By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
The Alabama Crimson Tide were supposed to be rebuilding last season. Keywords being supposed to be.
After losing Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain, DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood, Najee Harris, Landon Dickerson and Christian Barmore to the 2021 NFL Draft, it would’ve been more than fair to expect growing pains for a Nick Saban-led team that was clearly in transition.
But Alabama exceeded expectations by rolling to an 11-1 regular-season record and smothering Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl before eventually losing to Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship.
This year, the Tide are the odds-on favorites to win it all thanks to an absolutely loaded list of returning starters and a strong incoming class of recruits and transfers. Riddle me this, who wants to lock horns with a Saban squad licking its wounds?
CFB Playoff title odds at FOX Bet:
“They’re the shortest preseason favorite I’ve ever seen to win it all,” WynnBET vice president of trading Alan Berg told FOX Sports. “And they still lead our ticket count. It just doesn’t matter what number you hang on Alabama; the public bets them as much as any other team on the board.
“We have higher liabilities on teams like Colorado, Navy and San Diego State, but when it comes to pure ticket count, we’re loaded on Alabama.”
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young returns at quarterback with an upperclassmen-led offensive line and thoroughly loaded playmaker room. And, in case you didn’t know, Alabama arguably boasts the best defense in the country.
In fact, multiple Las Vegas oddsmakers told FOX Sports that Alabama is their highest-power rated team of all-time heading into a new season. Sheesh.
“It’ll be pretty hard for Alabama to miss the College Football Playoff,” Berg stated. “You might be able to get the Tide to stumble once during the regular season, or maybe they go undefeated and lose in the SEC Championship. But they would still be in the playoff in the second scenario.
“To be honest, the national championship is kind of a boring market. It’s not as fun as something like the Super Bowl market, where there are eight or nine teams that could win it all. In college football, there are probably only three.
“We don’t lose much to an Alabama national title because we opened the price real low from the get-go. But the public will keep betting them all season, and the liability will grow and grow. And we’ll keep moving the number down when they get to 5-0, 6-0 and so on.”
As for regular-season win totals, Berg’s traders have a few teams circled on the sheet.
“LSU ‘Over’ 6 [regular season wins] was very popular with our players, so we moved that out to 6.5,” Berg reported. “We wrote a lot of Colorado ‘Over’ 3.5 and Syracuse ‘Under’ 4.5, too.
“We’ll also be rooting against Alabama ‘Over’ 11.5 and Georgia ‘Over’ 11.5.”
On the other end of the spectrum, it always makes me chuckle when teams have insanely low win totals. You wouldn’t think there would be much betting interest on teams expected to win just a couple of games. But that hasn’t stopped WynnBET players from firing on one SEC school.
“We actually need Vanderbilt ‘Under’ 1.5 and 2 quite a bit,” Berg said. “I guess some people just love to watch miserable football teams. It’s a roller coaster watching teams like that on a week-to-week basis.
“The Commodores will be favored in two games. They could beat Hawaii and Elon in the first two weeks and realistically lose every game the rest of the way. But good luck getting there if Hawaii pulls an upset in the opener.”
Speaking of that opener, the first late-night Hawaii special is set for Saturday when the Rainbow Warriors host Vanderbilt (-8 at FOX Bet) at 10:30 pm ET. There isn’t much action yet, but that will certainly change on gameday.
“We always joke that it’s the ‘get it back’ game,” Berg cracked. “It’s always funny because it’s the night’s last game, and the action isn’t too crazy earlier in the morning. Then it just builds and builds as Saturday winds down.
“And then you get that one bet from a guy who has been getting annihilated all day. You just know he went way too high on the Hawaii game to get back to square one.
“That’s not a place you want to be.”
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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