The SEC figures to be ruled once again by Alabama and Georgia as both return really strong teams in 2019. The next tier of teams will try to close the gap, but I don't know if any of them have enough. Some of the teams have good offenses while others have good defenses. As Gus Malzahn says "It just means more" in the SEC.
Let's take a look at each team's win total courtesy of Caesars Entertainment out of Las Vegas.
Over 9 wins +160...Under 9 wins -180
Non-Conference Games: vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.), UT Martin, Florida State, Towson
The Gators are one of the few teams in this conference that challenge themselves outside of the SEC with two games against ACC rivals. Last year Dan Mullen led Florida to 10 wins with the help of an offense that averaged 35 points per game and a defense that gave up only 20. Feleipe Franks is back under center and his best threats are Lamical Perine at running back and Van Jefferson at wide receiver. The offensive line has just one starter back so that's a concern. Todd Grantham is back as defensive coordinator and he's got a really good secondary at his disposal. The Gators get a road game at Tennessee and two neutral contests against Miami and Georgia.
Verdict: I came up with nine or 10 wins and at that price, I'm looking at the over.
Over 11 wins +140...Under 11 wins -160
Non-Conference Games: Murray State, Arkansas State, Notre Dame, at Georgia Tech
Jake Fromm was magnificent for the Bulldogs with 30 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. Because of his success, Jacob Eason (Washington) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) have transferred. D'Andre Swift is back with Elijah Holyfield gone at running back. The questions on this side of the ball come at WR with the team's top three leading receivers (Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta) all gone and Jeremiah Holloman dismissed earlier this offseason. This means five-star Cal transfer Demetris Robertson has to step up and play to his potential. The defense has seven starters back and six 5-star recruits eager to get on the field. Rodrigo Blankenship is back kicking and that makes a difference.
Verdict: I came up with 11 wins so no play.
Over 6.5 wins -125...Under 6.5 wins +105
Non-Conference Games: Toledo, Eastern Michigan, UT Martin, Louisville
Poor UT Martin from the FCS ranks has to play two SEC schools, but at least the Skyhawks get those paychecks. Kentucky won't match what it did last year going 10-3, but this team should see another bowl game and could be a threat for a potential upset or two along the way. Losing Benny Snell Jr. is huge, but QB Terry Wilson is back to lead the offense. Wilson accounted for more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Lynn Bowden Jr. is the leading returning receiver with not a lot behind him. On defense, there will definitely be a decline with just four starters returning. The Wildcats held opponents to just 16.8 points per game. The secondary could be the biggest issue on defense for head coach Mark Stoops.
Verdict: Even with all of the turnover, I think the over is worth a look here.
Over 8 wins -150...Under 8 wins +130
Non-Conference Games: at Wyoming, West Virginia, SE Missouri State, Troy
The Tigers finished their 2018 campaign with a flourish winning four straight to get bowl eligible. Missouri lost a tough Liberty Bowl to Oklahoma State, but still hopes to carry over some momentum to 2019. Drew Lock is gone, but Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant takes over at quarterback and if he plays with a chip on his shoulder, then Mizzou could benefit greatly. He's got Albert Okwuegbunam to throw to as well as Johnathon Johnson. Larry Rountree is a good place to start at running back as well. The defense has to play better against the pass or else it won't go anywhere. That falls on DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes, the returning starters at cornerback. The Tigers open at Wyoming and then play five in a row at home followed by three straight SEC East games on the road.
Verdict: The under is worth a look at this price.
Over 5.5 wins -155...Under 5.5 wins +135
Non-Conference Games: vs. North Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.), Charleston Southern, Appalachian State, Clemson
Two ACC opponents litter the non-conference slate for the Gamecocks. Jake Bentley had a good year last year with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Bentley loses Deebo Samuel, who had 11 of those TDs, but the next three receivers are back. They need to get more from the run game as it was one of the worst in the SEC. Three of the five offensive linemen are back from last year. Javon Kinlaw is playing for first-round status in the next NFL draft. The tackle prospect is one of five starters back on that side of the ball. Special teams are solid, but not great. South Carolina hosts Alabama and Florida as well as gets the defending national champion Clemson at home to end the regular season.
Verdict: I've got five or six wins for the Gamecocks.
Over 6.5 wins -110...Under 6.5 wins -110
Non-Conference Games: Georgia State, BYU, Chattanooga, UAB
Tennessee can start fast with three straight home games against beatable opponents. Jeremy Pruitt is going to need those wins to increase the chances that the Vols get back to a bowl game in his second season at the helm. He's got 15 starters back total with improvement needed on both sides of the ball. New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney needs to get more from a run game that was highly underwhelming in 2018. Jarrett Guarantano is a capable quarterback but he needs help. He's got his full complement of wide receivers back so that should hopefully result in more points. On defense, the line is going to be a focus considering all the new pieces up front. The secondary will be really good though. The Vols play at Florida and Alabama, but host Georgia.
Verdict: Slight lean to the over, but probably no play.
Over 5 wins +175...Under 5 wins -200
Non-Conference Games: at Purdue, Northern Illinois, UNLV, East Tennessee State
Vanderbilt went 3-1 down the stretch to become bowl eligible. This year, that could be difficult with so many losses on a defense that had problems last year. Special teams also could be an issue, which won't help. Riley Neal comes over from Ball State to replace Kyle Shurmur at quarterback. He has plenty of skill position support in running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb, and tight end Jared Pinkney. The left side of the offensive line is back so that helps. This team could actually play in a lot of shootouts making the Commodores a candidate for a lot of overs. Georgia and LSU come to Nashville in weeks one and three.
Verdict: Five wins is possible for Vanderbilt, but I'm not confident enough to recommend either side of this total.
Over 11.5 wins +250...Under 11.5 wins -300
Non-Conference Games: vs. Duke (Atlanta), New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Western Carolina
Not exactly Murderer's Row for Alabama out of conference. The Tide should be nice and angry for week one against Duke after getting crushed by Clemson in the national championship game. This season will be Tua Tagovailoa's coronation as he plays for that No. 1 pick in the draft. The quarterback had 43 touchdown passes to just six interceptions in 2018. Most teams would suffer if they lost running backs the likes of Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs, but Najee Harris is back. Jerry Jeudy is the best wide receiver in football and he's got Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle running with him. The defense has seven starters back with the strength probably in the secondary. The toughest game is probably LSU or Auburn, but it looks like another undefeated regular season. We'll see if the offseason coaching turnover makes any difference.
Verdict: There's no room for error here, but at that price, I'll bet on another undefeated season.
Over 5.5 wins +120...Under 5.5 wins -140
Non-Conference Games: Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State, Western Kentucky
Arkansas has several winnable games out of conference because competing in the SEC could be another tough task for the Razorbacks in Year 2 of the Chad Morris era. The Hogs went 2-10 last year and lost several conference games by large margins. Former SMU quarterback Ben Hicks is reuniting with Morris in Fayetteville where he'll compete with another transfer, Nick Starkel (Texas A&M) for the quarterback job following the departures of Ty Storey and Cole Kelley. The rest of the offense has some talent, but Morris has to make it work. The defense had plenty of issues as well but returns some quality pieces, namely defensive lineman McTelvin Agim and linebacker De'Jon Harris. Going 4-0 in non-conference games is a reasonable goal while winning at least one SEC game (vs. Missouri?) would be a welcome sight.
Verdict: I agree with the under but not at this price.
Over 8 wins -130...Under 8 wins +110
Non-Conference Games: vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas), Tulane, Kent State, Samford
Auburn gets a good measuring stick game right off the bat with Oregon. The defense will be tested by the Ducks and quarterback Justin Herbert in AT&T Stadium. The Tigers boast one of the nation's top defensive lines and also bring an experienced and talented secondary. Auburn starts October with three straight on the road including trips to Florida and LSU, but then close things out with four straight at home. Quarterback is a bit of an unknown with freshmen Joey Gatewood (redshirt) and Bo Nix (true) likely to replace Jarrett Stidham. The receiving corps is being reshuffled, but the backfield features plenty of options and the offensive line returns all five starters.
Verdict: Given Auburn's schedule, the under might be worth a look at this price.
Over 9 wins +130...Under 9 wins -150
Non-Conference Games: Georgia Southern, at Texas, Northwestern State, Utah State
The trip to Texas in week two will tell us a lot about this team and how Joe Burrow is doing in his second season running Steven Ensminger's offense. Nick Brossette is gone, but there's some talent behind him in junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire and freshman John Emery Jr., one of the nation's top running back prospects in the 2019 recruiting class. Burrow also has his four best wide receivers back and an offensive line that is almost intact. The defense has to replace a pair of All-Americans in CB Greedy Williams and LB Devin White. But eight starters return for coordinator Dave Aranda. Cole Tracy is gone as well at kicker and he could be replaced by a freshman. LSU hosts Florida and Auburn but gets Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Verdict: I came up with potentially 10 wins so maybe I'd take a shot at the over.
Over 7.5 wins -130...Under 7.5 wins +110
Non-Conference Games: vs. Louisiana (New Orleans), Southern Miss, Kansas State, Abilene Christian
The Bulldogs don't play a true road game until week five when they play at Auburn. The first four contests are spent for the most part at home with the week one matchup against Louisiana being played in New Orleans. Nick Fitzgerald racked up 29 touchdowns last year, but he's graduated so it will either be Keytaon Thompson or Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens at quarterback. Kylin Hill is back after averaging 6.3 yards per carry in 2018. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is going to have his hands full replacing eight starters, including defensive line studs Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. MSU finishes with three home games including a visit from Alabama.
Verdict: Slight slight lean to the under at this price.
Over 4.5 wins -170...Under 4.5 wins +150
Non-Conference Games: at Memphis, SE Louisiana, Cal, New Mexico State
Matt Luke has some work to do if he hopes to get bowl eligible in 2019. The Rebels went 5-7 last year but lost their last five games. The passing attack was fifth in the nation in yards per game but redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral will have to find new targets following the departures of A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, and DeMarkus Lodge. Running back Scottie Phillips may need to carry more of the load until Corral settles in. He does have former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez to help him as the new offensive coordinator. But if the defense can't improve on the nearly 500 yards and 36 points per game allowed last season it won't matter how productive the offense is. Former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre is tasked with turning around the defense and he has eight returning staters to work with. I think Ole Miss can get back to a bowl game in 2019.
Verdict: As usual, the money move is correct, but there's no way I'm taking any side at -170.
Over 7.5 wins -115...Under 7.5 wins -105
Non-Conference Games: Texas State, at Clemson, Lamar, UTSA
Jimbo Fisher went 9-4 in year one in College Station. He's got to rebuild a defense that returns just four starters and already struggled in certain areas in 2018. Justin Madubuike is the only full-time returning starter in the front seven. There are some potential breakout candidates, but they need to take the next step for defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Kellen Mond is back at quarterback and he has three of his top four receivers and a nearly intact offensive line. The biggest question on offense is replacing Trayveon Williams' production in the backfield. Texas A&M has to go both Death Valleys this season and also draws Georgia on the road.
Verdict: I've got six wins so I like the under.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.