With only a few days remaining until Alabama opens the 2018 season in Orlando against Louisville, the offseason hype train in Tuscaloosa is showing no signs of slowing down. Heck, it might even be picking up steam.
But if you’re a fan of betting on regular season win totals, you’d be forgiven for being a little hesitant. Eleven wins? Of course you did, Vegas.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this during the summer: “Alabama will be favored over every opponent by double digits!”
Or how about this one: “This will be Bama’s best offense under Nick Saban.”
For the last decade, the Crimson Tide have been the kings of offseason hype. And for good reason. Nick Saban brings something that every gambler yearns to see from a football team: consistency.
Most bettors have learned not to doubt Bama, no matter what the team is dealing with. Twelve guys drafted to the NFL? No biggie. Quarterback competition? The Tide could win with either one. Replacing the entire secondary? Saban will get them right.
The truth, however, isn’t so bulletproof. At least not when it comes to an undefeated regular season. While Bama has been favored in almost every game for the last nine years, the Tide haven’t found a way to run the table since 2009.
What’s worse, the losses for Bama in the regular season have seemingly come from left field. In fact, almost all of them can be referenced by their nicknames. The game of the century. Johnny Football. The Kick-Six. Ole Miss 1. Ole Miss 2. Bama was favored in all of ‘em.
So where does that loss come from in 2018? Your guess is probably as good as mine. Auburn returns a ton of talent. Playing in Baton Rouge is always tough. Mississippi State is a dangerous team. Tennessee has to beat Bama again at some point, right?
While most fans will give an eyeroll to the notion that one of those teams is beating Bama this year, history shows us the Tide are most likely ending the season with a loss.
So we should take the under, right? Wrong. For my money, if the most likely scenario is a push, I’m staying away. But if you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and you absolutely have to lay down on a few regular season win totals, here are my best bets:
Georgia over 10.5 wins
I know it’s going to sound like chalk, but the Georgia Bulldogs belong here. With a win total sitting at 10.5, now is the time to climb on board the UGA hype train. The Dawgs certainly have an uphill climb to replace some incredibly gifted players.
With Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Roquan Smith all now playing on Sundays, the season will not be without its ups and downs. But Kirby Smart has done more than enough the last two years to replenish the roster. Georgia is far and away the most talented team in the SEC East.
Like Bama, it’s hard to foresee someone upsetting the Dawgs during the regular season. But unlike Bama, 11 wins means you’re getting paid.
Auburn under 9 wins
Let me first say this: Gus Malzahn earned a ton of my respect a year ago. Coming into November, many people weren’t sure if he would be fired or given an extension. But two huge wins at Jordan-Hare Stadium over the Tigers’ two biggest rivals made even the most skeptical Auburn fans happy.
However, one thing Malzahn’s Tigers have proven in recent years is they’re almost always good for one letdown game.
A neutral-site opener against a top-10 Washington team mixed with return trips to Athens and Tuscaloosa this year already have the scales tipped against a 10-win season. Stir in the loss of the Tigers’ two best offensive linemen and both running backs who carried the load a year ago and you have a recipe for a letdown somewhere.
The Tigers have a fierce front seven and one of the most gifted QBs in the SEC, if not the country, but I don’t think it’s enough to get Gus and Co. over the hump.
Vanderbilt under 4.5 wins
Sorry Vandy fans. I had to do it. This is a classic example of when a Vegas line makes your eyes open a little more widely; there’s usually a good reason.
The Commodores are just a 4.5-point favorite to open the season against Conference USA foe Middle Tennessee, and things don’t get any easier from there. Follow that Week 1 matchup with an explosive Nevada offense coming to Nashville and Vandy making a trip to South Bend to face Notre Dame and there’s a real shot the Commodores could start 1-2 in nonconference play (if not worse).
Add in SEC East games against South Carolina and Georgia, as well as a trio of games against SEC teams with new coaches looking to turn around stagnant programs at Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas, and it’s hard to envision the Commodores getting to five wins.
Mike Johnson played offensive line at Alabama from 2006-2009. He was a first-team All-American and helped lead the Crimson Tide to their first national title under Nick Saban. Follow him on Twitter @MPJohnson79.