Beyond the Bets, a sports betting website, has released projected point spreads for all 2012 FCS matchups, and it has also broken those spreads up into conference matchups. Needless to say, predicting Fall matchups this far out is an exercise in futility, so these projections should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, they do say a lot about how Vegas perceives each team heading into the season, and in that regard, there's a lot of interesting stuff here. Here are a few of my thoughts on what I read:
--BTB has Carolina again going 10-2, beating Georgia, but missing out on the SEC Championship game to the Dawgs. The losses come to LSU and Florida. It's hard to disagree too much with these projections, even if one might cavil about where the second loss comes from. I think we have a reasonable chance at going 11-1 with a loss at LSU, but that will require an extraordinary, expectations-beating season. Georgia, on the other hand, has the easier path, although BTB has them as very small favorites against Florida and Auburn, which will be the two non-head-to-head games where Carolina fans will be rooting hardest for an UGA loss. BTB also has UGA in a close game with Mizzou.
--I found the projection of a loss to Florida to be a bit curious. Don't get me wrong; as I've said before, I think Florida will improve on its 7-6 record this year. However, notwithstanding the fact that the game is in Gainesville (and BTB has us as a 2.5-point dog in the game, meaning that we'd be favored on a neutral field), I see little reason, at least at this point, to believe that Florida is going to outmatch us this year. Sure, the defense should be excellent again, but the offense is still a huge question mark, and until they correct that issue, the jury is out. I also found it odd that BTB's has us -4 at home against UGA (-1 on a neutral field), UGA -2 against Florida on a neutral field, and Florida -2.5 at home against USC. In other words, they seem to foresee Florida having more trouble with UGA than with us, but us having more trouble with Florida than with UGA. Do they foresee us having matchup problems with Florida but not with UGA? That's hard for me to see, as, despite having gone undefeated against both, UGA has given us more trouble in both of the past two years. The Florida game was close last year, but we controlled that game for most of the afternoon (we've run the ball at will against the Gators for the past two years, the second time without Marcus Lattimore), which wasn't the case when we played UGA. I simply don't see why we'd be project to do well against UGA but not Florida, and honestly I think both UGA and USC are a solid step ahead of the Gators right now. Of course, that may change if the Gators surprise, but these projections are based on what we know now.
--BTB clearly foresees Arkansas dropping off next year. They have us at -5 at home against the Hogs, with the Hogs going 4-4 in conference overall. Needless to say, this isn't the championship-caliber season some foresaw before Petrino's ouster. BTB's must not be ready to believe that John L. Smith is about to take Arkansas to the promised land. At any rate, I'd really love to get a victory in this game, so I'm giddy to see us favored against Arkansas.
--One thing I found interesting is that BTB has us struggling more with Vandy than with Mizzou or Tennessee. (Although it should be noted that it has us winning each game handily.) This could be read as confidence in Vandy as an early-season giant killer, but I also took it to suggest that (1) BTB believes our speedy defense will line up well with what Mizzou does on offense, and (2) that Tennessee will stink again this year. Interestingly, though, BTB has Tennessee in a pick 'em with Florida and going 4-4 in the conference, which wouldn't be too awful, considering last year's results. One might wonder how they decided that we would lose to Florida, blast UT, and that Florida and UT. I'm guessing they foresee UT again struggling with depth--in other words, that we'll get a razed Vols squad when we play them, but that UT will still be fairly strong when it plays Florida.
What did you guys think about these projections?