Ready to bet the first week of SEC football? Here are some early thoughts

Though the 2019 college football season is still several weeks away, point spreads for season openers have settled at sports books across the country. As always, the Southeastern Conference will be front and center on the late August TV schedule. Let’s see what’s been happening this summer in the SEC.

Before we run through the lines, a quick reminder that books offer smaller limits this far in advance. They don’t want to be caught flat-footed when news about injuries or suspensions (which are often served in season openers) change game expectations. Such uncertainty means all of these point spreads are subject to move by kickoff.

SEC teams are listed first…

*Florida -6.5 at Miami (Saturday August 24, ESPN, 6 p.m.)

The first official major matchup of the new season begins a week early for bettors anxious to get into action. Florida has been as high as -7.5 at some sports books in this neutral-site battle in Orlando. Sharps are taking Miami of the ACC at that price, and at +7. The lack of home field tells you right away that a market composite believes the Gators are about a touchdown better than the Hurricanes in overall team quality entering the new season. (Home field advantage is generally work about 3-4 points in college football.)

The first full week begins Thursday August 29. The only SEC team on the main board that evening is Texas A&M, a pricey 34.5-point favorite over Texas State (SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.).

That’s one of a few “paycheck” games where visitors are huge underdogs to SEC hosts. We’ll save some room by listing such Saturday meetings here: Tennessee is -25 at Georgia State (ESPNU, 2:30 p.m.), LSU -26 vs. Georgia Southern (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m.).

Now to Saturday showcases on August 31, listed in Nevada rotation order…

*Kentucky -12 vs. Toledo (SEC Network, 11 a.m.)

Somehow Kentucky managed to go 10-3 last season while losing money against the spread. Lines adjusted quickly after Kentucky took out Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina in September. The Wildcats opened here as a double-digit home favorite. Sharp dog money brought the opener of -13.5 down a smidge.

*Mississippi State -22.5 at Louisiana Lafayette (ESPNU, 11 a.m.)

To be played in the Superdome in New Orleans, giving bettors another “neutral site” read on the market. Bulldogs are a prohibitive favorite.

*Ole Miss +6.5 at Memphis (ABC, 11 a.m.)

A network spot for the Rebels! Ole Miss is the only SEC underdog in a non-conference opening-week matchup. Good early test for new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, and new defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. Not much early betting interest in either game involving the SEC Mississippi schools.

*South Carolina -7 at North Carolina (ESPN, 2:30 p.m.)

A border battle (played at the Carolina Panthers’ home stadium in Charlotte) kicks off the mid-afternoon slate. Don’t forget that Mack Brown came out of retirement to coach the Tar Heels this season. This ACC underdog is getting sharp interest at stores showing +7.5.

*Alabama -33 vs. Duke (ABC, 2:30 p.m.)

To be played at ‘Bama’s dome away from home in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide would be sizable neutral-field favorites over most of the nation. Early feeler lines of Alabama -30 or -31 were deemed too low in their traditional message-sending TV opener.

*Georgia -20.5 at Vanderbilt (SEC Network, 6:30 p.m.)

The only league game in the first week will be in Nashville. Openers of -19 or -19.5 were driven higher. Vanderbilt’s inexperienced defense will probably be bullied by quality this season.

*Missouri -14.5 at Wyoming (CBS Sports, 6:30 p.m.)

Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant joins a Missouri team that closed the 2018 season on a nice run (including November wins over Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas by a combined 126-34 score). Sharps pushed the opening line of -14 above the key number, a sign of respect for a road favorite at an awkward site.

*Auburn -2.5 vs. Oregon (ABC, 6:30 p.m.)

A big drop here from an opener of Auburn -6 or -6.5. There’s a lot of respected skepticism about Auburn’s offense as a new quarterback will take over a passing unit that could only rank #75 last season with Jarrett Stidham. This will be played at the Dallas Cowboys home stadium in Arlington, TX. It’s telling that sharps didn’t drive this low line back toward the key number of three on a neutral field. Pro bettors are down on Auburn!

VSiN will continue updating offseason market developments in the SEC as we build toward the 2019 campaign. Saturday, we’ll see what’s been going on with the New Orleans Saints and the NFC South.