SEC Week 1 predictions (and bets)
The wait is finally over, SEC football has returned.
With Week 1 just around the corner, it’s time for the glorious return of our weekly predictions column. SDS news desk editor Michael Bratton (@MichaelWBratton) and SDS Podcast co-host Chris Marler (@VerneFUNquist) are back once again to share their thoughts on the action ahead during the opening weekend of the season with their against the spread selections.
The Gators got things kicked off by surviving the Week 0 showdown in Orlando against Miami and we looked about as shaky as Dan Mullen’s squad last weekend as we both picked Florida to cover the touchdown spread.
No selection for the Arkansas vs. Portland State game as games against FCS competition do not have widely available spreads.
Here is how the guys predict the Week 1 action to play out:
Texas State at Texas A&M (-33.5)
Michael: It will be interesting to see how much the Aggies reveal in the season opener considering the trip to Clemson is looming next weekend. Texas State is revamping its offense under former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who is entering his first year as Texas State head coach. TSU is also breaking in a new quarterback, meaning this should be the perfect game for Mike Elko’s unit to adjust with so many new faces in the starting lineup along the front seven. Texas A&M’s offense should have its way with State, but my only concern is the Aggies resting Kellen Mond in order to get their backup signal-callers some much-needed experience on the field. Be wary of the backdoor cover in this one.
Texas A&M 48 Texas State 10
Chris: All I know about this game is 41% of total bets are on Texas St covering but over 75% of the money is on them to cover. Vegas knows something I don’t.
Texas A&M 45 Texas State 14
Toledo at Kentucky (-11.5)
Michael: I’ve been saying all offseason that I don’t expect the Wildcats to come crashing back down in the SEC East but this is going to be a dangerous matchup for Kentucky. Toledo has a roster loaded with experience and had a ton of success on offense last fall. If this game turns into a shootout, it could fall on Terry Wilson’s shoulders to win it. Kentucky has been saying all the right things this offseason when it comes to Wilson’s growth in the passing game but until we actually see it on the field, it’s fair to question how far his game has progressed.
Kentucky 30 Toledo 24
Chris: Kentucky is gonna throw all over Toledo, pull the starters early, and open themselves up for a prime backdoor cover.
Kentucky 31 Toledo 21
Ole Miss at Memphis (-5.5)
Michael: This line surprised many SEC fans when it opened but it really should not have. Ole Miss is going to be the worst team in the league this season and Memphis has consistently shown to be a program capable of winning at a high level and features one of the best G5 head coaches in the nation and is returning a proven commodity in quarterback Brady White — he completed over 62 percent of his passes for 3,296 yards and 26 touchdowns last fall. The fact that Ole Miss is breaking in so many new players on both sides of the ball with two new coordinators, on the road no less, is only going to add to the woes of the Rebels in this game. I like what I’ve seen from Matt Corral up to this point but he can’t do it all on his own. If the Ole Miss tandem of Scottie Phillips and Jerrion Ealy run wild in this game, the Rebels will win it but I have serious reservations regarding the team’s offensive line — especially now that Alex Givens’ status is up in the air.
Memphis 38 Ole Miss 24
Chris: Memphis is 1 of 2 teams in the country returning a 3000 yd QB, 1000 yd WR, and 1000 yd RB. Ole Miss returns Matt Luke and Matt Corral. So, there’s that.
Memphis 38 Ole Miss 30
Mississippi State (-20.5) vs. Louisiana *in New Orleans
Michael: There is a renewed faith in Joe Moorhead’s offense in Starkville thanks to the offseason additions of instant impact players Tommy Stevens, Isaiah Zuber and JaVonta Payton joining forces with an experienced offensive line and underrated running back Kylin Hill but until we see these new additions mesh with the returning veterans, I would still anticipate an acclimation period. I like Mississippi State’s defense to have a nice performance in the opener, despite the much-discussed loss of three first-round picks from last season’s unit, but I’m still taking Louisiana to cover.
Mississippi State 34 Louisiana 14
Chris: ULL was 92nd in FBS against the run last year. But Mississippi State has a lot to replace up front and ULL returns 2 1000 yard rushers.
Mississippi State 41 Louisiana 20
South Carolina (-10) vs. North Carolina
Michael: This is one of my favorite bets of Week 1. I liked it even better when it was listed around a touchdown but the sportsbooks have begun to adjust on what’s coming and are attempting to balance the odds back in North Carolina’s favor. Despite the line now reaching double figures, I still like South Carolina in this matchup. Looking past the Gamecocks’ issues on the field last season may be tough for some but Will Muschamp has consistently added more and more talent to his program over the years and this should be far and away his best roster in Columbia. Meanwhile, North Carolina just won two games last season and face a complete overhaul in all phases of the game and plan on starting a true freshman in the opener.
South Carolina 38 North Carolina 13
Chris: UNC was one of the worst P5 schools in the country last year. SC is gonna have a field day Saturday before the real tough part of the schedule starts.
South Carolina 31 North Carolina 14
Georgia State at Tennessee (-26)
Michael: By season’s end, I expect Tennessee could be one of the most improved teams in the conference but I’m not ready to predict the Volunteers are four touchdowns better than any opponent based on a few factors. The offseason addition of Jim Chaney has been lauded all offseason but he’s only as good as the players he has to work with and I suspect Tennessee’s offensive line will still be a work in progress to start the season. On the other side of the ball, this will be Derrick Ansley’s first college game calling the defensive plays and with several true freshmen expected to either start or log significant snaps in the opener, I’ll take the points and anticipate a late backdoor cover if Tennessee jumps out to a big lead. Much like Texas A&M, the Vols have two quarterbacks with little to no experience and will be looking to get those players some snaps in this game.
Tennessee 38 Georgia State 21
Chris: GSU was 2-9 ATS last season. Tennessee is the most improved team in the SEC.
Tennessee 41 Georgia State 3
Duke vs. Alabama (-35) * in Atlanta
Michael: This game may be a huge talent mismatch on paper but the coaching advantage may not be as large as some assume. Daniel Jones may no longer be around to sling the football for the Blue Devils but there’s little doubt David Cutcliffe will have senior quarterback Quentin Harris ready to go in the opener. The fact that Alabama has suspended or lost every running back for this game isn’t helping either. I’ll be very interested to see how well Alabama’s secondary has adjusted from last season’s collapse. Tua Tagovailoa will likely go off in this game and if he takes the fourth quarter off as he did of half the season last fall, I like Duke to cover.
Alabama 52 Duke 20
Chris: Everyone keeps doubting Saban. Have fun with that.
Alabama 45 Duke 10
Georgia Southern at LSU (-28)
Michael: I’m expecting big things from LSU this season but this line scares me. How effective and willing will the Tigers be to take on the triple-option attack of Georgia Southern? How many possessions with LSU even get to cover the spread? Despite these reservations, I’m going with the Tigers to cover considering all the weapons LSU has on offense to throw at the Eagles. I have Joe Burrow pegged as the SEC quarterback that takes the biggest step forward this season and based on everything that’s being said about Myles Brennan this offseason, even if Burrow leaves the field with the Tigers up big, I believe Brennan will enter the game and manage to put up points to help cover.
LSU 48 Georgia Southern 14
Chris: LSU is the superior team, but the combination of facing the triple option and not wanting to show too much before the trip to Texas next week gives Southern (not State) the cover.
LSU 34 Georgia Southern 14
Missouri (-17.5) at Wyoming
Michael: I’m high on Missouri entering the season, I predicted the Tigers to finish second in the East at SEC Media Days, but despite my belief in what Barry Odom’s unit will accomplish by season’s end, I’m going with the Cowboys to cover at home. There’s been so much hype surrounding Kelly Bryant this offseason, it’s hard to imagine him living up to it all in a road opener. When you factor in he’s never played in an offensive system like Derek Dooley’s, I think it could take a few games for him to get into a groove this season. Mizzou has a history of starting the season slowly under Odom and I’m leaning toward that happening again this year.
Missouri 30 Wyoming 20
Chris: Missouri has a lot to prove this year. To themselves, to the SEC, and to the NCAA. Lookout.
Missouri 35 Wyoming 13
Georgia (-21.5) at Vanderbilt
Michael: Typically, I would never take this many points in a season-opening conference game on the road. However, this game won’t be taking place in a road environment for the Bulldogs — this will be more of a road atmosphere for the Commodores based on the buzz surrounding the game. The spread is large but so is the gap between these two rosters, and that’s with Vanderbilt having maybe the best running back and tight end in the league. Vanderbilt’s line of scrimmage will be tested in this matchup and I don’t like the Dores to hold up for long. Despite having largely a new set of receivers surrounding him, I like Jake Fromm to continue the momentum he had to end last season.
Georgia 45 Vanderbilt 13
Chris: I hope this line isn’t a trap because I feel like it’s free money. The only thing longer in Nashville than the bathroom line at Tootsies is the night in store for the Commodores.
Georgia 38 Vanderbilt 14
Oregon vs. Auburn (-3.5) * in Arlington
Michael: I hate to be a buzzkill but I don’t see the “game of the week” living up to the hype. Auburn is going to destroy Oregon. We’ve heard all offseason about the offensive line of the Ducks and how they are the best the Pac-12 has to offer. That’s cute and all but when these west coast linemen meet Auburn’s defensive line on Saturday, we’ll find out what they are really made of on the field. For some reason, many people have bought into the Justin Herbert hype and expect him to be the nation’s top quarterback prospect based on a few mock drafts but look for him to be exposed on Saturday. With Gus Malzahn back calling the plays full time, I like Auburn’s offense to look significantly improved from last season. This game should be a big momentum booster for the Tigers.
Auburn 33 Oregon 13
Chris: Oregon may have the best offensive line and QB in the country. But they are 4-12 away from Autzen Stadium in the last 3 years and haven’t seen a D-Line like this.
Auburn 31 Oregon 27