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SEC's Best Against the Spread Coach? It's Not Nick Saban ...

Coach O

Alabama’s Nick Saban doesn’t rule the SEC in everything football. LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp each own a better against-the-spread record coaching their respective programs.

The SEC debuts five new head coaches for the 2018 college football season, tying the conference record for most ever to begin a year. These include Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Dan Mullen (Florida), Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State), Chad Morris (Arkansas) and Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee). Ole Miss’ Matt Luke also sheds his interim tag from 2017.

The Nick Saban effect is powerful, causing a coaching carousel in the storied football conference. Schools are desperate to knock the perennial national championship favorites from the top spot. The Crimson Tide are +175 favorites at 5Dimes to win it all currently. Since 2016, there have been 10 new hires. One has to go back to 1946 and a post-WWII conference shakeup to uncover as many.

Saban’s ATS record is impressive in Tuscaloosa, particularly given the length his tenure, going 81-68-2 (54.4 percent) covering the number. The following trio has proven a better bet, albeit in a much shorter window:

Ed Orgeron, LSU
ATS Record: 15-6 (71.4 percent)
ATS Margin: 2.3
Avg. Line: -9.2

When Orgeron took over for Les Miles following an Auburn loss in late September 2016, he vowed to “flip the script.” The native Cajun brought in new assistants to fix an abysmal offense, and it caught the market by surprise. The Tigers finished the season 6-2 SU and ATS, scoring 32.0 points per game. They averaged 21.0 through the first four under Miles.

The stellar spread betting continued in 2017, this time thanks to a rock-solid defense. LSU allowed 18.9 points per tilt. This is where one will likely find an edge. How to bet Orgeron’s squad moving forward is to target the Tigers when up against more efficient passing teams. They can slow the best. Versus those tossing for 7.0 yards or better per attempt, LSU is 13-2 ATS under Orgeron, covering a -5.7 average line by 7.0 points per game. The defense surrenders a paltry 177.1 yard through the air in this spot.

Kirby Smart, Georgia
ATS Record: 17-11 ATS (60.7 percent)
ATS Margin: 1.0
Avg. Line: -9.4

Smart impressively guided Georgia to the national title game in just his second year in charge in Athens. It’s not surprising, therefore, the Bulldogs consistently coves the spread in this stretch, going 17-11 ATS. Smart, a long-time defensive coordinator for Saban at Alabama, is catching the market by surprise offensively. Georgia has scored more than projected in 18 of Smart’s 28 contests, posting 30.4 points per game.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina
ATS Record: 14-10-2 (58.3 percent)
ATS Margin: 1.2
Avg. Line: 2.3

Muschamp is coaching to his strengths at South Carolina, and it’s rewarding backers consistently. The Gamecocks are 14-10-2 ATS the last two years. “At the end of the day,” Muschamp commented at the 2018 SEC Media Days, “I’m a good defensive football coach. I’m a good special teams coach, and I can recruit. I think you got to stay in your lanes as far as those things are concerned and move forward with what we’ve done.”

Muschamp is best against high-scoring opponents. South Carolina has covered seven of nine against teams putting up more than 35 points per game entering a matchup. The defense yields an average 28.7 points, 3.1 less than the market projects.

Jay Pryce

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