Oddsmakers post betting lines for one reason and one reason only – to make the most money possible. In some cases, sports books prefer equal money on each side of a line and sometimes they accept more money on one side.

Lines aren’t necessarily designed to predict the future, but because they deal with real-money stakes, sports books can effectively monitor the real-time value of things such as college football teams. Analyzed the right way, college football betting lines are a lot like a stock market for squads.

Thanks to FootballPerspective.com, we can utilize early betting lines released by Golden Nugget casino to examine a “Simple Rating System,” or SRS, for every Power 5 conference team.

Essentially, the website used a formula to convert betting lines into rankings. So according to Vegas, here’s the college football top 25 entering the season (USA Today Coaches Poll ranking in parenthesis):

  1. Alabama (No. 1)
  2. Oklahoma (No. 3)
  3. LSU (No. 6)
  4. Clemson (No. 2)
  5. Florida State (No. 4)
  6. Tennessee (No. 10)
  7. Ohio State (No. 5)
  8. Michigan (No. 8)
  9. Oklahoma State (No. 19)
  10. Ole Miss (No. 12)
  11. Stanford (No. 7)
  12. Georgia (No. 16)
  13. Washington (No. 18)
  14. Oregon (No. 22)
  15. Louisville (No. 23)
  16. Houston (No. 13)
  17. USC (No. 17)
  18. Notre Dame (No. 9)
  19. UCLA (No. 24)
  20. Auburn (NR)
  21. North Carolina (No. 20)
  22. Florida (No. 25)
  23. TCU (No. 14)
  24. Texas A&M (NR)
  25. Nebraska (NR)

Other SEC teams: 26. Arkansas, 28. Mississippi State, 45. South Carolina, 48. Vanderbilt. Note: Kentucky and Missouri are not ranked.

There’s one important thing to note before we make a few observations. SEC teams generally are considered “public” teams.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a classic example of a public team. No matter what the betting line may be, Vegas expects most non-professional gamblers to back the Steelers with their cash because Pittsburgh is a popular franchise.

As a result, Vegas sometimes skews betting lines in favor of Pittsburgh’s opponents. In college football, Alabama is a classic example of a public team, and according to Vegas, most SEC teams should be slightly overvalued.

That’s partially why eight SEC teams rank in the top 25 of this simulated Vegas poll.

Now on to some insights:
• Auburn is somewhat of a surprise, at least on the surface. The Tigers are getting a decent amount of love from professional gamblers as well as from early lines in sports books, ranking at No. 20 in the simulated Vegas poll, which was compiled before Auburn dismissed Jovon Robinson from the team earlier this week. Nevertheless, according to professional gamblers, this is an indication that the Tigers have been better than their record indicates and could be undervalued. The gambling market already reflects this.
• Vegas likes Tennessee even more than the media. Ranked No. 10 in the Coaches Poll, the Volunteers are four spots higher at No. 6 in the simulated Vegas poll. Due to the “public team” discussion above, that’s significant.
• Vegas likes LSU as a true College Football Playoff contender. The SEC claims five of the top 12 spots in the simulated Vegas poll. Again, that’s because the conference gets so much respect that bookmakers realize most public money will side with a team in the SEC against anyone else in the country. (Texas A&M, for example, isn’t ranked in the Coaches Poll but is at No. 24 in the Vegas poll).
• A couple of non-conference observations: Vegas hates Notre Dame but loves Oklahoma State, Oregon and Louisville.