DraftKings Sportsbook recently released their win total over/under lines for the 2023 college football season for Power Five teams, giving us a chance to take an early look at how Vegas thinks each team in the SEC will fare this upcoming fall. Let’s take a look at each line, using what we know about these rosters and coaching staffs at this point in time. We’ll also look at each’s team schedule, and think about just plain old-fashioned vibes.
If you feel strongly about a team this early in advance of the season, it’s an opportunity to make some money before public perception crystallizes and the lines sharpen. I will take a look at each team and decide if I like them to over or under their win total, or maybe I’ll chicken out and call it a “stay away.” We did this SEC East last week, and will focus on the SEC West today.
Alabama — Over/Under 10.5
The Tide are a major domino for the 2023 college football script. If they return to dominance, they will box out would-be contenders like LSU or Texas A&M, and will guarantee the SEC has two representatives in the final season of the four-team playoff. But if they maintain their two-loss ways, the door opens for other teams in the West, and maybe another conference to sneak into the postseason field. Nick Saban is going back to his old ways, resetting his coordinators by reuniting with veteran DC Kevin Steele and jettisoning the Kiffin/Locksley/O’Brien styles for Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees, a far more conservative play caller. The talent, of course, is tremendous, although starting quarterback is still an open competition.
I’m buying in. I think the brilliance of Bryce Young and Will Anderson masked some sloppy play, but the GOAT is pivoting back to complimentary football. The schedule breaks nicely, with revenge dates against LSU and Tennessee both in Tuscaloosa. I think the Tide look like how they did a decade ago, and I’ll take the over.
Arkansas — Over/Under 7.5
Sam Pittman is resetting his coaching staff with the loss of both coordinators, Kendall Briles and Barry Odom, but returning stars at QB and RB help ease the transition. The defense was a mess last year, and then lost all the best players. They are lucky to get LSU and Alabama on the road, since those are losses wherever you play them; they get key toss-up games like Missouri, Auburn, and Mississippi State in front of the feral Fayetteville faithful. This team should sweep its non-conference slate, so if the defense improves, eight wins is in play. But that’s a BIG “if,” because the rebuild is deep on that side of the ball. I think this team goes under, but so does the market, and it’s not worth paying the -155 price.
Auburn — Over/Under 6.5
Auburn reminds me of TCU last season – not saying that they are going to go to the playoffs, not even close. But the Auburn roster is still competitive, except the previous coach was phoning it in and the culture had collapsed. Revitalize the energy and the preparation in the building, bring in a new and hungry and dynamic coaching staff, add in some savvy additions in the portal – baby, you got a stew going. Quarterback might be an issue, but running back Jarquez Hunter might be the best in the league when it’s all said and done. Last year’s receivers were a trainwreck, but I love the addition of new receiver coach Bryan Ellis; at Georgia Southern last year, he led perhaps the deepest and most dynamic group of receivers in the Group of Five. The non-conference schedule is four cupcakes, and they draw Vanderbilt from the East – just pick off two more, and you get to seven. Take the Faustian bargain and back Hugh Freeze to win some money. Yuck. Over.
LSU – Over/Under 9.5
I’m all in. Bryan Kelly has built a playoff contender in a hurry. Coordinator continuity, returning star quarterback, excellent play in the trenches, dynamic playmakers on the perimeter. He has picked up every ingredient in the recipe needed for an upper-echelon team. Even if they lose both regular season games to fellow playoff hopefuls – neutral site against Florida State and at Alabama – they should still finish with ten wins, as the other four road games are all manageable. And if they win one of those games against their peers, then you have a cushion. I like the over, and I like it a lot. Geaux Tigahs.
Mississippi — Over/Under 7.5
Frankly, I have no idea what to do with either Mississippi school. If you feel strongly about either of them, more power to you. Ole Miss’s transfer-heavy approach and bizarre quarterback room (Jaxon Dart, Spencer Sanders AND Walker Howard!) has created one of the most inscrutable lineups in the country. Throw in a defensive coordinator change and Lane Kiffin doing Lane Kiffin things (good and bad!) and you have an ultimate wild card team. You can only rubber-stamp four wins – Mercer, GT, Vanderbilt, ULM – after that, everything is loseable, even a trip to Tulane. They could win five or they could win nine! No thanks on giving a six-month loan to a sportsbook on a series of coin flip results.
Mississippi State — Over/Under 6.5
The Bulldogs are also unpredictable because we have no idea how first time head coach Zach Arnett will do running his own program. Arnett was a defensive coordinator, and a damn good one; but, often defensive-minded guys play too conservative and cost themselves on the margins when managing a game, especially their first time in the head seat. Maybe Arnett breaks the mold, maybe not. On offense, he turns over the Air Raid reins to Kevin Barbay, a first-time Power Five play-caller. The roster has enough key contributors that seven wins is possible, but like their rivals, they need to be cautious with a tough Group of Five team on the slate (Southern Miss). There are things to like about this season, but with so many unknowns, I don’t feel strongly either way.
Texas A&M — Over/Under 7.5
Oh, Aggies. What are we going to do with you? The cycle of “no, THIS is the year!” seems to be in full swing again, as the roster is still overstocked with blue chip players. The promise this year is Bobby Petrino taking playcalling duties from Jimbo Fisher, and Connor Weigman saving the quarterback position from a half-decade of middling play. I’m worried about a schedule that has trips to Miami and Tennessee in addition to the SEC West gauntlet. I’m worried about Jimbo Fisher and his whole deal. I’m worried about the locker room culture that will be cultivated by Fisher, Petrino, Steve Addazzio, and DJ Durkin. If this is the year they actually break through, sure, congrats; I won’t be spending a dime to predict it, though. I’m staying away.