College football betting preview: SEC

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are the team previews for the SEC:

ALABAMA

The expectation in Tuscaloosa is the same as it always is — championship or bust. With potentially the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the 2023 NFL draft, Alabama is poised for another big year and a trip to the College Football Playoff. After falling to Georgia last year, the Tide will be extra motivated to take home the hardware.

Offense

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, has a bevy of four- and five-star players around him on offense, but there could be some growing pains. The top four pass catchers from last season are gone, including big-play threat Jameson Williams (79 receptions, 1,572 yards, 15 TDs) and John Metchie III (96 catches, 1,142, yards, 8 TDs), so the Tide have to replace 252 receptions and over 3,000 yards from that quartet.

That group includes running back Brian Robinson Jr., who moved to the NFL after 14 touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards. Fortunately, this is Alabama, which doesn’t retool, it reloads. RB Jahmyr Gibbs transferred in from Georgia Tech after averaging 5.4 yards per carry and WR Jermaine Burton joined the program after winning a national championship ring against the Tide.

Sophomores Ja’Corey Brooks (15 catches, 192 yards,  2 TDs) and JoJo Earle (12 catches, 148 yards) will join matchup nightmare TE Cameron Latu in catching passes from Young, who threw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns last season. First-round left tackle Evan Neal is gone, but Alabama will have a good offensive line and tons of talent once again.

Defense

A defensive player hasn’t won the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997, and he is the only one who ever played exclusively on defense. That means that the odds are long against Will Anderson, but he had 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss last season on an Alabama defense that allowed 20.1 points per game.

Alabama’s weekly margin of victory allows a lot of players to rotate in and out, so while the Tide return only seven starters on defense, plenty of the guys on the two-deep have game experience. The defensive line and the secondary are full of upperclassmen, including safeties DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle, who combined for six interceptions and 172 tackles.

The Tide racked up 57 sacks last season and return five of the seven players who had at least two sacks. Alabama did give up nearly 5.5 yards per play against ranked opponents, but this is another powerhouse defense that looks likely to improve.

Outlook

Alabama will be favored in every game this season but does go on the road to Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss in conference play and also has a trip to Texas to take on the new-look Longhorns under former Bama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. There are a lot of new faces on offense, specifically at the skill positions for Young to connect with, but somebody always emerges with a crop of talent this strong.

The Tide are heavily favored to win the West Division and the SEC and also have the shortest odds to win the national championship. At least two of those things appear very likely to happen and we’ll see how this team looks by December for a likely rematch with Georgia in Atlanta. My projections give Alabama 11.37 wins.

Pick: Over 10.5 (-265)

 

ARKANSAS

Nov. 20, 2021, felt like a coming-of-age night for the Razorbacks. They lost 42-35 to Alabama but gave the Crimson Tide everything they could handle in Tuscaloosa. A dominant effort against Penn State in the Outback Bowl was a good ending to a very successful season for Sam Pittman’s bunch. Now, it’s time to build on that.

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