SEC By the Numbers

College football is always a numbers game for bettors. However, they’re not alone when it comes to keeping tabs on the stats, wins, and polls stirring debate all fall long.

The SEC is still elite as far as bookmakers are concerned
 
Much maligned by some through the early going, as far as Vegas is concerned the gap isn’t close to narrowing between the SEC and the rest of the nation. Just how dominant is the SEC in the eyes of bookmakers right now?  I spoke to legendary bookmaker Jimmy Vacarro of William Hill known for setting a number on anything in sports. Vacarro said he’d make the SEC -600 vs the field as the conference to win this year’s BCS national title.  To put it into point spread terms, this number is the equivalent of a 14 pt favorite but in no way, shape, or form does this imply the SEC representative opens as a 2 touchdown favorite in the national title game.
 
Dogged home dogs

 
Every SEC football fan deserves to know which of their teams protects home field at an elite level when disrespected by Vegas. Below are the ATS record of all 12 returning SEC conference members when placed in the home underdog role since 2000. Before you even ask “did we win the game?” the obvious answer is if you didn’t cover as a home underdog you ended up with an L on your record. These numbers do include more than just conference games for those sides bold enough to challenge themselves in non-league affairs as well.
 
Auburn               7-3      70%
Arkansas           12-8     60%
Ole Miss            14-12   54%
Kentucky           19-20   49%
South Carolina  12-13   48%
Vanderbilt          19-23   45%
Miss St              18-23   44%
LSU                   3-4       43%
Alabama            4-6       40%
Tennessee         5-11     31%
Florida               0-3       0%
Georgia             0-3       0%
 
(Data is courtesy of Phil Steele’s annual college football previews)
 
The next logical question for the casual fan becomes what are the takeaways?  When we see only 3 teams with winning percentages above .500 as home dogs, my immediate reaction is the bookmaking profession over values home field when the big boys play the bottom feeders. Georgia and Florida have only been listed as underdogs in their own building 3 times each since 2000 and as far as the Gators are concerned, 2 of those 3 such instances happened just last year.  Combined the beasts of the east are 0-6, not exactly a ringing endorsement of how hostile a place either venue can be when the home teams bring inferior talent. This upcoming conference schedule should see Ole Miss and Kentucky listed as home dogs 3 times a piece while Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi St, and South Carolina should avoid catching points in their own building. Just make sure when you walk to the window in the heart of the conference schedule, you don’t become enamored with a home dog “just because” but rather you’ve done your homework.
 
Heisman Watch

There are very few things involving college football you can’t bet on legally in Vegas but the Heisman trophy remains virgin territory. I know the offshores hang prices but what fun would that be if we didn’t set our own OKTC numbers right here to gauge how the contenders stack up so far. It’s rare I let the media change my perspective on sports (or have any influence at all) but since they single handedly vote for the award, using their list of front runners is a reasonable place to start.
 
The Favorite: Geno Smith (West Virginia) 3-1
 
Normally WVU makes this list as the favorite to have the most flaming couches or coaches with drunken disorderly conduct so kudos to them for an on the field accomplishment. Through two games, Geno Smith’s 9 TD’s compared to 9 incompletions is an eye opening feat, even against defensive flyweights Marshall and JMU. Smith just passed Marc Bulger for sole ownership of the Mountaineer record for passing yards with nearly a full season to pad the record books. If your looking at it from Bulger’s perspective, I’d imagine it’s easier to have Geno break your college record than live in fear that Tyler Palko nearly broke into your family tree
 
Contenders
 
D’Anthony Thomas (Oregon): 5-1

 
This guy accomplishes more in a quarter than most of the nation does all game. Thomas only has 24 touches so far and 7 of them have gone to the house, by my math that’s a conversion rate far exceeding anything the Vols showed in the 2nd half against UF last week. His numbers are impressive regardless of the fact he’s busy beating up on the sisters of the poor. Of course this alone wont get you to New York so we should be thankful he’ll be able to prove it against elite defenses…oh wait it’s the Pac 12.  Oregon doesn’t play a team in which they’ll be less than a 17 pt favorite until November.
 
Jonathan Franklin (UCLA): 6-1

 
I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around a UCLA running back on this list. Yes, the Bruins are 3-0, yes the Bruins have a seemingly elite offense, and yes I’m having a hard time rationalizing this football program as something more than a tax exemption in Westwood. All I know is that until Coach Mora goes on a rant like his dad, I’m going to remember this guy as a terrible NFL head coach. By the way Bruins, I’m putting you guys on upset alert this week.
 
Matt Barkley (USC): 10-1

 
If Matt wants to get his season back on track, it might be time to jump into a hot tub with a few USC freshman coeds and make sure the photos go viral.  He does have 7 TD passes through 3 games but a trio of them came from inside 5 yards against Syracuse, not to mention his 20-41 performance against the Cardinal last week in triple revenge mode. I mean if we’re going to stage a Heisman campaign, let’s at least find a way to keep this team relevant past October.
 
Braxton Miller (Ohio State): 15-1
 
I have a hard time believing the nation will vote Braxton for Heisman. Not because he won’t be deserving but because no one wants to watch Ohio St play every Saturday and set the game back 20 years until Meyer upgrades his skill position guys. Urban will do big things in Columbus before he’s done yet a Heisman winner won’t be on his list of 2012 accomplishments.
 
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina): 15-1

 
The talent isn’t the question for the do everything back, instead it’s still his health. I just can’t see him getting back to 100% and putting up the numbers needed to get anyone on board with his candidacy this season. Besides, didn’t we already give enough Spurrier guys the hardware in Gainesville?
 
Aaron Murray (UGA): 15-1
 
Murray is my pick for top QB in the conference and to be honest that race isn’t very close right now. My major concern in Athens is that UGA won’t have enough eligible players to field a starting 22 by the time they head to Jacksonville for the game against the Gators, stats not suspensions win awards.
 
Work to do
 
Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)        22-1
Collin Klein (Kansas State)             22-1
Jarvis Jones (UGA)                         25-1
Stepfan Taylor (Stanford)                25-1
Marqise Lee (USC)                          25-1
Tajh Boyd (Clemson)                         30-1
Deandre Hopkins (Clemson)           40-1
Denard Robinson (Michigan)           40-1

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