WHY AUBURN OFFERS FUTURES VALUE
Las Vegas is not exactly all aboard the Auburn bandwagon as the 2016 college football season draws near. The Tigers have an Over/Under for wins at 6.5 that's priced evenly at (-110) either way. That means simply playing .500 ball in the 12-game regular season and grabbing a win in a minor bowl game. It's a year that would be considered a disappointment in Auburn - the Tigers have won more than they have lost in 14 of the last 16 seasons--yet a bettor could still cash an Over ticket. Is something being missed here?
Let's begin by understanding where the market is coming from. The above scenario - 6-6 and a bowl victory is exactly what the Tigers did last year, and if you think 2016 is going to be more of the same, then a 6.5 number sounds right. Head coach Gus Malzahn has to replace 14 starters, so there's going to be new faces. The quarterback situation is uncertain to say the least. The defense ranked 81st in the country last year defending the run and that's no way to win a division that includes Alabama and LSU. There's only four games on the schedule you can really pencil in as a W (home dates with Arkansas State, UL-Monroe, Vanderbilt and Alabama A&M).
But there's a flip side to the coin that looks even stronger. All those new starters is a good place to start. Over the last four years, Malzahn's recruiting classes have ranked in the Top 10 nationally every single time. That covers all the players on the roster currently looking to step into jobs. We can say with confidence that the Auburn coach will be picking from talented players to step in.
The experience that is on hand is where it matters most - up front. Auburn returns three offensive line starters and three of four on the defensive front. Another year of physical maturity could be exactly what this front needs to improve that rush defense performance and to get the running game on offense back into the national elite.
And while there's only four wins you can circle right now, there's only one spot you can really cross off and that's the Iron Bowl at Alabama on November 26. Even allowing that Over bettors don't want to count on home wins over Clemson or LSU, that still leaves Auburn at 4-3 before we dive into the rest of the schedule. Is it somehow unthinkable that the Tigers go 3-2 in the following games: Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at Georgia?
Even 2-3 gets Auburn to six wins and a shot at picking up that seventh victory in a bowl game. The SEC is always a good bet in bowls at any level and a 6-6 team is going to draw a very manageable opponent - as the Tigers did last year when they handled Memphis 31-10.
Auburn has generally played its best football when expectations have been down - witness that 2013 run to within a play of the national championship when they came out of nowhere. The Tigers have had problems when the public expects something from them, as has been the case each of the last two years. The result has been a 15-11 record in that timeframe.
But even that would still be good enough to beat the Over/Under in 2016 and expectations are down. Maybe that means we should really set our sights on that 18-1 price tag to win the SEC title.
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