October 23, 2021

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The Education Specialists

2021 SEC championship odds, picks: Alabama opens as the favorite, but Georgia is your best bet

The calendar has flipped to June, which means that college football is just around the corner. Of course, in the SEC, it never really stops. Alabama, the defending national champions, fended off a late-game push from Florida to win the SEC Championship Game and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff last year. It once again enters a new season as the favorite to repeat.

There have been three different SEC champions over the last four seasons, which is proof that the conference — which consistently produces national championship-caliber teams — is still wide open. The 2021 season should be a wild ride considering that virtually every high-profile team is near the top of the conference title odds released by William Hill Sportsbook. Not surprisingly, Georgia and Texas A&M are close behind as the primary contenders to the throne with Florida next after losing its Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback and other key pieces in the offseason.

Here’s a look at how the oddsmakers out in the desert see things shaking out this fall.

Best bet — Georgia (+250): Chill out, Bama fans. This isn’t a slight against your program. But this Georgia squad is in the perfect spot to waltz through the SEC East, into the SEC Championship Game and out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as conference champions. Coach Kirby Smart has one of the top quarterbacks in the conference in JT Daniels, one of the best running back rooms in the country, a highly-talented offensive line and a defense that has become a force in college football. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to pick the Bulldogs to win their first title since 2017. But getting them at +250 is an extremely low-risk, high-reward investment.

Worst wager — Florida (+1200): The defending SEC East champs are picked to be Georgia’s biggest threat, but a bet on the Gators will be more of a long shot than a responsible investment. Florida has to break in new quarterback Emory Jones, it has an average offensive line and rushing attack, and its defense — at last check — is still coordinated by the much-maligned Todd Grantham. What’s more, Dan Mullen’s crew gets Alabama as its rotating SEC West opponent and has to go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on LSU in its permanent cross-division rivalry game. The Gators are much closer to being third in the East this season than they are to being first.

Value pick — LSU (+1200): The 2020 season was a mess for Ed Orgeron’s crew, but that should change this season. The Tigers boast two potential stars at quarterback in Myles Brennan and Max Johnson, an experienced offensive line, a game-breaker at wide receiver in Kayshon Boutte, and a talent-laden defense that isn’t coached by Bo Pelini anymore. It’s a bit presumptuous to take too much from a spring game, but the Tigers offense had a distinct Joe Brady feel circa 2019, while the defense looked a lot more like a Dave Aranda-coached team under first-year coordinator Daronte Jones than it did under Pelini. Look, Alabama should be the favorite — perhaps even a heavy favorite. But LSU will be its primary threat in the SEC West and could end up being the second-best team in the conference when all is said and done.

Long shot — Kentucky (+6000): No coach in America gets overlooked as consistently as Mark Stoops, who has built the Wildcats into one of the toughest and most physical teams in the entire country. The foundation of the offense — the offensive line and rushing attack — should get a big boost from transfer Wan’Dale Robinson. Three of their four conference road games are against South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt — not exactly a tough trio. It’s highly unlikely that Kentucky will win the SEC considering that it’ll have to get through an SEC West opponent in Atlanta in addition to toppling Georgia in the East. But at +6000? Might as well take a shot just in case Big Blue Nation captures some magic this fall.