ESPN.com sports gaming writer David Purdum joined us this week to talk about the growing South Carolina-Florida line, the Gators’ improvement, why the No. 1 team in the country is a touchdown underdog, Alabama’s status in Las Vegas and why in the world Arkansas is favored to beat LSU.
The State: Well, David, here we are again with a line that keeps moving away from the Gamecocks as the week goes on.
David Purdum: It does. We’re up to 6.5 at some shops for the Gators. It opened at only 4.5 on Sunday at a couple of the Vegas shops. The market kind of settled (midweek) and now it’s up to 6.5, so the early action was definitely on Florida.
The State: How much of the line movement is a sense that the Gators have figured something out after switching quarterbacks and turning to the running game?
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David Purdum: It’s a combination of that, Florida maybe is finally coming into their own in terms of their talent or at least looking like an improving football team. On the other hand, you have South Carolina, who kind of looks like they are in a downward spiral, so it’s a combination of both is generating some action. I talked to one Vegas odds maker, one of the guys that I consider to be pretty sharp on college football knowledge, and he’s saying that this was kind of the Florida team that they expected to see at the start of the season. They were high on Florida. Now it seems like they are kind of coming into their own. He’s telling people to be wary of Florida at Florida State.
The State: There are some interesting lines in other games this week, too, and I wanted to get to some of those, starting with the No. 1 team in the country, Mississippi State, being a touchdown underdog to Alabama. Las Vegas really doesn’t care about the polls does it?
David Purdum: The rankings matter very little to them. They are looking at talent, current form and so forth. Alabama is Vegas’ team right now because the majority of odds makers say it would be favored over any other team right now. I think that’s kind of a default for them sometimes because Alabama has been so good. To me, there’s five, six teams that are all in the same boat, real close to each other, but right now they see Alabama as the No. 1 team and the respect for Mississippi State is just not there.
The State: And there are two other games where the lower-ranked, or in one unranked, team is a favorite over the higher-ranked team: Georgia is favored to beat Auburn and Arkansas, which has lost 17 straight SEC games is favored to beat LSU, which just took Alabama to the wire. Explain that one to me.
David Purdum: I think that there is probably some hangover from the Alabama game for both sides, Alabama and LSU and I think there’s probably a little bit of that, a physical game like it usually is, emotional game. There is probably a little bit of hangover, but that shows you really the depth of the SEC. These guys are looking at talent. Talent is the thing. How good are the players on this team? How high a level of football can they play? When you see an Arkansas team favored over an LSU team that is always a factor, it really shows you the depth of the SEC.