This week’s SEC slate isn’t a great one on paper but that usually means one thing, insanity will begin. Just because the line-up doesn’t have the big marquees, doesn’t mean you can’t get some good ole fashion Vegas action. Let’s get to this week’s picks.
Last week was a bad week for me. I was under the weather and I’m blaming the prescription cough syrup for a 3-4 ATS week. That brings the season total to 37-33.
MSU at #1 Alabama (-29)
The Bulldogs are coming off a huge upset of #4 A&M last week while the Tide played an emotional and physical slugfest in Baton Rouge. The game is also an 11am kickoff. Everything about this game on the surface says MSU should be able to keep it close a la the Kentucky at Bama game October 1st. All that said, Bama is not the same match-up A&M was. The Bama DL is the best DL I have ever seen in CFB. A LSU OL filled with 4 and 5-star players did not come close to blocking that bunch. For all the strides MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald has made leading the team and being a play-maker, he’s still not a very good passer. Three of his last four games have been multi-INT performances. He only had 1 INT the first 4 games but has had 8 the last 5. That’s not a good recipe facing a Bama DL that is spearheading a rushing defense that allows a nation’s best 2 ypc. That stiff rushing defense leads to 3rd and longs where they have held opposing QB to terrible completion percentages (48% on 3rd & 7-9, 38% on 3rd & 10+). The Bulldogs are getting better but this shouldn’t be a game you judge that. Wait until next week vs Arkansas at home.
My pick: Tide 42-10
South Carolina at Florida (-11)
Don’t look now but it seems that all the Gamecocks had to do was insert Jake Bentley and bam, they’re a new ball club. Since his insertion into the starting line-up he has completed 73% of his passes, amassed 622 yards, tossed 6 TDS, thrown 0 INTs, and most importantly has a 3-0 record as a starter. When you look across to the other sideline you see a program that is floundering on offense and QB in particular with the loss of Luke Del Rio to a shoulder injury. I think we have all the ingredients for a close game. A surging SC offense plays a stifling Florida defense while a struggling Florida offense draws a SC defense that has trouble stopping the run at times. Add in Muschamp’s first trip back to The Swamp and the emotion there. Great storylines.
My pick: Gators 21-17
Kentucky at Tennessee (-7.5)
This is a game a really don’t know what to make of these 2 programs. Right when you think Kentucky can grab the bull by the horns, they lose to a bad UGA team at home. The Vols seem to be in shambles but this one could go a long way in righting the ship. The match-up is pretty close on paper. Neither team stops the run or pass very well. They are both last in turnover margin in the league. The only discernible stat line is that of scoring offense. Against conference only play, UT is 5th and UK is 11th. If you change that qualifier to “vs ranked opponents”, UT is 1st in the SEC and UK is last. Now, this isn’t a game where either team is ranked but I think the point to be made is that UT’s offense can score more in games that mater than UK’s. This is a line that opened at 7 to 7.5 and has since swelled to 2 TDs. I really liked where it opened and jumped right on that. It’s really hard to trust UT but I think they have a big emotional edge and the home crowd will help intensify that.
My pick: Vols 35-24
#9 Auburn at Georgia (+10)
The Tigers prospects were bolstered this week with the news that both White and Pettway will be available for the game in Athens. It also made this pick more difficult. I think a lot of people where like me, watching the line and White news to see when to jump. This is a traditional rivalry game that would lead most to think that 10 points is too many. Well, I think this game means a lot to Auburn and UGA isn’t good enough on offense to handle that Auburn defense, especially up front. I see a game where Auburn limits the UGA rushing attack and forces freshman Jacob Eason to beat them through the air. Hate to get corny but I think this game is one where Auburn realizes their destiny and realizes the only thing that stands in their path for an Iron Bowl for the SEC West is UGA. Kirby doesn’t have the horses to derail that.
My pick: Tigers 38-20
Vandy at Mizzou (-3.5)
Can someone explain to me why Mizzou is favored? They have lost 5-straight and have not beaten a Division 1 team since September 9th when they beat Eastern Michigan at home. I realize Vandy isn’t exactly a powerhouse but they have won 2 in their last 3 which includes an upset of UGA and a 1 score loss on the road vs #8 Auburn last week. The trick to this line is folks will look at Mizzou’s scoring offense and see they average 31 ppg and think Vandy can’t score enough. Well, if you look in scoring offense while in conference play, that vaunted Mizzou offense is 12th in the league at 18ppg. On the same token, I have to point out that Vandy’s is last in that same list. That half a point gives me all I need to take the Dores. Even if they blow it, they aren’t losing by more than a FG.
My pick: Dores 23-21
#24 LSU at #25 Arkansas (+7)
Very intriguing line here with a quality home dog. I typically love those scenarios. The only thing that makes this one weird is this isn’t your typical Arkansas team. In conference play, they are 12th in stopping the run and 12th in rushing offense. Feels like a parallel universe when a Bielema team cannot run the ball. The biggest thing you cannot do is let Bama’s dominance of the LSU rushing attack cloud your judgment. Their entire front 7 is NFL guys and I’m there isn’t a single guy in the Arkansas front 7 who is on draft boards. MLB Brooks Ellis might be a FA guy. You get the point. While Arkansas is 2nd in league play in passing offense, when you look a bit deeper, you see that is mainly on 1st and 2nd down and largely in part due to the play-action game. When you get them to 3rd down, those numbers plummet. As long as you get them to 3rd down, Allen’s completion % gets down to 44%. 3rd and 10+ yards and it’s 40% with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Not only do I know all this, so does Dave Miranda. I think LSU has the defensive game plan to slow down a 1-dimensional Hog offense and that 2-headed monster of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guide gets back on track in a big way.
My pick: Tigahs 38-24
Ole Miss at #8 Texas A&M (-10)
Weird line here when you consider the unknown. Both teams are playing with a back-up QB. The difference is Ole Miss knows what they are getting with a Jake Hubenak led Aggie offense. John Chavis and the A&M defensive staff have no clue what they will get with Ole Miss. Will they get Jason Pellerin who is a big mobile QB that will give the offense a more power running look or will it be Shae Patterson who no one has seen yet? The Rebel practices have been closed to the media all week and I think that is indicative of some new things coming the Aggies way. Regardless of the QB, I think we’ll see levels of trickery and creativity we saw in the 2014 Egg Bowl when all odds were stacked against a 1-legged Bo Wallace. If the QB is Patterson, I think we’ll see an offense that much more resembles that offense of year 1 at Ole Miss with quick reads designed to get the ball out of the QBs hands (like bubble screens). This is where this line gets interesting. A&M is the 3rd best rushing offense in conference play but that is mainly because of the dual-threat ability of Trevor Knight. He is no longer the face of the offense. Will the Aggies still be able to run and exploit a defense that is dead last in SEC in rushing defense? Or are we looking at a passing defense that is middle of the league against a QB who is ok but doesn’t set the world on fire? A lot of things to ponder here. I really do not like this line for the fear of the unknown. Since I have to pick, I’ll take the Aggies at home. That offense can still score points with Hubenak. I just have no idea what to expect from the Ole Miss offense. Could be amazing, could be awful without Chad Kelly.
My pick: Aggies 35-20