SEC: Will Auburn or be burned in title hunt?

Jul 19, 2005 1:26 AM

From a betting standpoint, the major story in the Southeastern Conference outside Steve Spurrier involves the Auburn Tigers.

You remember Auburn — the 13-0 team stiffed by the BCS in favor of Oklahoma-USC. Well, the Tigers have plummeted to 70-1 in the latest Caesars Palace national championship odds list. Yes, that’s what the sheet says.

Why the Roman Empire fall? Well, try replacing first round NFL draft picks in QB Jason Campbell and RB tandem Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. Brown and Williams were taken in the first five overall selections.

A daunting task, to say the least, for Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. However, Tuberville’s stellar 51-24 straight up record in six years on the Plains suggests "War Eagle" will be shouted with regularity again.

Until the first football is booted in early September, Auburn is not the best team on paper in the SEC. That honor belongs to Spurrier’s former team, the Florida Gators, at 10-1 odds in the first year of "Urban Renewal."

Sadly for the Mountain West Conference, unbeaten Utah lost its savior Urban Meyer to the big bucks and elite status that Florida and the SEC carry nationally. It will be up to Meyer to deliver the goods in Gainesville and he should have a very nice debut year with freshman phenom QB Chris Leak now a junior.

Just behind Florida at Caesars and the SEC East is Tennessee at 15-1. The Vols are also loaded and ready for the Sept. 17 showdown with the Gators in Gainesville. Last year, Tennessee won 30-28 as a two-point home favorite.

For sheer drama, the league’s top game will be Nov. 12 when Florida visits South Carolina in the inaugural Spurrier Bowl. The Gamecocks paid plenty for Steve, but he didn’t count on all the NCAA violation baggage Lou Holtz left behind in Columbia.

LSU, Alabama and Georgia are again expected to be solid contenders for the SEC title. We like Bama (28-1) to be the sleeper and perhaps getting through the Western Division into the SEC title game.

As for the rest we will let Vandy and Kentucky battle for the SEC worst. The others fall somewhere in between. Watch for Vandy, 5-5 ATS off a 2-9 SU regular season. You can bet on seeing plenty of inviting underdog lines.

Next week: C-USA.