LITTLE ROCK — Affirmation of Arkansas' football team as a contender for the national championship comes in the form of an 8 1/2-by-14 white sheet of paper retrieved from a sports book in Las Vegas.

LITTLE ROCK — Affirmation of Arkansas’ football team as a contender for the national championship comes in the form of an 8 1/2-by-14 white sheet of paper retrieved from a sports book in Las Vegas.

You can have the opinions put forth in magazines or trumpeted on websites or unveiled on television. Certainly, those authors are entitled to speak their piece. Just as certainly, they do so with little risk of anything more than verbal rebuke.

For validation, give me the guys in Vegas who are risking a financial beating if they misread the information, underestimate a coach, or go off the deep end on a newcomer. They are the objective, detached people who set the odds on a team winning the BCS title game next January.

Only a half-dozen teams are a shorter price than Arkansas and that in itself says a lot. At 15-1, the Razorbacks are the same as Florida State, a team that only has to get by Virginia Tech and Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Ahead of the Razorbacks are LSU and USC, both 4-1, Alabama at 9-2, Oklahoma 6-1, Oregon 8-1 and Georgia 12-1.

We are talking college football’s elite. Never do I remember the Razorbacks being such a short price in the future book.

The people in the sports book who decided that Arkansas’ odds should be less than Notre Dame or Texas or any Big Ten school likely based the conclusion on a variety of factors. Among those:

—The Razorbacks’ offense begins with Tyler Wilson, who performed well enough last year to be the All-Southeastern Conference quarterback.

—Bobby Petrino has established Arkansas as a legitimate year-in and year-out contender in the SEC.

—The return of Knile Davis, the most productive running back in the SEC in 2010.

—Petrino has a stockpile of receivers and will plug in somebody to replace Jarius Wright and Joe Adams.

—Arkansas plays both Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville.

Nobody from Vegas asked for my opinion, but I agree with the first three, am lukewarm on No. 4, and don’t buy the home field when it comes to beating the very best.

The sports book at the Golden Nugget decided 50 teams were capable enough to deserve individual odds. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky were the only SEC schools not deemed worthy so they are in the field with about five dozen other schools at 20-1. That is a sucker bet. No team in that group will ascend to the top of the heap.

LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas are considered so superior to the others in the SEC that South Carolina is next at 30-1. Behind the Gamecocks are Auburn and Florida at 50-1, Tennessee at 75-1, Missouri and Mississippi State at 100-1 and Texas A&M at 125-1.

That doesn’t mean that one of those schools can’t jump up and beat one of the top four; it does mean that folks in Vegas don’t think those schools are good enough to win the SEC championship and reach the BCS title game.

It is interesting that Michigan, at 30-1, and Michigan State and Nebraska, each at 40-1, are the shortest-priced teams from the Big Ten.

The sports book line says West Virginia has a chance to have an immediate impact in the Big 12, pegging the Mountaineers at 30-1, just behind Texas at 20-1.

Pittsburgh at 150-1 is the best the football-suspect Big East has to offer.

Place your bets.


Harry King is sports columnist for Stephen’s Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is