The SEC is the king of college football, with Georgia and Alabama headlining the sport’s elite programs. Several others, like LSU, also have a place among the sport’s best teams.
In 2023, the SEC is once again expected to be the top league in the country. Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs are gunning for a third straight national title, something no FBS team has accomplished since Minnesota from 1934-36. Smart has addressed the possibility with his team, although they haven’t discussed the Golden Gophers much.
“We’ve certainly looked at some three-peat scenarios of teams like the [Chicago] Bulls and different sports teams that they might actually know about,” Smart said during SEC Media Days. “No offense to the Minnesota 1935 team, but I don’t know if it’s going to resonate with my audience.”
Georgia is the odds favorite to win the national championship this season across multiple mobile sportsbooks, including DraftKings (+215), BetMGM (+220) and FanDuel (+220). Alabama holds the second-shortest odds on multiple sports betting platforms, including Barstool Sportsbook (+600) and Caesars Sportsbook (+650).
LSU a top challenger
While there are some question marks facing Georgia and Alabama – each team will have a new starting quarterback in 2023 – it’s an annual expectation that those programs reload rather than rebuild. As for potential challengers, LSU leads the way.
Brian Kelly led the Tigers to 10 wins last season, and he returns starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, who is +110 to win the Heisman Trophy on BetRivers. Oliver Hogkinson, the lead college football analyst at College Football Network, views LSU as the team best positioned to challenge Georgia for the SEC crown.
“Jayden Daniels is the most exciting dual-threat QB in the nation, and no other QB had more 10+ yard rushes than the LSU standout last year,” Hogkinson said. “However, it’s his development as a passer throughout last year that can fill Tigers fans with confidence. His offensive line is strong, Malik Nabers gives him one of the most talented pass catchers in the nation, and the running game was bolstered with the transfer of former Notre Dame rusher Logan Diggs.”
Hodgkinson likes LSU’s defense as well, feeling confident in the entire roster. The Tigers are +450 to win the SEC on DraftKings, while Alabama is +300 and Georgia is -115. Tennessee and Texas A&M have +1400 odds to win the SEC, and no other SEC program has odds shorter than +4500.
With such short odds on Georgia to win the national title and SEC, Action Network’s Alex Kolodziej likes the idea of looking elsewhere in the national title futures market.
“Last year’s Georgia team closed +350 as preseason favorites,” Kolodziej said. “I wouldn’t be in a rush to take +210 around the market, in what’d be the shortest title favorite in college football history to win a championship.”
Betting on Carson Beck, Georgia’s projected starting quarterback, to win the Heisman Trophy might be a more intriguing play, based on Hodgkinson’s analysis. Beck is +2000 to win the honor on DraftKings.
“With the Heisman Trophy being a predominantly quarterback-driven award, it’s difficult to look past whoever leads Georgia to the SEC title as being a likely contender,” Hodgkinson said.
Can Texas A&M figure it out?
Texas A&M’s recruiting success hasn’t quite matched the on-field results. Top-tier recruiting classes generated hype that Jimbo Fisher could lead the Aggies to national titles. He hasn’t delivered on that goal – the Aggies haven’t won more than nine games in a season during his five-year tenure – but besting a win total of 7.5 or 8, depending on the sportsbook, is an achievable 2023 goal.
“Texas A&M has underwhelmed, but I’m a buyer at 7.5,” Kolodziej said. “Due to all the bad juju in College Station lately, you’d think Jimbo Fisher was a perennial .500 coach. Despite all the hiccups, he’s nabbed at least eight wins in four of five seasons. The Aggies’ win total last season was 8.5, and we’re down a full win in 2023. How is it warranted?”
Jimbo Fisher on getting back on track in 2023: pic.twitter.com/8bd0ABnkac
— TexAgs (@TexAgs) July 17, 2023
The Aggies’ nonconference schedule is soft – anything other than a 3-1 or 4-0 record would come as a major surprise – which means they might only need four conference victories to reach eight wins. Texas A&M has gone 4-4 or better in league play in four of Fisher’s five seasons with the program.
Kolodziej is optimistic about the potential of a team with maturing talent and a nice group of receivers to go over its projected win total.
“Jimbo’s off his worst year ever,” Kolodziej said. “He’s behind the eight ball in his trajectory, and that’ll make it difficult to fulfill the fan base’s expectations. But if you’re asking for eight wins? That’s absolutely in Fisher’s wheelhouse.”
The Aggies join others unlikely to win the conference, however, as it’ll be an uphill climb for any team outside of Georgia, Alabama, or LSU to do so in 2023. Finding betting edges may come down to bettors taking week-by-week picks or looking at team win totals rather than wagering on SEC title futures.