LITTLE ROCK — Copping to a senior moment seemed the perfect pretense for a money-making call to Las Vegas.
IT guys are not wired for small talk, but our man is based in Sin City where a prominent sports book has decided 8 1-2 is the proper over-under for regular-season wins by the Razorbacks. That’s easy money for somebody who is on record at 9-3 and who can come up with a reason to initiate a conversation with somebody a short drive from the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
Follow-up questions to the man’s recent teleconference about upcoming changes at arkansasnews.com would be a natural ice-breaker, but that requires a solid grasp of the topic. Some at the conference table contend that technology and a columnist of a particular age are incompatible; the counter is that the help-yourself barbecue and cole slaw was a distraction.
A 1961 law making it illegal to communicate sports wagers across state lines squelched the call. Besides, a recent $10 loss on the golf course at a quarter per point, had cut deeply into the gambling bankroll.
In all seriousness, I wondered if the over-under on Arkansas would have been at least nine if Bobby Petrino was still the coach. Probably so, if the linemakers in Vegas agree with many national experts who backed off Arkansas when John L. Smith was hired to keep Razorback football on course for 10 months. Personally, 9-3 would have been the pick prior to Jeff Long’s decision in April.
On Arkansas and most of the other 34 teams with over-under totals, there is a plus and minus. Arkansas, for instance, is minus 130 on the over and plus 110 on the under. A bettor who thinks Arkansas will win nine or more must wager $130 to win $100; conversely, a bet of $100 on the under will get you $110 in winnings if Arkansas’ win total is eight or less.
The sports book made the over-under 10.5 on Alabama, USC, Oklahoma, and Oregon. LSU and Florida State were next at 10 wins. No other team was higher than 9.5.
The over-under on the SEC teams and an opinion on those numbers:
—Alabama 10.5. Two of the best teams on the schedule are in the first three weeks. The defense will carry the day against Michigan on Sept. 1 and that experience should help vs. Arkansas two weeks later. Whether or not Alabama succeeds at Baton Rouge, the Crimson Tide should win 11.
—LSU 10.0. Vegas must have doubts about quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Otherwise, the Tigers would be 10.5. LSU has Florida and South Carolina from the East, but over is the play.
—Georgia 9.5. Despite the loss of running back Isaiah Crowell, go over. The Bulldogs’ opponents from the West are Ole Miss and Auburn.
—S. Carolina 8.5. Georgia’s dismissal of Crowell helps the Gamecocks. So does the open date prior to Arkansas. Over.
—Tennessee 7.5. Under. Quarterback Tyler Bray may be in trouble. Coach Derek Dooley is in trouble.
—Mississippi State 7.0. The non-conference gimmes help. So does the presence of Kentucky and Ole Miss. Finding two more Ws is difficult. Under.
—Missouri 6.5. The Tigers should be on seven before they finish the season against A&M in College Station. Over.
Florida is a personal pick to be the surprise of the Eastern Division and Texas A&M figures to be below .500 in SEC play, and Vegas nailed both of them — the Gators at eight Ws and the Aggies at seven.
The sports book passed on four SEC teams. The number on Ole Miss and Kentucky would have been ridiculously low. Auburn would have been no better than six. Vanderbilt was probably excluded because the school’s grads are too smart to wager on college football.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.