I’m going for a fouth-straight week of perfection in picking Southeastern Conference games this week, though before I brag too much I must admit that I’m a lousy 22-23 against point spreads this year. Anyway, here’s a look at my Week 6 picks.
Vanderbilt 38, Missouri 35: As I said about Vandy and Ole Miss, I think that if you play this game 10 times, each time wins five each. Las Vegas agrees, as the game But you’ve got to have a reason to pick a winner, and I’ve got a couple: a Vandy team that last week showed signs of coming into its own has been more tested for this kind of game, and also has a better defense.
Georgia 45, Tennessee 20: The only thing more stunning than the 10.5-point opening spread on this game is the fact that five days later, it’s only moved to 12.5. No offense to the Vols, but Georgia’s in a different universe athletically than Tennessee. The Bulldogs still need to find more defense, but even without star running back Todd Gurley playing (he’s not been ruled out, and he made the trip to Knoxville), Georgia’s offensive line will open enough holes for Keith Marshall. The only issue for Georgia is a potential let-down, which the Bulldogs are capable of from time to time (see last year’s 4-point win over an awful Kentucky team). I’ve yet to bet on a football game in my life, but if I did, betting on Georgia today would be a tempting place to start.
Alabama 45, Georgia State 0: Speaking of betting… is Alabama really 54 points better than Georgia State? That’s today’s spread, and the answer is “yes, probably so.” The problem is that Alabama, under coach Nick Saban, has a habit of laying off the gas pedal in these sorts of games. This would be another place where I’d be tempted to bet a buck or two if I did those sorts of things.
LSU 38, Mississippi State 20: Here’s yet-another place where the Vegas line (LSU by 7) has me scratching my head. Yes, MSU did look great against Troy two weekends ago, and yes, the Bulldogs are home against an LSU team that could be emotionally flat after a down-to-the-wire loss at Georgia last week. But let’s not forget, the Bulldogs have just gotten the snot knocked out of them the last few years they play a good opponent, whether that’s in Starkville, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge or Mars. I’ve got a few questions about LSU’s defense — I don’t think it’s one of coach Les Miles’ more dominant units — but boy, the Tigers sure are great in pretty much every phase of offense.
Florida 17, Arkansas 13: The Gators are 13-point favorites, but this could be the game of the day. Quarterback Tyler Murphy has been a great story, emerging from nowhere to fill in for injured Jeff Driskel, but he’s also broken in against the league’s two worst teams. Arkansas will be a big step up, and the Razorbacks impressed by staying within 10 of Texas A&M. I’m still not a fan of Florida’s offense, but wow, that defense — 202 yards a game — continues to amaze, and that gives UF enough to sneak by.
Ole Miss 30, Auburn 20: I’ve probably taken more criticism on my analysis of Ole Miss all season than I have at any other time. Let’s start with the Big Red Elephant in the room: yes, Ole Miss looked out-manned at Alabama last week, but guess what? Alabama can do that to good teams. Forget last week, forget the idea of a hang-over, and let’s look at Ole Miss’s body of work the last year-and-a-half and just accept that the Rebels are a pretty good team, and one still deserving of being ranked. Auburn’s 3-1 start has been nice, but let’s dig a little deeper: the Tigers are even-up with opponents in total yards this year and I think their quarterback, Nick Marshall, is far less-trustworthy than Ole Miss’s Bo Wallace. I called the Rebels to beat Texas on the road because they were the better team, and they’re better than the three points they’re favored over Auburn, too.
South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17: Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw got knocked out last week with a shoulder injury, and that’s a problem because it’s the same issue that haunted him all last year. It won’t be much of an issue this week because Dylan Thompson will be plenty good enough for Carolina — a team that’s developing a slew of underrated play-makers — to win in Lexington, because the UK defense is awful. The good news for Kentucky is that the ‘Cats are getting better on offense and USC’s defense might be slightly overrated. I think the 21.5-point spread is just about dead-on here, but we’ll give UK the benefit of that extra half-point.