The Golden Nugget is the first Las Vegas casino to release betting lines for specific games in the 2014 college football season, and did so late last week. In what should be to no one's surprise, they don't favor the Florida Gators all that much.
Florida's favored in four of its eight listed games, and a double-digit underdog in its two road games against the defending national champions — though it should probably be noted that the Gators are three-touchdown underdogs to Alabama, and "mere" 17-point underdogs to Florida State.
Here's the full listing of the Golden Nugget's lines involving the Gators.
|at Alabama||Alabama -21||September 20|
|at Tennessee||Florida -4.5||October 4|
|vs. LSU||LSU -9||October 11|
|vs. Missouri||Florida -3||October 18|
|vs. Georgia||Georgia -9||November 1|
|at Vanderbilt||Florida -9||November 8|
|vs. South Carolina||South Carolina -6||November 15|
|at Florida State||Florida State -17||November 29|
The bad news here is that Florida's headed for a 7-5 season if you believe this particular Vegas institution. (Florida will assuredly be favored in its games against Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky.) And given that the Gators are just field goal favorites at home against Missouri, the Golden Nugget definitely seems to think 6-6 is more likely than 8-4 or better.
The good news is that there's a lot of value available for people who are bullish on the Gators, especially early.
Getting Florida at -21 at Alabama is going to be impossible in mid-September if Florida rolls through its first three games like it should. Florida's lost by 25 and 28 points in its last two visits to Alabama, but those two teams didn't have a Will Muschamp-coached defense, and Florida's lost by more than 21 points just three times under Muschamp, all in games finished by someone other than the Gators' first-string quarterback.
That skinny 4.5-point line at Tennessee feels like a gift, too. This could be the best Tennessee team in a while, but it is replacing close to a ton of humanity on its offensive and defensive lines, which may make handling Florida, experienced up front on both sides of the ball, somewhat difficult. And while Florida's games at Tennessee have been closer on average than its home wins during the Gators' current nine-game winning streak over the Vols, that's skewed by a one-point win in 2006: Florida's won its last three trips to Knoxville by an average of 18.3 points.
There's also some value later in the season, as well. LSU and Georgia are more than touchdown favorites in games played in Gainesville and Jacksonville despite a) both teams losing senior quarterbacks and b) neither team owning a win over Florida in Florida by double digits since Georgia's 2007 Cocktail Party win. Florida's only getting nine points for a game at a rebuilding Vanderbilt it will be looking to take down for revenge. And South Carolina's favored by six at Florida, something of a surprise given that the Gamecocks are replacing Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw, and beat the Skyler Mornhinweg-helmed Gators by just five points in Columbia in 2013.
But those lines are tighter, and require more faith in the Gators for wagers on them. I don't think you have to be convinced Florida's going to be excellent in 2014 to believe that Florida might stay within three scores of Alabama, or beat Tennessee by a touchdown.
And I think the Missouri line may end up close to right, plus I can't in good conscience say that Florida should be anything other than a double-digit 'dog to Florida State right now. If those lines move, there might be some value in betting on Florida, but they seem close to dead on to me.
I'm sure you will have opinions on these lines and others in the comments. That's why the full listing of Golden Nugget lines is embedded below.