2015 SEC Championship odds released: Bama the favorite yet again
Despite a new season with new faces on the field, the first gambling projections of the year have the Alabama Crimson Tide favored to win the league title once again at 5/2, according to Saturday Down South.
The defending SEC champions have many questions this season, including a yet to be named new starting quarterback, several defensive staff changes, road games at Georgia, at Mississippi State and at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Despite all this, the talent on the roster and the faith in Nick Saban's coaching are reasons enough for the Tide to enter the season as favorites to win the league and return to the College Football Playoff in 2015.
The Auburn Tigers have the next best odds at 15/4. They too face a change at quarterback and a total overhaul on defense with the hiring of Will Muschamp and a flurry of defections to the NFL and transfer following the end of the 2014 season. There's also a late four-game stretch that includes a trip to Arkansas, Ole Miss, at Texas A&M then back on the Plains to face Georgia. Good luck with that.
Georgia has the third best odds at 5/1. Believe it or not, they too face a quarterback competition heading into the summer while also undergoing a transition to new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. If the Bulldogs cruise through the East, as expected, this could be a good bet as the team should be facing whichever West team survived the West gauntlet.
The LSU Tigers come in next at 8/1. The Tigers have issues on both sides of the ball as their offense outside of Leonard Fournette was inconsistent at best last season and they lose perhaps the game's best defensive coordinator to Texas A&M. Traveling to Mississippi State in week two followed by a home game against Auburn should make or break LSU's conference chances early in 2015.
Ole Miss clocks in at 8/1 as well. If the Rebels can find a consistent running game to help out the quarterback, this team can beat the odds and win the league behind one of the most talented rosters in all the nation. Expect the Landsharks to once again carry this team deep into title contention.
The Tennessee Volunteers are also at 8/1 and have the second best odds to win the East. Can Butch Jones and his young team finally consistently win in league play? The team appeared to turn a corner late last season and have just as much starting talent as any team on the schedule outside of Alabama.
Perhaps the leagues hottest team, the Arkansas Razorbacks open at 10/1 odds. Can they carry-over the momentum from the end of 2014, or has the summer cooled them off? Expect the Hogs to open at 3-0 before entering league play against A&M in Dallas.
The often-ignored Missouri Tigers open at 12/1 odds. The back-to-back defending East Champions have proven they won't beat themselves in league play, as they only have two regular season SEC losses the past two seasons. Pick against the Tigers at your own risk.
Mississippi State opens as 12/1 odds as well. The Bulldogs possess the league's best quarterback and won 10 games last season, but still the odds makers don't believe in the upstart team. Will Dan Mullen prove that his program has been built to win consistently on an annual basis?
The Texas A&M Aggies open at 15/1. The Aggies opened last season like world-beaters, rising as high as number six in the polls before crashing down to earth. With John Chavis now on board to run the defense, A&M may prove to be the best value pick in the entire league, as the Aggies issues have always been stopping opponents since joining the SEC. If Kevin Sumlin can fix the running game, watch out for the Aggies.
Florida Gators open at 18/1 odds. Following the debacle that was the Will Muschamp era, Jim McElwain is left to pick up the pieces. While he is having a great deal of success on the recruiting trail, his offense may take a season or two to get rolling up to his standards. Odds makers don't see the Gators contending this season.
The South Carolina Gamecocks take a mighty fall, open at 25/1. This time a year ago, the debate between Georgia or South Carolina raged all offseason. It wasn't until South Carolina was jumped on by A&M in the opener did people jump off their bandwagon. Don't be surprised if the Gamecocks jump back up the East ranks this season.
The Kentucky Wildcats open at 75/1 odds. If Stoops can't get his team to a bowl game a year after receiving an extension, could his job really be in jeopardy? If the Wildcat faithful want their team built the right way, Stoops should be given more time considering the talent he inherited. A bowl game would be nice, but it shouldn't be the end all in year three of the Stoops era.
Finally the Vanderbilt Commodores open at 100/1 odds. Not much hope for the Commodores at this point, however things can't get much worse than they were a year ago when they went 3-9, which included a three-point win over UMass and one-point victory over Charleston Southern.
(h/t Saturday Down South)