SEC conference play kicks off in full swing with five conference matchups. Two of the matchups feature NCAAF top 25 teams, Alabama at Arkansas, and Kentucky at Ole Miss. The top-rated Georgia Bulldogs are in action hosting Missouri while the annual ‘Tiger Bowl’ takes place in Auburn as they face LSU.
Read my previews and follow my picks (or fade at your own risk) for this weekend’s action.
Arkansas Razorbacks (20) Vs Alabama Crimson Tide (2), 3:30 EST
Line: Alabama (-17.5), 61
Arkansas lost a heartbreaker last week in Dallas against Texas A&M 23-21. I was heavily on the Razorbacks in that game and luckily for me I got down my bet at (+2.5), but most people probably had a push at (+2) or even a loss at (+1.5).
The Razorbacks missed the game-winning field goal on the final play of the game with the ball bonking off the top of the goal post and into the end zone. But the truth is the Aggies had no business winning that game and were badly outplayed. The key play of the game was KJ Jefferson fumbling the ball while diving for the end zone followed by a 98-yard return in the opposite direction. Despite that horrific play, the Razorbacks still should have won and missed several opportunities to do so.
Alabama played exhibition games the past two weeks against UL Monroe and Vanderbilt after narrowly escaping from Texas with a win against the Longhorns. Alabama heads into the heart of their season now and this road trip to Arkansas is perhaps on paper, the toughest game on their entire schedule.
The key matchup of this game is how the Alabama defense can defend the potent rushing attack of the Razorbacks led by QB KJ Jefferson. Containing their rushing attack and forcing Jefferson to pass under pressure is likely to lead to multiple turnovers and a comfortable win. But if Arkansas can control the line of scrimmage and the game clock, a major upset is a real possibility.
But the Crimson Tide’s defense held Vanderbilt to just 14 yards on 26 carries last week. That is an impressive feat even against weaker competition. Before that, they held the best running back in the nation, Bijon Robinson of Texas, to 57 yards on 21 carries. A repeat of those defensive performances should result in Alabama getting another win this Saturday.
My Pick: Arkansas (+17.5)
My power ratings put this game at 7.5 points in favor of Alabama. The Tide should have some advantages in the intangibles, but it is difficult to justify this line being more than ten points at Razorback stadium.
Alabama is the second-best team in NCAAF, but I still have Arkansas as one of the ten best teams in the nation despite their loss last week. This game should be closer than most people expect.
Ole Miss Rebels (14) Vs Kentucky Wildcats (7), 12:00 EST
Line: Rebels -6.5, 54.5
This matchup is difficult to predict because we still have not seen either team fully tested against tough competition. This is the Rebel’s first conference game of the season and we are already in Week Five. They won three easy games against weak competition. Last week, they trailed Tulsa in the first quarter before putting the screws to them with four TDs in the second quarter.
Kentucky does have a quality win in the swamp against the Gators. That win was good enough to get Kentucky the seventh ranking in the polls, their highest ranking since 1977. It is fair to suggest their current rank may be a bit premature considering their difficult SEC schedule. They are underdogs in this game and will be even bigger underdogs against Tennessee and Georgia, so at least three losses for this team still seem likely.
But there is good news for Wildcat fans. RB Chris Rodriguez, a preseason All-SEC team selection, is expected back from suspension for this matchup. QB Will Levis has also impressed through four weeks, elevating his status to a highly ranked NFL prospect. Between those two players, the Wildcats’ offense must be considered a threat to win any weekend.
The Rebels have relied heavily on the running attack to dominate the opponent so far this season. They will undoubtedly attempt more of the same this Saturday.
My Pick: Kentucky (+6.5)
This is just a slight lean from me on Kentucky in this game. I cannot lay that many points on a team that still hasn’t faced any quality competition. The Wildcats will provide some clues to how good Ole Miss will be this season.
Mississippi St Bulldogs Vs Texas A&M Aggies (17), 4:00 EST
Line: Miss St -3.5, 45.5
I have already covered how the Aggies’ game against Arkansas went last week. They beat Miami the week before that but didn’t look good doing so. Who can forget the disaster three weeks ago when they lost to Appalachian St? That is three weeks in a row that A&M was the second-best team on the field, yet they won two of those games. It is now Week Five and the Aggies still haven’t even played a road game (the game in Dallas was technically at home).
QB Will Rogers looks to improve on the Bulldog’s 7-6 record from last season and this is a program on the rise. I look for them to build upon their success from last season and potentially pull off a couple of upsets this year. That starts this week against the questionably ranked Aggies.
My Pick: Miss St (-3.5)
Texas A&M is not the 17th best team in NCAAF and my power ratings have them far below Mississippi St. I predict Aggie’s crash down to earth this week falling by multiple scores to the Bulldogs on the road.
Auburn Tigers VS LSU Tigers, 7:00 EST
Line: LSU -9, 45.5
Both of these teams started the season at 3-1, but LSU was far more impressive in doing so.
LSU’s lone loss came against Florida in a real nail-biter Week One, which in retrospect doesn’t look so bad. They also put up a quality win against divisional rival Mississippi St. QB Jayden Daniels looked spectacular for LSU so far this season both throwing the ball and running. The ASU transfer is listed as questionable after being placed in concussion protocols following their 38-0 against New Mexico, but most reports suggest he should be cleared to play Saturday.
Auburn also has three wins, but they looked terrible losing to Penn St 42-12 at home. They also barely beat their little sister program from Missouri 17-14 in OT last week. The calls for the firing of head coach Bryan Harsin have already started and the speculation around the locker room is many of the Auburn players are not fond of their coach. That is a potentially explosive situation that could see this program spiral into a freefall.
My Pick: LSU (-9)
With many of the players in the Auburn locker room questioning themselves and even worse, their coaches, there can only be one play here. Either lay the points or don’t bet this game. It would be prudent to check game day and make sure Daniels is set to start the game for LSU.
Missouri Tigers Vs Georgia Bulldogs (1), 7:30 EST
Line: Goegria -28, 54
The Bulldogs have steamrolled all competition so far this season and there is no reason to expect anything different against Missouri. They did concede 22 points to Kent St. last week which was more than any game all last season. That raised my eyebrows a little, but it should not be a concern yet.
Missouri is overmatched here, and no one expects them to be competitive.
My Pick: Pass
There are far better spots available to find value this week rather than trying to predict what will happen in garbage time of a blowout game.
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