After Auburn win, LSU contest will tell us if Florida is for real

Last week at this time, VSiN asked if Auburn was for real. Then the Tigers sunk slowly in the Swamp, losing at Florida 24-13. Auburn’s offense was awful, gaining just 269 yards on 4.4 yards-per-play while turning the ball over four times and converting only two of 14 third down tries.

Now, it’s time to ask if undefeated and seventh ranked Florida is for real!

The Gators will likely close as 13 to 14-point underdogs Saturday in Baton Rouge against No. 5 LSU (ESPN, 7 p.m.). Clearly oddsmakers and sharps don’t expect Florida to spring the upset. Though, pro bettors did jump on the Gators for value at the opening line of +14. Be sure you monitor the market until kickoff to see if the general public wants to lay the steep line.

Why might the public pick LSU? The Tigers are 5-0 straight up, 4-1 against the spread…with the only non-cover coming by half-a-point laying 51.5 in a 65-14 rout of Northwestern State. Quarterback Joe Burrow has launched himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion…leading an offense that finally evolved beyond smash-mouth football. LSU is playing like a national superpower.

Why did sharps take +14 out of the gate? Florida’s respected defense has allowed a total of 57 points through six games. That’s less than 10 per outing. “Defensive dogs” typically earn sharp money, particularly around key numbers like 3, 7, 10, or 14 (defensive dogs usually don’t get much more than that).

For fans and bettors, it’s great to see SEC powers start to run into each other. There’s another battle of ranked teams Saturday when #1 Alabama visits #24 Texas A&M in College Station (CBS, 2:30 p.m.). The Crimson Tide hopped between -17 and -17.5 early in the week. The Aggies probably aren’t a “defensive dog” given the combined 55 points allowed their last two games vs. Auburn and Arkansas. Those were non-covers that missed the pointspread by 12 and 19 points.

SEC stalwarts are still well-represented on the college football championship futures board. Updated numbers from the Westgate in Las Vegas show SEC favorite Alabama atop the national field at 2/1, trailed immediately by Clemson at 3/1 and Ohio State at 4/1. Just behind are serious SEC threats Georgia at 6/1 and LSU at 8/1.

Florida’s injury issues at quarterback have the Gators much further back at 100/1. Auburn dropped to 100/1 after last week’s poor performance.

Other Notes

Ole Miss (-7) played well last week in a 31-6 rout of Vanderbilt. The Rebels won total yardage 512-264, with an overpowering 413 yards on the ground. That victory moved Mississippi to 3-3 straight up and ATS this season. Bowl eligibility is still a longshot because of a tough remaining schedule. Even off a big win, Ole Miss is +12 on the road Saturday at Missouri (ESPN2, 6 p.m.).

Off a bye, Mississippi State will visit tumbling Tennessee Saturday in an early kick (SEC Network, 11 a.m.). The Bulldogs opened as 7-point favorites. Smart money on the home dog dropped the number to -6.5. State will have to re-earn market respect. Recent losses to Kansas State (31-24 as a 7-point favorite) and Auburn (56-23 as a 7.5-point underdog) look worse now than they did at the time.

Early money was on the Volunteers despite Tennessee sitting at 1-4 straight up and ATS this season…and even though they just lost their last two games to Florida and Georgia by a combined 77-17 count.

Also coming off a bye, Southern Miss hosts North Texas Saturday (6 p.m.) in an important Conference USA tussle. The Golden Eagles will likely close around 4-5 point favorites in Hattiesburg.

Room today for a quick tutorial. Many hosts and guests on VSiN have explained that sharps bet on numbers rather than teams. You’ll never hear a professional bettor say “I don’t care what the pointspread is, I’m laying the points in this one.” Sharps bet when they have an edge based on their own assessment of the “right” number.

Let’s say there’s a football game where sharp models have projected the following result breakdown…

Favorite wins by exactly 7 points: 10% chance

Favorite wins by 8 or more: 45% chance

Favorite wins by 6 or less: 45% chance

If oddsmakers put the game up on the board at “Favorite by 7,” it’s obviously a pass. If the game goes up at “Favorite by 6.5,” sharps would naturally lay the points with a 55-45% advantage (10% for when the game lands exactly on seven, plus 45% for the games at eight or more). If oddsmakers put the game up at “Favorite by 7.5,” you can see that the math flips the other way. Now the underdog has the 55-45% advantage.

The most important thing for the recreational audience to remember is that a game doesn’t have “a sharp side” absent the pointspread. Both teams are the sharp side at the right price.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at