Legge's Thoughts: Betters Like UGA to Play in SEC Championship Game

March 16, 2020

ATHENS - If early betting lines are accurate, UGA will play for the SEC title for the fourth season in a row. 

The Bulldogs, if those lines are correct, will likely have a rematch with LSU in Atlanta for the conference title. The Tigers are a one-point favorite to beat Alabama at home this fall. They are also considered two-point underdogs to the Gators in Gainesville.

Betting lines, which were provided by Mt. Airy casino through Fox Bet, are much more compact than we have seen in the past in the SEC - suggesting that the race for the league title might be as competitive as ever this fall. 

A look at lines for games with SEC teams:

Out-of-conference games

Alabama -13.5 vs. USC
Texas +6.5 at LSU
Tennessee +7 at Oklahoma
Arkansas +16.5 at Norte Dame
Ole Miss +1 vs. Baylor
Kentucky -1.5 at Louisville

SEC East games:

UGA -2 vs. Gators

SEC West games:

Alabama +1 at LSU
Texas A&M +3.5 at Auburn
Texas A&M +9.5 at Alabama
LSU PK at Auburn
LSU -1 at Texas A&M

Interdivision SEC games:

UGA +4.5 at Alabama
LSU +2 at Florida
Auburn +3.5 at UGA

A few thoughts on this: Fox Bet likes LSU more than other folks do. The Tigers are listed at +750 (about 11.76% chance) to win the national title by Fox Bet. That’s notably higher than elsewhere (about 3.23%) - or considered by this book to be “about” four times more likely to win it than by other books. The book gives LSU about a 44% chance to win the SEC in 2020, which seems very high considering LSU is the No. 5 bet elsewhere to win it all. Those two numbers don’t match up. 

I’m not surprised to see UGA favored over the Gators. I am not surprised to see UGA as an underdog at Alabama. I am a little surprised by both numbers. I thought UGA would be a 3-to-4-point favorite over the Gators and more like a 6-point dog at Alabama. 

Again, the Fox Bet numbers (across the board) seem a little off to me. That LSU is listed as a favorite over Alabama is hard for me to wrap my head around (even though it is on the road). Then again, books were way off last year on that game (LSU was listed as a five-point dog at Alabama and won the game by five). The biggest thing going for LSU last year, Joe Burrow, is gone, and he was like magic last year. 

If you want to hedge against LSU, this book is the place to do it. Fox Bet seems to have way overpriced in LSU’s power coming into 2020. If you like LSU a ton you will get better value elsewhere.  

The probability that UGA will win the national title, according to Fox Bet, is at 9%, which is lower than most markets that have the Bulldogs at 12.5%. The Gators are listed at about a 4.76% on Fox Bet… other books have the Gators listed at 5.88% to win it all. Niether of those margins is something to get overly concerned about.

There are a slew of national games that have been listed as well. The one that is most eyeopening is the Clemson-Notre Dame line. The Tigers have not been challenged in the regular season for some time. They are only considered a 3.5-point favorite on the road at Notre Dame. 

A look at lines for national games:

Clemson -3.5 at Notre Dame
Texas +4.5 vs. Oklahoma 
Ohio State -1.5 at Penn State
Michigan +1 at Washington
USC +4 at Oregon
Michigan +8.5 at Ohio State
Penn State -1.5 at Michigan
Notre Dame +3 vs. Wisconsin
Ohio State -2.5 at Oregon

Couple of thoughts on these national lines: 

These are tight lines. That Ohio State isn’t much more than a coin flip favorite over Penn State and Oregon makes it seem that Ohio State is not as heavy a favorite as one might think to win it all. The Buckeyes are listed in many places as the the second-best bet to win it all. But they clearly have some major hurdles in their way to an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Oregon and Penn State are both games the Buckeyes could lose, and losing both would likley knock them out of the title race. 

Again, the Clemson-Notre Dame line jumps out because Clemson has not had a single-digit line in a regular season game since before 2017. That is an amazing statement on what betters think of Clemson’s schedule in the regular season over the last few years. It also speaks to the fact that Clemson could lose at Notre Dame, but as a 3.5-point favorite they stand a 61% chance to beat the Irish on the road this November if that line holds. It seems a touch low to me. 

Notre Dame simply doesn’t have the athletes Clemson does.

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