefs: as much as I might want to make it happen, there's just a few too many obstacles in the way. (Or, in gambling's particular case, the very large obstacle named "I don't have any money.")
But just as I can still confuse the hell out of the other patrons in the Western Sizzler by taking a bite of my sirloin and loudly saying "No, Wolfgang, not this time, I'm afraid the thyme in the apple-burgundy glaze is a just a trifle overbearing," so I can play Gambler Dress-Up with a series of misguided picks on my blog during the dog days of the offseason. And hey, here's Florida St. blog Tomahawk Nation kindly posting the Vegas lines on college football 2009 win totals. Score.
So, yeah, here's my picks on the eight SEC teams listed (no lines for Arkansas, Kentucky, Vandy, or Miss. St.), from most to least confident and then finishing with Auburn because, you know, countdowns have to have some suspense, right?
1. South Carolina, under 7 wins (-175). Consider that to lose this bet, the 'Cocks would have to win 8 games--meaning that if we chalk up vs. Florida, at Alabama, and at least two of their four games at Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and N.C. State as losses, S.C. would have to sweep the remaining eight games on the schedule, which not only include the two leftover road games above but home dates with Ole Miss and Clemson. Right.
2. Alabama, over 9.5 wins (+145). I'm not any happier about it than you are, trust me. But there's no way the Tide go worse than 6-1 at home (where Arkansas and LSU are the only challengers), and Kentucky and Miss. St. should give them two easy road wins. So to hit double digits, all 'Bama needs would be to take two of three from Auburn, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech, or get the home sweep. One of those two things will, unfortunately, very likely come to pass.
3. Tennessee, over 7 wins (+140). Eight wins for Kiffykins? Well, WKU, Ohio, South Carolina, Memphis, and Vandy--all at home--look like near-sure things from here, and my guess is that UCLA (in Knoxville) and Kentucky wind up fairly easy Vol wins when all is said and done. So: do you think Tennessee can earn a split against Georgia and Auburn, both at home? I do. (To boot, wagering 100 to win 140 is a better deal than most of the bets on this list.)
4. Ole Miss, over 9 wins (-105). I swear I don't trust Houston Nutt any further than I could throw him (which isn't really very far, but bear with me), but look at this schedule: the four nonconference games, Vandy, and Miss. St. have them at 6-0 before the season starts. The worst-case scenario for vs. Arkansas and Tennessee/at Auburn and South Carolina--four games in which the Rebels will undoubtedly be favored--is probably three wins, meaning that to hit double digits Ole Miss would need only a split at home against 'Bama and LSU ... two teams they easily could have swept on the road last year. Put another way: to lose the bet, the Rebels would have to lose four games in a season in which there's not one game on the schedule that's even a "likely" loss. That's not happening. Probably.
OK, those are the four I'd actually wager my imaginary money on. The next three I'm much less confident about.
5. Florida, over 11 wins (-175). It's awfully hard to see Florida going undefeated--the guess here is that they drop either the trip to LSU or a shocker at home against the Hogs--but knowing what happened last year after a loss, it's even harder to see them losing two games ... particularly when there's exactly one tricky road trip on the whole schedule. 11 wins is far and away the most likely outcome, but 12 is still way more likelier, I think, than 10.
6. LSU, over 8.5 wins (+100). A 4-0 start and Tulane and La. Tech should give them six easy, and let's be honest--it's hard to see Auburn pulling one out in Baton Rouge. That means the Tigers would only need to go 2-3 vs. Florida and Arkansas and at Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. With Chavis in charge of the D I think the Tigers manage it, but it's also not too tough to see a team as uninspiring as LSU was last season getting swept on the road and falling to the Gators at home.
7. Georgia, under 8.5 (-110). Carolina, Arizona St., Vandy, Tennesee Tech, and Kentucky are all likely wins. Assuming Florida is a loss, then we've got LSU and Auburn at home and roadies at Okie St., Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech. Can the Dawgs go 4-2 over those 6? With most coaches I'd say "forget it," but Richt is so good on the road, I wouldn't rule it out. I think a 3-3 split and a 8-win season is slightly more likely, but it's basically a coin-flip.
And finally ...
?????. Auburn, under 7.5 (-175). Hey, we're talking about what's most likely from a rational perspective, right? Sure, I can find eight wins on the schedule, not ruling it out by any means ... but man, I think if we play it 100 times, we end up with 7 a lot more often than we do 8. Losing any less than three games on the road would be a hell of an accomplishment (seeing as how we lost to three of those teams at home last year and beat the fourth on a fumble recovery in the end zone) and while I think Auburn will have their shot at West Virginia, Ole Miss, and the Tide, this team pulling two of those games would be incredible. And again, I'm not saying that's not going to happen. Official predictions will come later this summer.
But if we're talking about wagering imaginary money ... I think the percentages say Auburn holds serve against the lesser lights on the schedule (all of which come to J-Hare), goes 1-3 on the road, pulls out one of the one upset opportunities at home, and heads off to a bowl at 7-5. (Note that these are probably already homerrific percentages, since more than one neutral observer would say it's much more likely that Auburn either gets swept on the road or whiffs at home--or both--and winds up 6-6 or 5-7.)
Elsewhere, of the national picks made at Tomahawk Nation, I like the Texas over and Missouri under, and I freaking love the Illinois over--I spent a good chunk of time this spring researching random Big 10 teams and if the Illini don't win 8 games, I'll find a hat to eat.
Two other picks I'd add: BYU, over 9 wins, -120. Even if you don't think the Steele-approved Cougars can upset Oklahoma or Florida St., with their toughest road game at rebuilding New Mexico they'll be heavy favorites in their other 10 games. And even at -200, I like UConn under 6.5 wins. The Huskies lost virtually everything from last year's team and have a brutal schedule with just two "likely" wins. No way they get to 7-5.