By Lou Monaco | | 3 mins
NJ & PA Sportsbooks Excited for Return of SEC Football
New Jersey and Pennsylvania sportsbooks are gearing up for the last Saturday in September as it marks the return of the SEC college football action.
Arguably the number one conference in the nation, the Southeastern Conference has seven games scheduled this weekend, all involving Top 25 teams, highlighted by No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn (-7.5) at noon.
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Defending champion and No. 6 LSU is one of five SEC teams favored by at least two touchdowns in its opening matchup. The Tigers face Mississippi State, which debuts under new head coach Mike Leach. The others: No. 2 Alabama (-27.5 at Missouri), No. 4 Georgia (-26 at Arkansas), No. 5 Florida (-14.5 at Ole Miss) and No. 10 Texas A&M (-30.5 vs. Vanderbilt). The lines are from William Hill.
With the sport’s top conference back in action and the Big Ten returning on Oct. 24, college football betting will be heating up. There will be more games and more betting options to choose from and the sportsbooks in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania are ready with arms wide open.
“The early betting on college football has been very strong considering all of the things working against college football this season,” said Thomas Gable, director of race and sportsbook at The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. “This Saturday will be a big weekend with a nice slate of games. The SEC is obviously one of the most popular conferences with bettors and I would say only the Big 10 rivals them in terms of handle in this area.
”We actually took more six figure wagers last weekend on college football than we did on the NFL, which was a little surprising. But again, it was a good indication of the interest that is out there for college football, which should only pick up starting this weekend.”
No Big Ten for a Month
It will be intriguing to see how much action the SEC games receive without Big Ten games to compete with over the next few weeks, according to traders from William Hill. In the past, New Jersey bettors preferred Big Ten and Notre Dame games over big SEC matchups.
“The first couple of weeks didn’t have the best games, and we still had really good action,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US, said in a news release earlier in the week. “So I’m excited to see it this week with the big boys out there like Alabama and LSU. We’ve got a full slate, so it should be quite interesting Saturday to see what kind of business we’ll do. I think it’ll be outstanding.”
The tightest game spread for opening weekend: No. 16 Tennessee as a 3.5-point road favorite at South Carolina.
Just Getting Started
On a per game basis at William Hill, college football action has increased compared to previous years, but college sports thrive on volume so college football likely won’t reach its peak until late October (when Big 10 comes back) and early November.
“We are very excited to have the SEC returning, and so are our customers,” said Jonathan Aiwazian, vice president of product for the Kindred Group, which operates Unibet sportsbooks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “We are seeing bet volume come in several days before the Saturday slate of games with the most popular matchup so far being Kentucky at Auburn. Currently, the action is split between the two, with nearly equal amounts of money on each side, which should make for an exciting game.
”Without many high-profile matchups yet, it is a little early to say how this season will compare to last year, but we are very much looking forward to seeing the SEC (and next month the Big Ten) return to action.”