There aren't sports right now, but there are early 2020 lines so let's pick some SEC games
Hey, what do you say we talk about the 2020 college football season?
If that’s OK with you, reader of this column searching for anything to make the time without sports pass, I’m going to make some way-too-early picks for football games. Why? Well, thanks to the fine folks at FOXBet, we already have some lines for SEC games in 2020.
In case you haven’t seen it, here are the lines so far (courtesy of our own Michael Bratton):
By my awful counting skills, that’s 15 games that I’ll make picks for. To be clear, these are subject to change as the season nears. Just because I pick something in March doesn’t mean I’ll stick with that in November. Injuries happen, teams disappoint and we’re left figuring out what to make of it. These are my predictions based on the circumstances at play right now.
Let’s get started (these are in no particular order):
Baylor (-1) vs. Ole Miss in Houston
My pick: Baylor -1
Odd it is that this game is Dave Aranda vs. Lane Kiffin, but here’s where we are. Even though I’m all aboard the John Rhys Plumlee hype train, I still question how the Rebels will slow down a Baylor offense that returns plenty of offensive talent. Give me the Bears to show the world that they aren’t in for a free fall in the post-Matt Rhule era.
Alabama (-13.5) vs. USC in Dallas
My pick: Alabama -13.5
I’m not one of those people who is dumb enough to bet against Nick Saban in a neutral-site opener. He’s 13-0 in openers with 5 consecutive wins of 3-plus scores. I don’t care who starts at quarterback for the Crimson Tide. I’m not betting against Saban in an opener, especially after one in which he didn’t win a national title.
Arkansas at Notre Dame (-16.5)
My pick: Notre Dame -16.5
I scratched my head looking at this line. Then I remembered that Vanderbilt almost upset the Irish at Notre Dame in 2018, and it made a bit more sense. But no, I don’t think Year 1 of the Sam Pittman era is going to yield a down-to-the-wire game in South Bend. I’ll take a preseason top-10 team that returns Ian Book to win by 3 scores.
LSU at Auburn (PICK)
My pick: LSU
It’s not just that Ed Orgeron beat Gus Malzahn in 3 consecutive years, though that doesn’t hurt. It’s that I think Auburn is a total question mark on offense, and I like the odds of LSU’s defensive line winning that battle up front. It’ll probably be close because that’s how it always is, but the road Tigers should win this one.
Kentucky (-1.5) at Louisville
My pick: Kentucky -1.5
I’m a huge Scott Satterfield believer. I really am. I would bet on Louisville becoming the ACC’s 2nd best team in the near future. But Mark Stoops returns a ton of talent, especially on defense. That’s after a year in which his team absolutely bullied Louisville. Even without Lynn Bowden, I’ll take the Cats on the road.
Tennessee at Oklahoma (-7)
My pick: Oklahoma -7
Oct. 7, 2017. That was the last time the Sooners lost at home. Will they face a defense as good as Tennessee’s all year? That’s debatable. This will likely be Spencer Rattler’s first start against an FBS team. Could there be some butterflies? For sure. Still, I’ll take a Lincoln Riley-coached team to be well prepared for the Vols.
Georgia at Alabama (-4.5)
My pick: Alabama -4.5
You’re asking Georgia, with 9 new starters with a new starting quarterback and a new offensive coordinator with a new offensive system, to go into Alabama and keep it within a field goal? I’m not buying that. I think it’ll be especially difficult for a Georgia team that really could be impacted by these lack of spring practices. I’m not predicting Saban’s first loss to an assistant to come in that Week 3 showdown.
LSU at Florida (-2)
My pick: Florida -2
So I realize at this point, I’ve only taken favorites. Perhaps that’s not smart. Oh well. I don’t think LSU is falling off the face of the Earth, but I am of the belief that a team with turnover galore could struggle in its first true road game of the season. The Tigers’ start off 5-0 with a 21-game winning streak entering the showdown in Gainesville with a goal of quieting the “championship hangover” narrative. But they suffer their first loss since the 7-overtime game against Texas A&M in 2018.
Auburn at Georgia (-3.5)
My pick: Georgia -3.5
Again, I have questions about the Auburn offense. You know what I don’t have any questions about? Georgia deserving to be considered the nation’s top defense entering 2020. I’ll take my chances on the Dawgs taking care of business at home and making it a long day for Bo Nix and Co.
Texas A&M at Auburn (-3.5)
My pick: Texas A&M +3.5
I’m not convinced that the Aggies win — they have yet to beat a ranked team on the road during the Jimbo Fisher era — but I do believe this game comes down to the final minutes. Kellen Mond, if he wants to be considered one of the country’s top quarterbacks, has to win a game like this. I think he at least comes close to doing that against an Auburn team that has significant issues on both sides of the ball.
Alabama at LSU (-1)
My pick: Alabama +1
No, this isn’t the same old LSU. It’s probably useless to point to the Crimson Tide’s 4-game winning streak in Baton Rouge. But the biggest difference I think we’ll see from this Alabama team is how much better prepared it is defensively. The Crimson Tide will be much closer to a Saban-esque defense than they were last year, and in an extremely rare instance in which they’re the underdog (that could change), Alabama wins outright.
Georgia (-2) vs. Florida in Jacksonville
My pick: Florida +2
Relax, Georgia fans. Again, this is subject to change and saying Florida covers that spread isn’t definitively predicting the upset. But as of right now, I like what the Gators have working in their favor. That is, continuity on the coaching staff with key offensive skill players returning. Will that guarantee Florida ends the drought in Jacksonville? No, but if there was ever a time to do it with Georgia replacing so many pieces on that offensive line, now is it for the Gators.
LSU (-1) at Texas A&M
My pick: LSU -1
I think I’d take LSU -10, too. I don’t have to because there’s a belief that the Aggies are suddenly much different from the team who got trucked 50-7 by LSU to close the regular season. I don’t think the Aggies are on that level. At least not yet. I still think the Tigers should win that battle in the trenches, and last I checked, Ed Orgeron is going to be plenty motivated in his first trip back to College Station since his premature Gatorade bath.
Auburn at Alabama (-7)
My pick: Alabama -7
The last time that Auburn kept it within single digits in Tuscaloosa was the “Cam-back” game in 2010. Ten years later, I’m not banking on a repeat of that. What I am banking on is Alabama’s experienced front 7 getting pressure on an Auburn front that has question marks galore. Whether it’s Bryce Young, Mac Jones or Taulia Tagovailoa, I’m not worried about Alabama putting up points when it did that with ease at Auburn last year, and that was when the Tigers had Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. The Tide avenge last year’s Iron Bowl loss in convincing fashion.
Texas at LSU (-6.5)
My pick: LSU -6.5
Texas is back … to losing a September nonconference game for the 8th consecutive year. Isn’t that baffling? The Longhorns were ranked at the time in each of those last 4 losses. What are the odds that LSU helps continue both of those streaks? I’d say it’s pretty favorable. I wouldn’t expect Texas to slow down Ja’Marr Chase, nor would I bet against the play-calling of Steve Ensminger. Orgeron will have his team fired up for another showdown with Tom Herman, AKA the guy who turned down LSU.