SEC Week 1 predictions (and bets)
Welcome back, SEC fans. College football is back, and it’s back with one of the better opening weekends in recent memory.
Each week, Kevin Duffey and Michael Bratton of Saturday Down South will go head-to-head on making predictions against the spread (ATS) for every SEC football game. We’ll track how well we’re picking straight winners as well as our picks ATS each week.
Furthermore, we’ll provide some insight into what lines we like the best from a betting perspective. While we’re making predictions on every game, a good gambler knows how to pick and choose which games to bet on.
Let’s dive into the Week 1 action.
Note: The lines below are from Tuesday.
Vanderbilt (-3.5) vs. South Carolina
Michael: Entering his third season in Nashville, look for this to be Derek Mason’s best defense yet. Combine that information with a South Carolina team desperate for answers at virtually every position on offense, and points could come at a premium in this matchup. If South Carolina doesn’t contain Vandy’s offense, this game could get ugly.
Vanderbilt 20, South Carolina 10
Kevin: This spread is interesting because it opened previously with South Carolina favored by 3-4 points. In other words, the line has moved a full touchdown. The Skai Moore news likely helped move the line, but a whole touchdown? Too much for me. That said, I think Vanderbilt will come to play, and I’m concerned about the 2016 Gamecocks. I’ll take Vandy in a close one but not covering the spread.
Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 14
Tennessee (-20.5) vs. App State
Michael: Tennessee is a legitimate playoff contender, while Appalachian State elevated to the Sun Belt from the Southern Conference only two seasons ago. This game will be far more reminiscent of the Mountaineers’ 2008 trip to Baton Rouge than the 2007 trip to Ann Arbor.
Tennessee 38, Appalachian State 6
Kevin: I think Tennessee comes into this game pretty amped up and ready to play. When your game is defense and running the ball, the energy should work in their favor. When the Vols play a stout run defense, it won’t be that simple, but App State isn’t that team. I think the Vols steamroll their opponent in their opener, easily covering the spread.
Tennessee 41, Appalachian State 9
West Virginia (-9.5) vs. Mizzou
Michael: 10 points is just too many to lay for a defense of Mizzou’s caliber. The Tigers’ offense isn’t likely to put up many points on the road facing off against an underrated Morgantown crowd, but it will be enough to cover.
West Virginia 21, Mizzou 14
Kevin: It’s difficult to trust Missouri after the 2015 season, but if I trust anything, I trust the defense. As such, like Michael stated, I think the 9.5-point spread is too much. It’s also a noon kickoff, meaning those wild West Virginia fans will only be a little drunk.
West Virginia 17, Mizzou 13
Mississippi State (-29.5) vs. South Alabama
Michael: The Bulldogs are certainly capable of putting a hurting on the Jaguars, who ranked No. 114 in scoring defense last season. However, with MSU planning to play as many as three quarterbacks, the offensive production could be halted for the sake of gaining experience. Meanwhile, the defense will be adjusting to several new coaches and a new scheme, which could lead to a breakdown or two. I’ll take the 30 points.
Mississippi State 35, South Alabama 13
Kevin: There’s certainly a tendency to go against the idea of MSU covering the spread here considering the absence of Dak Prescott, but it’s South Alabama, and MSU still has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Is this a vote of confidence in MSU with regards to competing in the SEC West this season? No, I think they’ve got a long way to go before I’ll believe they’ll knock off some of the SEC West’s best, but I’m going to trust Dan Mullen here that they can put up points against a far inferior opponent. Also, this line opened up at around 34 points, so it’s moved down nearly 5 points. I like going against the public in this scenario.
Mississippi State 42, South Alabama 10
Kentucky (-6.5) vs. Southern Miss
Michael: Despite a poor 12-24 overall record at Kentucky, Mark Stoops actually has a winning record over the first half the season. Look for that to continue this weekend against one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation in Southern Miss’ Nick Mullens (38 passing TDs in 2015). The problem for the Eagles? The Wildcats have not only a quarterback of their own, they have multiple receivers, running backs and an experienced offensive line that should put up enough points to win by more than a touchdown.
Kentucky 38, Southern Miss 24
Kevin: The Cats failed to cover the 17-point spread to open the 2015 season against Louisiana-Lafayette, so I’m not overly confident in picking Kentucky to cover the touchdown spread to open the 2016 season. But I’m going to pick them to do it anyways. Kentucky has the talent to win the game, but I’m skeptical that they’ll put a pounding on Southern Miss. The Cats cover the spread, but not by much.
Kentucky 35, Southern Miss 27
Arkansas (-26) vs. Louisiana Tech
Michael: Another example of a team capable of potentially running up the score. However, the opportunity for young players to enter the game and gain valuable experience could cut into a potential big lead. That’s assuming the Hogs don’t start slow, something that has plagued Arkansas under Bret Bielema. Don’t expect Tech to score many points but just enough to cover the spread.
Arkansas 35, Louisiana Tech 13
Kevin: The public has bet this line up from around 20.5 points up to the 26-point spread that it sits at currently. That’s not typically a situation where I want to bet on the favorite, but I think the Hogs have the potential to score a lot of points against La Tech. La Tech gave up 26.8 points per game last season. Against big boy programs, they gave up 39 to Kansas State and 45 to Mississippi State. I think Arkansas putting up 40 against them is in play. As such, I’m taking the Hogs to cover.
Arkansas 38, Louisiana Tech 10
Florida (-35.5) vs. UMass
Michael: That is a ton of points to take for a Florida team that looked so porous to end last season. The Gators are another team planning to get multiple quarterbacks live action, two of which could be true freshmen and dealing with multiple suspensions. I will take the points yet again until the Gators prove late last season’s offensive output was a fluke.
Florida 35, UMass 7
Kevin: I’m going to take a different approach to this game than Michael. I think there’s value in this Florida line because of the way the Treon Harris-quarterbacked team looked to end the season is so present in the minds of the public. Will Luke Del Rio look like Will Grier against Ole Miss last season? Nope, but he’ll be much better than Harris. UMass is ranked 127 in USA Today’s ranking of all 128 programs, and Florida is going to pound them on Saturday.
Florida 44, UMass 6
Auburn vs. Clemson (-7.5)
Michael: This was one of my favorite opening lines as Clemson opened as a double-digit favorite. The value was with Auburn at that time but has shifted all the way back to Clemson’s favor. Don’t be surprised if Auburn’s defensive line gets to Deshaun Watson early in this game and keeps it close, but Auburn’s lack of proven playmakers on offense will prevent any upset from happening.
Clemson 27, Auburn 17
Kevin: I’m nervous jumping on the Clemson bandwagon here, because it’s been reported that the public is betting Clemson more than any other game going on this weekend. But there’s a reason the public is jumping on them. Clemson is darn good, and Deshaun Watson is just nasty. There’s a chance that Auburn’s defensive line is disruptive enough to keep the game relatively close, but for my money, I’ve got to take Clemson here to win and cover.
Clemson 34, Auburn 13
Texas A&M (-3) vs. UCLA
Michael: Under Jim Mora, UCLA has been an excellent road team. Meanwhile, Texas A&M has struggled at home against Power 5 competition. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is the best quarterback prospect in the nation and will live up to the hype in this game. That being said, the Bruins have never matched up against this much talent at receiver and by the end of the game could succumb to the Texas heat. I like the Aggies to start the season strong yet again in a Wild West-style shootout.
Texas A&M 42, UCLA 35
Kevin: I already bet Texas A&M to win more than 8 games in my over/under bets. If you take that over/under, you’re essentially assuming that the Aggies will beat UCLA. I think Trevor Knight is going to shine this year, and the Aggies’ wideouts are going to put up some big numbers. But the reason I like the Aggies against UCLA most of all is that Texas A&M defensive line. Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall on the ends will be in Josh Rosen’s face all day. Welcome to Texas, son.
Texas A&M 42, UCLA 31
LSU (-10) vs. Wisconsin
Michael: The Badgers understandably are concentrating the defensive game plan around corralling Leonard Fournette, but that’s much easier said than done. One missed assignment and an entire game plan could go out the window in Wisconsin’s first game under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Don’t be surprised if Brandon Harris has a good game here. He has the talent and the weapons to do some serious damage if defenses force him to throw. The talent gap here will be too much to overcome for the Badgers.
LSU 28, Wisconsin 14
Kevin: My contrarian nature is tempting me to take Wisconsin and the points considering the double-digit spread, but I think that risks overthinking it. Leonard Fournette is about to be unleashed, and I don’t think Wisconsin fully understands what’s coming. Even more importantly, LSU has talent on both sides of the ball, and that will be the difference.
LSU 35, Wisconsin 21
Georgia (-3) vs. UNC
Michael: The closer we get to kickoff, the more faith I have in Kirby Smart and Georgia, likely led on offense by Jacob Eason, to make a statement in the Chick-fil-A opening kickoff game. If North Carolina feeds running back Elijah Hood early and often, they could make things interesting for much of the game, but I like the Dawgs to show up late in the game in this debut for the new face of UGA football.
Georgia 30, UNC 21
Kevin: I think Georgia is going to have some hiccups this season, and the UNC game might be the first one. I think Eason could be great, but he’s not going to be great right away (assuming he starts). This game has upset potential.
UNC 28, Georgia 27
Alabama (-10.5) vs. USC
Michael: Believe it or not, USC matches up well with Alabama in terms of raw talent on the field. The coaching matchup? Not so much. The Trojans’ staff will have to prove it can get inexperienced players up to speed against arguably the best team in the nation in Week 1, something Alabama is also dealing with but has proven more than capable in recent seasons. Alabama should yet again roll in Arlington.
Alabama 35, USC 17
Kevin: Last year’s Trojans were overmatched against any team they played that had a respectable defense. Well, now they’re basically playing the best. You can’t bet against Nick Saban here regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Tide. While Alabama may not light up the scoreboard, the physicality will wear down the Trojans and the Tide will cover the spread late.
Alabama 28, USC 10
FSU (-4.5) vs. Ole Miss
Michael: The game I’m most looking forward to of the weekend, the winner of this game will likely earn the season’s first official statement win. While Ole Miss may have more combined talent than any other Rebels team in school history, they still match up poorly against the Seminoles. As great as Chad Kelly is, he could be running for his life early and often in this matchup. Despite concerns of playing an inexperienced quarterback, the last time I checked, Jimbo Fisher was one of the game’s best quarterback coaches. Look for Deondre Francois to come out slinging it on early downs to help create running lanes for Dalvin Cook later in the game. I’d take FSU in this game even if the spread was at double digits.
FSU 34, Ole Miss 21
Kevin: I really want to pick Ole Miss here, and I think this team could have a good season. But Florida State’s talent is going to be too much. The ‘Noles defense is nasty, and Dalvin Cook is probably the best back in the country not named Leonard Fournette. My head says take Florida State, but my heart will enjoy an Ole Miss upset.
FSU 38, Ole Miss 28
I’ve made my predictions for every game, so now let’s look at the specific lines I’ll be placing wagers on. You’re not going to hit every prediction you make, so choosing the right games to bet on is all part of the process.
Here are the games I’m betting this week:
- Tennessee -20.5 against App State
- Florida -35.5 against UMass
- Texas A&M -3 against UCLA
- Miss State -29.5 against South Alabama
- Clemson -7.5 against Auburn
- Florida State -4.5 against Ole Miss
You can also see the full season over/unders and prop bets we mapped out previously by clicking here.
Enjoy the games!