2022 SEC Preview – Sconi Bets

West Division

Alabama Crimson Tide

Win Total: 10.5 | West: -600 | SEC Championship: -125 | National Championship: +200

Alabama once again enters the season as the favorite to win the National Championship because of the return of Heisman winner Bryce Young. Young will have new faces at the skill positions with the departure of his two leading receivers and his leading running back. However, the Crimson Tide have just retooled through the transfers portal by bringing in Jermaine Burton from Georgia and Tyler Harrell from Louisville. The big score though was Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech who will become the next great Alabama running back this season. The only question mark is the offensive line, but with four returning starters from last year they should return to being one of the best.

Just like the offense, the defense returns the best player in the country, Will Anderson, who led the country in sacks last season and should garner significant Heisman buzz for himself throughout the season. The Crimson Tide defense finished in the top-40 in all Five Factors last year. Usually Alabama loses everyone to the NFL, but this team is different and instead returns 75% of last year’s production.

The Tide will be favored by double digits in all 12 of their games this season. It’s tough to envision Alabama losing one game all season, let alone two games, to go under this win total. But putting money down on a six month bet at -300 just feels flat out wrong. The best way to get value out of this team is probably through an SEC Championship bet since they’ll most likely be around a -200 favorite against Georgia in the Championship game but even that is not all that enticing. Even though they’re the best team in the country, it’s hard to invest in this team’s futures at such low numbers when they are one Bryce Young injury away from the wheels falling off.

Pick: None, but could be intrigued by an SEC Championship play around even money

Texas A&M Aggies

Win Total: 8.5 | West: +700 | SEC Championship: +1800 | National Championship: +200

Texas A&M’s offseason was surrounded by controversy due to the feud between head coach Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban. However, the Aggies are bringing in the #1 recruiting class in the country this year that’s chock full of 5-star recruits. There are still uncertainties all over the roster starting with a three-way quarterback battle that has still not been decided. The Aggies lost running back Isaiah Spiller to the NFL after he rushed for over 3,000 yards in his career and their two leading receivers. All the 5-star recruits Fisher brought in will be thrown into the fire early and have to produce for this offense.

This Aggie defense finished in the top-25 in all Five Factors last season, and was one of the best in the country at limiting opposing offenses. However, they return only 52% of last year’s production and lost all four starting defensive linemen. Just like the offense, all eyes will be on the freshmen 5-stars. Texas A&M brought in four 5-star defensive linemen that will all be forced into action early. If they live up to their rankings this defense could eventually be very good but it may take some time.

Texas A&M will be a favorite of more than a touchdown in only seven of their games this year. However, their schedule is littered with difficult games throughout, and only three home SEC games will make it difficult. I think 8.5 is a pretty accurate win total and all of the uncertainty and variability with the freshmen make this impossible to project an outcome for the Aggies. The one benefit of all these young kids playing early in their career will be the experience they gain for next year. I’m looking to back this team next year in the SEC and the Playoffs with Alabama losing so much after this season.

Pick: None

Ole Miss Rebels

Win Total: 8 | West: +2000 | SEC Championship: +5000

Lane Kiffin has turned Ole Miss into “Transfer U” and has brought in the top transfer class for 2022 which is headlined by new quarterback Jaxson Dart and running back Zach Evans. However, Dart has big shoes to fill after Matt Corral left for the NFL. Kiffin has come out and said some pretty negative things about Dart’s performance this fall and does not believe that Dart has picked up the offense well at all. Even though Kiffin is an excellent offensive coach, if he and Dart are not on the same page there could be some rough patches throughout the season.

The defense at times was stout last season and finished 13th in Explosiveness and 44th in Finishing Drives. They also return 68% of last year’s production with a bevy of transfers coming in to help as well. It is tough to imagine what this defense will be with all the new faces, but they should once again be middle of the pack in the SEC.

The schedule for Ole Miss is a tale of two halves. The Rebels should start the season 5-1 with four incredibly easy non-conference games and a matchup against Vanderbilt. However, after that Vanderbilt game they must play the other six teams in the SEC West with four of them on the road. With two losses against Alabama and Texas A&M in that stretch, they would have to win each of the other four coin flip games to get to 9 wins and go over this win total. I do not think this is going to happen. Going from Corral to Dart will be a big step backwards, and this offense is going to struggle in 2022. Eight wins seems like their ceiling.

Pick: Ole Miss under 8 wins (-110) 

Arkansas Razorbacks

Win Total: 7.5 | West: +2200 | SEC Championship: +6000

Sam Pittman and the Arkansas offense is known for its smash mouth running attack and that will stay the same in 2022. KJ Jefferson is back at quarterback and not only is he one of the most efficient QBs in the SEC, he is also the best running QB as well. The Razorbacks finished 20th in Success Rate and 24th in Explosiveness on the ground. Jefferson and a whole platoon of running backs will again run wild next year behind one of the best offensive lines in the country that returns four starters from last year’s unit. While they did lose Treylon Burks to the NFL, they brought in former 5-star recruit and Oklahoma standout Jadon Haselwood to replace him.

Barry Odom is one of the best defensive minds in the game and his new unique defense has greatly improved Arkansas on that side of the ball the last two seasons. The defense keeps everything in front of them and limits touchdowns. Last year the Razorbacks finished 11th in Finishing Drives, 35th in Success Rate, and 40th in Explosiveness. The star of the defense is All-American Jalon Catalon who is the best safety in the country.

If you can’t tell, I love this team. The only problem is they have one of the most difficult schedules in the country with non-conference games against Cincinnati and a very good BYU team. They’ll be favored by more than a touchdown in five games this season and a short favorite in four others. I think their physical play style will give them an edge over the other SEC teams that are in rebuilding years such as A&M, Ole Miss, and LSU. I think the Razorbacks beat up on the rest of this division and finish 2nd in the West this year.

Pick: Arkansas over 7.5 wins (+130)

LSU Tigers

Win Total: 7.5 | West: +3000 | SEC Championship: +7000

LSU enters 2022 with a lot of turnover surrounding the team as Brian Kelly takes over as head coach. There is also an ongoing quarterback competition as well with only a little over a week until the season starts. All-American Kayshon Boutte returns at wide receiver and should be in for a great season. The issue for the Tigers is the offensive line who lost three starters from last year and will most likely lean on freshmen to fill those positions. There are some other transfers at running back but the offense will not be great.

The defense struggled last year with discipline and tackling and finished outside the top-50 in all Five Factors. This problem will be magnified coming into 2022 because the defense lost five starters to the NFL and All-American Eli Ricks to the transfer portal. While they brought in a lot of their own talent via the portal, it will take some time for them to mesh with the new coaches and schemes.

Just like Ole Miss, LSU brought in one of the best transfer classes in the entire country and lots of transfers means lots of uncertainty. There are only three free wins on this schedule and are all found in the non-conference for the Tigers. Outside of the game against Alabama which should be a loss, the other eight games will all be within a touchdown either way. LSU would have to go 5-3 in those games to go over their win total with five of them on the road. I think Brian Kelly is going to restore LSU to being a perennial contender but it isn’t going to start this year.

Pick: LSU under 7.5 wins (-140)

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Win Total: 6.5 | West: +5000 | SEC Championship: +12000

Mississippi State was one of the unluckiest teams last season. The Bulldogs finished the season 7-5, but those five losses do not tell the whole story. Throwing out the Alabama loss, Mississippi State outgained their opponent in each of the other four losses, and in three of those games they lost by three points or less and had a special teams play that completely shifted the game. The Bulldogs were legitimately three plays away from being 10-2, but that just goes to show how close the margins are in the SEC West.

This Air Raid offense led by head coach Mike Leach and quarterback Will Rogers took a major step forward last year and finished 4th in Success Rate. Historically, Leach has been very good with a third-year quarterback like Rogers, each of the last two times this has happened Leach’s team has won 9 games. The Bulldogs also return 80% on offense including their two leading running backs and three of their four leading receivers. The only question mark is the line after losing both tackles, but a top transfer came in, and the beauty of quick passing is that the line does not have to block for too long.

The defense struggled at times last year but they finished the season 39th in Success Rate. The biggest thing for this defense is that they return over 91% of last year’s production. The Bulldogs return their entire front seven and will be deep and experienced in the trenches. The secondary was the issue, but two Power 5 transfers come in to help add talent and depth to this unit.

Besides the high powered offense, I also love Mississippi State’s schedule. They’ll be two touchdown favorites in all four of their non-conference games and should easily win each of them. They unfortunately draw Georgia from the other side and have to play Alabama, but they will either be favored or a pick in the other six SEC games. With very winnable games at home, and teams like LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss in a bit of down years, Mississippi State’s offense should get them three conference wins.

Pick: Mississippi State over 6.5 wins (-140)

East Division

Georgia Bulldogs

Win Total: 10.5 | East: -550 | SEC Championship: +155 | National Championship: +400

Stetson Bennett returns as quarterback for the defending national champions as they look to become the first team in the playoff era to defend their crown. However, there is a lot of turnover on offense around Bennett. The Bulldogs lose their top two running backs and also their top two receivers. The offensive line must also replace both starting guards from last season. The one position group that remains consistent is the tight ends. Brock Bowers is the best tight end in the country and will be the focal point of the offense early in the season.

Georgia had a record five defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL draft in April, including seven total in the first three rounds. It’s no secret that this was not only the best defense in the country last year, but arguably the best defense of the last 25 years and finished top-20 in all Five Factors. While there are undoubtedly holes to fill on this side of the ball, they still returned five very important pieces from last year’s defense including preseason All-American Jalen Carter. There will be a dip from the historic levels from last year, but the defense will still be one of the best with all the 5-star recruits waiting to step up.

While most of the country is focusing on Alabama and Ohio State, Georgia has flown under the radar a bit which is surprising because S/P+ actually projects Georgia as the most likely team to finish the season undefeated due to their joke of a schedule. They avoid four of the top teams from the West in crossover play. The Bulldogs will be favored by double digits in all 12 of their games this season, and only have to play four true road games. There is no way this team loses two games, but just like Alabama I can’t lay -250 on a six month bet. I think they probably head back to the SEC Championship game, and potentially the CFB Playoff, but there is just no value on these futures.

Pick: None

Florida Gators

Win Total: 7 | East: +1000 | SEC Championship: +4500 | National Championship: +9000

Florida brought in new head Coach Billy Napier to revitalize this program. Anthony Richardson will take over full time at quarterback and his dual-threat ability will serve well in Napier’s spread option attack. However, the Gators lose their top two running backs from last season and their top two receivers as well. The offensive line was a strength of the team and quietly finished as one of the best units in the country.

The defense has struggled over the last few seasons due to a combination of discipline and coaching. They were middle of the pack in all Five Factors and only return 58% of last year’s production. New faces and a new scheme always leads to some uncertainty and growing pains and I think this Gators defense will struggle at first.

Billy Napier was an excellent hire and will get this program turned around sooner rather than later, but it may be difficult right away. The Gators are favored by more than a touchdown in only five games this season. Florida will be in a lot of close games this year and could easily start the season 0-2. With all the turnover, and the tough schedule, I do not really see a path for Florida to get to eight wins.

Pick: Florida under 7 wins (+110)

Tennessee Volunteers

Win Total: 7.5 | East: +1100 | SEC Championship: +5000 | National Championship: +10000

Tennessee sports one of the best offenses in the country and finished 14th in Success Rate, 29th in Havoc and 31st in Finishing Drives. The combination of head coach Josh Heupel and quarterback Hendon Hooker will keep this offense humming in 2022. Hooker threw for 3000 yards, 31 touchdowns, and had the 3rd best QB Rating in the country in only eleven games last year as the starter. The Vols also return over 80% of last year’s production surrounding Hooker.

This defense is a tough one to look at as they finished outside the top-100 in Explosiveness and Finishing Drives and also had one of the worst third down defenses in the entire country. However, there were some bright spots. They were top-30 in most categories on standard downs (mostly first and second) and were pretty good against the run. With 60% of last year’s production returning, the Vols should take a step forward and improve in 2022.

The good thing for Tennessee is that the schedule sets up nicely for them. They do get both Alabama and Georgia so we can chock those up as losses, but after that they will be favored in nine of the remaining 10 games with the last game being a coin flip against what I think is a bad Pittsburgh team. If the defense can just take a marginal step forward on third down their offense will be able to easily carry them to eight wins. I think they might be able to win the East, but having to go to Georgia makes that really tough.

Pick: Tennessee over 7.5 wins (-165)

Kentucky Wildcats

Win Total: 8 | East: +1200 | SEC Championship: +5500 | National Championship: +12000

Last season was a resurgence for the Wildcats and they finished 10-3. Tiktok sensation Will Levis is back at quarterback, but he lost his favorite weapon, Wan’Dale Robinson, to the NFL. As a dual-threat quarterback Levis was fantastic last season and the Wildcats finished 3rd in Finishing Drives and 7th in Success Rate. Robinson’s departure is a big loss as no player in the SEC was responsible for more of their team’s success and explosiveness than Robinson was last year for the Wildcats. Kentucky also has to replace 3 starting linemen from last year’s team. Add in starting running back Chris Rodriguez’s impending suspension and this team will be going through major turnover on offense.

The Wildcat defense last year was hit or miss. They were awful against the pass but finished as one of the best rush defenses in the country and held opposing offenses to only 21 points per game. They also return 80% of last year’s production and should again be pretty good on the defensive side of the ball.

Kentucky could very easily start the season 6-0 with three easy non-conference games and three SEC games against down teams in Florida, Ole Miss, and South Carolina. However, the back half of their schedule gets much tougher. With free wins against Missouri and Vanderbilt I think this team probably gets to eight games. The biggest question is how this offense will fare with the loss of Robinson and an extended absence from Rodriguez. There are too many question marks offensively to make a play, but the ceiling is high in Lexington.

Pick: None

South Carolina Gamecocks

Win Total: 6 | East: +4000 | SEC Championship: +15000

We can’t look at South Carolina’s offensive numbers from last season because they were starting graduate assistants at quarterback. The excitement is high though as they bring in former Heisman contender Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma to take over the offense. While Rattler is an improvement, he still lost his job last year for a reason and struggles with accuracy and turnovers. Rattler will also have to throw the ball to three transfers who will be fighting for playing time all season. The biggest issue is still the offensive line which finished as one of the worst in the Power 5.

While the offense struggled last year, the defense was surprisingly solid. However, the Gamecocks only return 46% of last year’s production and will have to replace their only two All-SEC performers. The defensive line will be the strength of this team with an NC State transfer and two highly touted 5-star recruits. The defense will be young and inexperienced after a good season last year.

South Carolina will only be favored by more than a field goal in four games this season with three of their non-conference games and at Vanderbilt. In order to go over this win total they will have to take care of business against Missouri in a coin flip game and then also pull two pretty significant upsets along the way. Also, the Gamecocks have to play Arkansas and Georgia, the two most physical teams in the SEC, in weeks 2 and 3 and could be beat up heading into the meat of their season. I just do not have that much faith in Spencer Rattler and think their ceiling is six wins, so I’ll take the under at plus money.

Pick: South Carolina under 6 wins (+135)

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Author: Arthur Smith