Gambling

According to Vegas, college football's sneakiest team is in the SEC (and it's not LSU)

September 18, 2018
Nick Fitzgerald, Joe Moorhead
Michael Chang

Week 3 in college football featured a host of impressive performances from some sneaky teams, BYU's upset of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt scaring Notre Dame and Oklahoma State dominating Boise State, just to name a few. But no win was bigger than LSU's over Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium, snapping the Tigers' 13-game home-winning streak. Coach Ed Orgeron and the Bayou Bengals, a team some expected to win eight games at best, rolled in and shocked the world as a double-digit underdogs, leaving as as a surprising contender for the College Football Playoff.

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With the victory, LSU leapt six spots in the AP Poll to No. 6 in the country, an excellent spot to be as they gear up for a very gettable three-game stretch that includes home games against Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss, and a road tilt against a not-so-scary Florida Gators team. Get through that unscathed and the Tigers will be 6-0, setting up a monumental game in Death Valley against SEC foe Georgia, currently ranked No. 2 in the country. Suddenly, LSU became the sneakiest team in the country this past weekend, if there is such a thing as being sneaky at No. 6 in the nation and in the SEC.

But are they actually the sneakiest team in the country? According to Las Vegas CFB Bettor ranks, they aren't even the sneakiest team in the SEC, and are still ranked below Auburn, who they just beat. As ESPN's Phil Steele points out here, there's an explanation for that, as the ratings are "less about a team's record and more about the overall talent that each team possesses, reflecting which team would be favored if meeting at a neutral site."

Based off that logic, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has designated Mississippi State, a team ranked 14th in the country, as the eighth best team, just behind Auburn and three spots ahead of LSU. When looking at both MSU and LSU's schedule, it seems a bit off, because LSU has two victories over ranked, Power 5 opponents in Miami and Auburn, while MSU has no wins over ranked opponents. But they do have a dominant 31-10 victory over Kansas State, which came on the road.

There's plenty of other reasons to suggest Mississippi State is stronger than LSU, starting at the quarterback position. LSU's Joe Burrow played surprisingly well down the stretch on Saturday, and he's yet to throw an interception this season, but he's completing just 46.2-percent of his passes. Meanwhile, Mississippi State's dual-threat senior stud Nick Fitzgerald has thrown for nearly 400 yards, run for 266 yards and has scored eight total touchdowns in just two games after missing the opener due to a suspension. MSU's offense as a whole is also much more high-powered, as they're averaging 50 points per game and 588 yards per game, both good enough for ninth or better in the country. LSU ranks 82nd and 112th in those same respective categories.

Defensively, the two SEC West rivals are neck and neck, both ranking inside the top 12 in the country in total defense. This could all change quickly of course, as LSU's upcoming schedule is much more favorable than MSU's. The Bulldogs will go through a gauntlet starting this week at 3-0 Kentucky, followed up by home games with Florida and Auburn, then a road matchup with LSU. After that? Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech at home followed by a trip to Alabama, a team that might make all of this "sneaky" talk as irrelevant as possible with the way they are steamrolling through teams. As for now, LSU and Mississippi State appear to be college football's best bet to knock 'Bama off their perch.

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