Las Vegas' Early Views on the 2014 SEC Football Season

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Las Vegas' Early Views on the 2014 SEC Football Season
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We are fewer than 100 days away from kickoff, and you can already get in on the college football action in the city that never sleeps. 

Casinos in Las Vegas and online sportsbooks have already begun putting out prop bets for the college football season. Will Alabama make the four-team playoff? You can put your money where your mouth is over at Bovada. Want to pick Florida State to repeat and Jameis Winston to win his second straight Heisman Trophy? Several books both onshore and off will gladly take your money.

But what are some of the best values out there in the SEC?

Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU will all be in the preseason consideration to take home the inaugural College Football Playoff championship, with several stars in the discussion to take Winston's Heisman. 

What's the perception of the SEC in Las Vegas? 

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Georgia head coach Mark Richt

 

Find Great Value in Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing 8-5 season that was littered with injuries, but will still find themselves in the national title discussion thanks to running back Todd Gurley, a loaded wide receiving corps and eight returning starters on a defense that got a boost with the departure of Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator. 

That move was addition by subtraction in and of itself, and all head coach Mark Richt did was replace Grantham with Jeremy Pruitt—fresh off a national title with Florida State.

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Georgia QB Hutson Mason

"I think, if you can get Georgia at 30-to-1, that's ridiculous," said Todd Fuhrman, market analyst at DonBest.com and analyst on Fox Sports 1. "Do I love the job Mark Richt has done there? Absolutely not. But if quarterback Hutson Mason can turn the corner and live up to some exceptions, they'll be a good play."

Not only is Georgia set up well from a personnel standpoint, but it has Clemson with time to prepare to open the season, two weeks to prepare for a road trip to South Carolina, a bye week before Florida and several cupcakes in the weeks preceding big matchups.

"Sept. 13 at South Carolina ... if they can navigate through that spot and come out of those first two games at 2-0—Clemson I don't think will push them much—you're looking at a team that could be 5-0 heading to Missouri," said Fuhrman, whose SEC win totals should come out in late May. "This is a really manageable schedule, so much so that they could be 9-0 and heading into a showdown Nov. 15 when Auburn comes calling with revenge in mind."

 

Heisman Dark-Horse Quarterbacks

The Heisman Trophy is a quarterback-driven award these days, with 12 of the last 14 winners taking snaps. That doesn't bode well for players like Gurley, South Carolina running back Mike Davis and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, all of whom find themselves near the top of Heisman odds boards, but still fighting an uphill battle.

But what about the dark horses? 

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will get considerable Heisman buzz, but the smart play may be the field if you're banking on an SEC quarterback winning the Heisman. 

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Missouri QB Maty Mauk

"Mason at Georgia makes a ton of sense if he's going to be throwing the ball around a little bit," Fuhrman said. "I'm not as high on Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk, but if they put together another season he may create a little bit of buzz given what he's capable of doing there. You look through the conference, it's tough to find the right quarterback unless you find the right scheme because of what we've seen from the SEC, being a run-first league, to an extent."

One of those schemes that could produce some Heisman value for its quarterback is at Texas A&M, where third-year head coach Kevin Sumlin will choose between sophomore dual-threat Kenny Hill and true freshman Kyle Allen this summer. But quarterbacks with video-game numbers need to win big, which may be hard for the Aggies this season.

"It's interesting with what we've seen out of Sumlin and how many points his offense will score no matter who's under center," Fuhrman said. "I just think that this team, with the way it's built, is going to be hard-pressed to be in the thick of things. That puts either of the quarterbacks behind the eightball. A&M would have to be 10-2 to get into a serious discussion about the Heisman, and I think, at best, the Aggies are a three-loss team when you have Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina on the road."

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Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill

 

Sittin' on Top of the World

Auburn fell to Florida State 34-31 in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, preventing the SEC from extending its streak of national titles to eight in a row.

Consider that a blip on the radar, not the start of a trend.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock

"I'd say that saying the league is going downhill is taking it a step too far," Fuhrman explained. "When you look at the way this league has recruited over the last few years. If anything, it's dominance and stranglehold over the college football landscape is going to get more pronounced."

Part of the reason is the new postseason format. That extra semifinal game will make it easier for the cream to rise to the top and more difficult for teams that skate by without playing anybody to win college football's biggest prize.

"By adding extra games to these schedules, teams that are deeper and more physical have a big advantage because you're less likely to have a so-called Cinderella team get through to the playoff or a national title game."

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The game-winning TD of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.

 

Value After Punishment

Since the start of the 2011 season, SEC teams are 7-11 the week after playing Alabama, with only three of those seven wins coming against SEC competition.

Playing physical teams has a tendency to take a toll on teams, and that's something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"It's definitely a handicapping angle that I think you're going to see veterans use more, but it doesn't factor into the lines," Fuhrman said. "If oddsmakers try and get too cute with that kind of thing, it puts them in a real tough spot."

But it isn't just the week after that gets teams. One punch in the mouth could have a lasting impact on a team's season.

"The Alabama example is tremendous," Fuhrman said. "But then we can go back and look at a team like Oregon that never really recovered physically from playing LSU in its 2011 opener. It will be interesting to see how a team like Wisconsin will respond, after playing an LSU team that's going to hit them in the mouth early and often."

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Todd Fuhrman, market analyst for DonBest.com, will release his SEC win/loss totals in late May. 


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