Ask the Experts: Lookahead Lines, SEC Projections, and a Best Bet

The season is nearly half over but the best is still to come during the final 2 months. In order to make sense of the college football landscape, I called in the help of an oddsmaker colleague to share his lookahead lines for the remainder of the season and asked a professional bettor to offer his insight as well.

When you want an opinion on a college football game, ask a fan. If you want a fact based empirical analysis of each team, always turn to an expert. Jeff Sherman of the Las Vegas Hotel was gracious enough to share updated Game of the Year lines from the famed Las Vegas Superbook.

Week 8

Oregon @ Arizona St: Opener: Oregon -22.5 | Current: Oregon -13.5
Alabama @ Tennessee: Opener: Alabama -12 | Current: Alabama -18
Florida St @ Miami: Opener: Florida St -10 | Current: Florida St -15
Kansas St @ West Virginia: Opener: West Virginia -7.5 | Current: West Virginia -7

Week 9

Notre Dame @ Oklahoma: Opener: Oklahoma -9 | Current: Oklahoma -4.5
Florida vs Georgia: Opener: Georgia -1 | Current: Pk
Michigan @ Nebraska: Opener: Nebraska -1 | Current: Nebraska -4

Week 10

Alabama @ LSU: Opener: Pk | Current: Alabama -7
Oregon @ USC: Opener: USC -3 | Current: Oregon -2.5

Week 11

Florida St @ Virginia Tech: Opener Florida St -4.5 | Current: Florida St -10
Georgia @ Auburn: Opener: Georgia -8 | Current: Georgia -14
West Virginia @ Oklahoma St: Opener: Oklahoma St -6 | Current: Oklahoma St -2
Arkansas @ South Carolina: Opener Pk | Current: South Carolina -20

Week 12

Oklahoma @ West Virginia: Opener: Oklahoma -7 | Current: West Virginia -3
Arkansas @ Mississippi St: Opener: Arkansas -6.5 | Current: Mississippi St -7
Tennessee @ Vanderbilt: Opener: Tennessee -5 | Current: Tennessee -1

Week 13

LSU @ Arkansas: Opener: LSU -2 | Current: LSU -10
Notre Dame @ USC: Opener: USC -11 | Current: USC -6.5
Auburn @ Alabama: Opener: Alabama -21 | Current: Alabama -30
South Carolina @ Clemson: Opener: Pk | Current: South Carolina -4
Florida @ Florida St: Opener: Florida St -7.5 | Current: Florida St -7
Michigan @ Ohio St: Opener: Ohio St -2.5 | Current: Ohio St -7
Georgia Tech @ Georgia: Opener: Georgia -11.5 | Current: Georgia -16

Week 14

Texas @ Kansas St: Opener: Texas -6 | Current: Texas -3

To cover your bases in the gambling business, talking to men on different sides of the betting counter provides a more comprehensive picture. Professional sports bettor PayneInsider shared his thoughts on what we should expect in the SEC and how he approaches every week of the football season to maintain his high rate of handicapping success.

How do you power rate the SEC right now?

1) Alabama
2) Florida
3B) South Carolina
4) Texas A&M
5) Georgia
6) Tennessee
7) Mississippi State
8) Ole Miss
9) Arkansas
10) Missouri
11) Vanderbilt
12) Auburn
13) Kentucky

What team(s) do you think the public isn't rating correctly?

Underrated: Arizona State Sun Devils – It’s hard for me to ignore the loss at Missouri, but I liked how they battled back late and didn’t quit. The Sun Devils have a wealth of talent - Dennis Erickson could always recruit and he left the cupboard stocked for Todd Graham's arrival.  A new voice, a new leader, more discipline, the same talent and ASU checks in as one of my most under valued teams in the country.

Overrated: Oregon State Beavers
– Amazing how quickly a team can go from being one of the most underrated teams to being flat out over valued.  This is a Beavers squad we loved at the beginning of the year betting their win total OVER 4.5, but #10 in the country? Our power poll has OSU #31 – and if sophomore sensation Sean Mannion misses extended time after knee surgery, the Beavers’ stock will plummet.

Aside from getting Payneinsider to share valuations, he also offered glimpses of what it takes to be a successful professional bettor.

What skills separate the best sports gamblers from one another?

Obtaining information.  Surrounding yourself with sharp people since you can’t do it by yourself.  Knowing what information has value.  Being able to decipher your edge.  When books make mistakes, you must make them pay.  The larger your edge, the bigger the bet.  Another element is intuition.  The very best are born with it; it’s not something that can be taught.  Being mentally strong.  It takes a different animal to have your brains beat in one day and come back the very next with the perseverance to be successful.  These attributes separate the 2% of successful sports bettors from the 98% of bettors resigned to just calling sports gambling a hobby.

If you were to offer advice to a recreational bettor who knows he/she doesn’t have the time to be as thorough as they’d like, is success possible?
This is no different than any other profession, it’s nearly impossible to be successful at something that doesn’t garner your full attention.  I think recreational bettors best bet is thinking realistically and defining what type of player they are – set obtainable goals.  If this is just a hobby, there's nothing wrong with approaching it as such.  Your expectation should be three hours of entertainment for $20.  If you win, that’s gravy on your potatoes.  Heck, you can’t even take the lady friend to the movies for that these days.
If you’re attempting to turn the corner and become a profitable bettor, start small.  Find a region, conference, or team you can dedicate your time to and become a specialist.  It’s just like poker; Phil Ivey can dabble and splash around because he’s equipped to play any two cards, but when you’re not that skilled it’s best to tighten your range of hands - same concept with sports betting.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout, find guys you trust and delegate duties.  Have one guy work on schedule analysis, another on power ratings, another digging up news, injuries and information.
As the market continues to evolve and books tighten lines making it harder to beat the number, it’s extremely important to have the help of others.  Now, more than ever sharp minds are ditching egos and coming together for the same common goal…beating the number and profiting.

What sport do you find most successful? Everyone talks about how difficult it is to beat the NFL; do you feel this resonates with the pros?

Personally, I don’t find that to be true.  There are plenty of guys who dabble in extremely inefficient markets like the WNBA, AFL, and even College Basketball totals.  That’s great, more power to them if they can hit 60% in those sports.  Unfortunately, this day in age where books give $250 limits on College Basketball totals and $500 limits on WNBA games, most professionals don’t find it advantageous to spend their time dabbling in the aforementioned markets.  We don’t get paid in percentages, we get paid in cash – we’re ok with sacrificing a handful of percentage points if we can get down more money on the games we do play, which we can in the NFL.  Hitting 55% in the NFL at a few dimes a pop is far more profitable than 58% in the WNBA at $500 a throw. Anyone claiming the NFL isn’t profitable is sadly misinformed.  Furthermore, the NFL market is saturated with the squarest money of all because public perception resonates in the NFL more than any other sport on the planet. Period!  This league doesn’t change; many situations are the same and books react in the same manner because the Sunday morning bettor will never change.

Take us through the process of how you structure a week during the fall before you decide to take a position on a game
It’s extremely cliché, but failing to plan is planning to fail – preparation is directly correlated with success or lack there of in this cut-throat racket.
Schedule analysis is the first step – prior to the season our group examines each team's schedule highlighting potential “play” and “fade” situations.  Every Sunday afternoon we retrace our steps and decipher if what we uncovered in the off season still holds water.

Next, we’ll take our power numbers, factor in the situation, calculate perception from the week(s) prior and make our own TRUE LINE for each game on the board.
Sunday evening spreads trickle in for college and pro football so If there’s a significant discrepancy between our true number and the released number, we’ll attack early despite low limits if we’re absolutely certain we won’t get a better number.

Throughout the early stages of the week we’re reading and gathering as much information as possible.  Injuries, game plans, gauging team interest, and dissecting quotes are just some of the elements we try to incorporate.  Comprehending the information and determining what has value and what doesn’t is essential.  Our “Edge” is created by finding information not factored into the point spread itself.

As the week moves forward we’ll exchange information with two of the larger groups in the country and see if our information and numbers coincide.  During the middle of the week (Tuesday-Thursday) once we’ve gathered more concrete information we’ll continue to add bets.  Limits keep creeping up, guys pop out of the woodwork and grabbing the best of the number becomes essential at this point.  Friday is “moving day” as most shops open themselves up to full limit bets.  Saturday and Sunday morning is when we tidy things up and move on games we’ve circled throughout the course of the week.  Waiting affords us the luxury of getting the number we want by allowing recreational bettors to penetrate the market and do our dirty work.  It’s also a great way to camouflage our moves and be discreet due to the sheer volume books absorb on football-filled weekends.

A game on the slate that meets many of aforementioned criteria is a battle in the Big 10 - Leaders division between Wisconsin and Purdue this week. 

: Our number is Wisconsin -1 on a neutral field.  Factor in Ross-Ade Stadium home field advantage and we make the Boilermakers’ -2.5.  PERCEPTION: Purdue was boat raced by a Michigan team in an ideal spot off their bye week.  At the same time, Wisconsin beat Illinois by three scores but a deeper dive revealed it was a 10-7 game into the fourth quarter.  SITUATION: Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible while Indiana and Illinois are incompetent.  That makes it a two-horse race between Purdue and Wisconsin in the leaders division with the winner having an inside track.  Purdue is down a game but with a victory Saturday they leap frog the Badgers’ and essentially go up a game with the tie breaker in hand.  This is a Purdue team with 15 returning starters, a senior class off 22 that have never beaten the Badgers’ – and to top things off, its homecoming week.  With line value, perception and situation factored our TRUE NUMBER is Purdue -4.5.  Accordingly, we bet Purdue at a pick’em Tuesday morning and now the market  has Purdue -3.


Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.