Is universally recognized college football powerhouse Alabama actually “underrated” this season?
Believe it or not, the answer so far is very clearly YES! If you accept the premise that liquid betting markets establish how a team is “rated” in the collective consciousness of informed observers, then the Crimson Tide have been significantly underrated three games into the 2018 season.
Alabama Against the Point Spread
Alabama (-23) beat Louisville 51-14
Alabama (-36) beat Arkansas State 57-7
Alabama (-22) beat Ole Miss 62-7
Oddsmakers and bettors pegged Alabama as national championship favorites as soon as last season ended. No changes through a summer of available futures prices. Sure, other teams were considered as legitimate contenders. A few respected dark horses out there (though many have pulled up lame already). But, ‘Bama was at the top of the heap in betting odds, and in the Power Ratings that oddsmakers commonly use to make their opening game lines.
THEN, the Crimson Tide BEAT those expectations by 14, 14, and 33 points in their first three games. Or, in football terms…by two touchdowns, two touchdowns, and almost five touchdowns. The unanimous best team in the nation is playing at a level DOUBLE DIGITS HIGHER than initial lofty assessments.
Are there any skeletons in the closet? The most obvious one is that Alabama hasn’t stood toe-to-toe with any other national superpowers. It’s possible that this is just a case of a bully taking advantage of weak opposition. The problem with that line of thinking…Louisville is likely a generic ACC team rather than a small-college cupcake…and Ole Miss dominated Texas Tech of the Big 12 to open the season. Alabama is making Power 5 schools look like cupcakes, rather than playing cupcakes.
Also of note, only a little “home cooking” in there. Alabama-Louisville was played at a neutral site. The Tide blew out Ole Miss in Oxford.
Still plenty to be learned in the 2018 season. For now, analysts and bettors should be aware that Alabama currently looks to be head and shoulders above the field. Markets aren’t yet reflecting true talent levels.
That’s also true for the SEC as a whole. Against non-conference opponents, the SEC went 5-4 ATS last week (covers by Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, and Texas A&M; failures by Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky). That brings the full season mark to 23-10 against the spread.
Betting markets determine how teams are “rated.” Alabama and the SEC have clearly been underrated.