Disclaimer: I don’t gamble, save for a few friendly wagers with friends or the occasional desperate trip to a cheap buffet.
So I’m far from an expert on betting, and using this column to feed your gambling addition is akin to an alcoholic resorting to drinking rubbing alcohol.
But I do pay attention to the folks in Vegas, not just because they’re more knowledgeable but mostly because they are more objective. They don’t make predictions on what they want to happen. In fact, they really don’t make predictions. They draw lines to entice a balanced number of bets.
I bring this up because CG Technology, a Vegas sportsbook company, just came out with their 2017 projected win totals. That, and because Freddie Freeman broke his wrist and is out until August, so what else is there to talk about?
Not surprisingly, the betting firm installed Alabama with the highest projected win total in college football at 10.5 wins. It pegged Auburn and Georgia with eight wins each and Georgia Tech with 6.5. This is based on the 12 regular-season games only. The projections are subject to change, as are the payoffs. These are over-under totals. So, for example, would you bet that Georgia will win more than eight games, or fewer? That’s a tough call.
Then there’s the aspect of the payoff. The payoff for Alabama’s over total is minus-150. That means you have to bet $150 just to win $100. So to bet on Bama winning 11 or 12 games is little risk, but also little reward.
The folks at CG Technology are quietly aware that half of the Crimson Tide’s defense just earned promotions to the NFL. But they’re also aware that Bama has won 11 or more regular season games eight of the past nine seasons, including the past six.
“They’re always one of the most popular teams. You have the best head coach and best recruiter in Nick Saban,” said Frank Yi, lead data analyst for CG Analytics. “They do bleed a lot of talent this year. They lost Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson up front, Reuben Foster in the middle, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson. I could keep going on names, but they’re used to bleeding talent every year. They’re an NFL factory, and they’ll find a way to replace that.”
Here’s how I’d rank the comfort level of taking those bets.
▪ Alabama over. I don’t see the Crimson Tide losing twice. Even if they lose the season opener to Florida State, there’s still not another team on their schedule that I think poses a great threat. The SEC West isn’t as daunting as it once was. Their East opponents are Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Their other non-conference opponents are Colorado State, Fresno State and Mercer.
▪ Georgia Tech over 6.5. The Yellow Jackets lost a lot of key players, and unlike Alabama, they don’t have the depth to just plug holes and move on. But I’m going with history. The Jackets have won seven or more regular season games nine of the past 12 seasons, all but three of those under Paul Johnson. They do play Clemson but don’t play Florida State. Their toughest non-conference opponents are Georgia and Tennessee.
That leaves Georgia and Auburn, both to either win more or fewer than eight games. This is a tough call, because eight wins seems about right for both teams. I think Auburn will be a little bit better than Georgia and will win their head-to-head meeting.
But it’s not that simple. Auburn has a tougher schedule, because the West is still better than the East, and the Tigers have to open at Clemson. Let’s just say Auburn loses to Clemson and Alabama. That leaves only one other loss to play with. Remember, it’s winning MORE than eight games or FEWER. If the number was 7.5 wins, I’d go with Auburn. As it is, I’m going with …
▪ Georgia over 8. First of all, Georgia’s schedule is more lenient than Auburn’s. Secondly, the Bulldogs could be pretty good, maybe very good. I’ll admit that my lack of confidence might be unduly influenced by not being sold on Kirby Smart as a head coach, Jim Chaney as a play-caller, and Jacob Eason as a leader and efficient passer. But if Eason develops, Chaney will look smarter, and Smart can focus on the bigger picture. That leaves …
▪ Auburn over 8. A win over Clemson in the season opener would change everything. And I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened. And Clemson won’t be the same without Deshaun Watson, especially early. I think Auburn will play well. Still, to win at Clemson with either a new starting quarterback (Jarrett Stidham) or one coming off shoulder surgery (Sean White) would be quite a task.
So that’s my take … for recreational use only.