SEC Week 11 predictions (and bets)
Time for our weekly picks and bets from around the SEC. As always, SDS news desk editor Michael Bratton (@MichaelWBratton) and SDS senior national columnist Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) go head-to-head, picking every SEC game against the spread while sharing their thoughts heading into each matchup.
Here are our Week 11 SEC selections:
Arkansas at LSU (-17)
Michael: This is a massive line for a rivalry game but there’s little reason to think Arkansas will put up a fight in this one considering the issues the team has had defending against the run and LSU having Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams in the backfield. The Tigers have been a different team since losing to Troy and very well could have beaten Alabama had Danny Etling hit a few of his deep shots down the field. The Tigers won’t need those plays to have success against this Razorback defense. While the Razorbacks have been having success on offense, Arden Key appears to have finally returned to his 2016 form. Not a great sign for an Arkansas team that struggles to protect its QBs.
LSU 38, Arkansas 13
Connor: It seems like the Tigers have been long overdue for a laugher. Here’s a crazy thought. Despite how well the Tigers have played since the Troy loss, they haven’t had a win by more than two scores since Chattanooga in Week 2. I think that changes this weekend. The Hogs are fresh off a scare against Coastal Carolina, and this defense hasn’t shown any signs that it can shut down a capable ground attack. The Danny Etling criticism takes a break this week and LSU stomps its way to a rare blowout win.
LSU 38, Arkansas 10
Louisiana at Ole Miss (-20)
Michael: Credit the Rebels for not giving up and earning a surprise win last weekend in Lexington. Jordan Ta’amu was a deserving winner of SEC Offensive Player of the Week after completing the game-winning pass on the road against Kentucky last weekend. While there are still major issues with the Rebels run defense, the offense should have no problem putting up points against one of the worst scoring offenses in the nation — Louisiana is giving up over 37 points per game. A win this week would set up an interesting game against Texas A&M in Oxford the following weekend.
Ole Miss 48, Louisiana 24
Connor: Man, the oddsmakers are really all in on Jordan Ta’amu and the Rebel offense. Never mind the fact that it’ll take on the same Louisiana squad that pushed Texas A&M earlier in the season (the Aggies cruised late). While I think the Rebels have a clear advantage in the passing game, I still question if they’ll be able to stop the run. Louisiana has a freshman tailback in Trey Vegas who is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and he nearly hit the century mark against the Aggies. I think he runs wild against Ole Miss and at least keeps this one interesting.
Ole Miss 38, Louisiana 28
Florida at South Carolina (-7)
Michael: Things can’t possibly get much worse for Florida, can they? Last week’s showing was abysmal. Once the Gators got down they laid down. Hard to imagine that happens again this week, as some pride has to come shine through at some point. Meanwhile, South Carolina just lost a tough, physical game against arguably the SEC’s best team. If the Gamecocks had more talent, they may have walked out of Athens with a win last week. Needing to win every game left on the schedule to make it to a bowl, I like Florida to spring an upset and win this one outright.
Florida 21, South Carolina 20
Connor: Ah, the Will Muschamp bowl! I’d like to think that Muschamp had a nice ear-to-ear grin when he saw the spread for this one (you better believe he saw it). The fact that he’s a touchdown favorite against his former team has to be sweet. The question is obviously if his team can live up to it. The Gamecocks, perhaps more than any other team in the SEC, have a tendency to play to their competition. That’s not always a good thing when a team like Florida limps into town. This should be an early-round knockout. Nothing about Florida says it can go 15 rounds with a competent foe. I’ll lean on that thinking and say that the Gamecocks deliver the blow earlier than usual.
South Carolina 31, Florida 14
Georgia (-2.5) at Auburn
Michael: The game of the year to date in the SEC is set for an afternoon kick on the Plains. This should be one hell of a game between two teams featuring two physical defenses and offenses that love to pound the ball. While many have pondered all week how Jake Fromm will react to the game, he’s answered far more questions on the field than his counterpart Jarrett Stidham this season. The former Baylor QB has yet to win a game for the Tigers but will likely have the opportunity to do so this week, as Georgia’s secondary is not nearly as strong as the front seven. The loss of Kam Pettway hasn’t been an issue yet but could really hurt the Tigers in this matchup. How much of the running load can Kerryon Johnson carry by myself against this defense? If he puts on a terrific performance, it may be time for him to get some Heisman consideration. Georgia’s senior class, which, of course, includes Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, has yet to lose to Auburn. The most underrated aspect of Georgia’s roster may be their receivers and tight ends. I like those players to be the difference in this one in the best win of the season to date for the Dawgs. (I think Auburn would beat Notre Dame, in case you were wondering)
Georgia 21, Auburn 16
Connor: So for weeks, I’ve been saying that I believe in Georgia’s national title aspirations, but that I thought they’d suffer a hiccup at Auburn, I’m sticking to that. It’s not a slight to Georgia, which has been outstanding in all facets this season. It’s more about how difficult it is for a Power 5 team to go 12-0. Alabama makes it look easier than it is. Do I believe the Dawgs are the better team? Absolutely. But this game is at Jordan-Hare, and I think the Auburn offense puts Georgia in its first deficit of conference play. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were more points in this one than what conventional wisdom suggests. But something about this game feels like one of those dramatic Auburn victories late.
Auburn 31, Georgia 28
Kentucky at Vanderbilt (-2.5)
Michael: Kentucky may be the toughest team to predict in the league right now. How do the Wildcats lose the turnover margin by four against Tennessee yet win the game only to turn around and lose to lowly Ole Miss? Vanderbilt isn’t much easier to pick, the Commodores put it on Western Kentucky last week after five consecutive losses. The schedule sets up nicely for Vanderbilt to finish with a great record, with each game likely being a toss-up contest. While Benny Snell has been on a tear in recent weeks, he currently leads the SEC in rushing, I like Kyle Shurmur and company to come out on top in this one.
Vanderbilt 34, Kentucky 30
Connor: I mean, what has Vanderbilt done to be a favorite in any SEC game? To be winless in conference play this late in the season having lost all but one conference game by double figures suggest that the Commodores are a classic cellar dweller. Kentucky, on the other hand, is not. The Wildcats might’ve lost a devastating game late against Ole Miss, but I still think that Benny Snell should be able to get going in what figures to be a high scoring game.
Kentucky 37, Vanderbilt 31
Alabama (-14) at Mississippi State
Michael: It’s my belief that Mississippi State is the fourth-best team in the SEC this season. They have a young, nasty defense that is tough and physical. The running game is elite when it’s firing on all cylinders, the offensive line is vastly improved and Nick Fitzgerald has more game-breaking potential than just about any quarterback in the nation. Dan Mullen may very well be the league’s second-best coach and Todd Grantham has been a revelation for the program. Starkville may be the toughest environment to escape with a win in the league when the cowbells are ringing. Having said all that, Alabama is a terrible matchup for MSU. Alabama is No. 2 in the nation in stopping the run and has a massive advantage in the secondary going up against the Bulldog receivers. For all the great things Fitzgerald does, he has yet to consistently beat teams down the field with his arm — doing so in this matchup is the only way MSU keeps it close.
Alabama 48, Mississippi State 20
Connor: There are two schools of thought here. One could either look at the fact that the Bulldogs have actually looked really good at home this season. Or one could go with the belief that MSU has struggled mightily against the SEC’s elite and Alabama is indeed that. I’m going with the latter. Why will that happen? While Nick Fitzgerald has already surpassed some limited expectations in his career, he’s not usually the type of quarterback who succeeds against the Tide defense. He doesn’t push the ball downfield, and he isn’t particularly accurate. And with Alabama’s speed rushing off the edge, I question how much success he’ll have running the ball. Alabama is banged up, but the Tide reload and make a big statement in Starkville.
Alabama 42, Mississippi State 17
New Mexico at Texas A&M (-19)
Michael: If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about the Kevin Sumlin at A&M, it’s don’t trust the Aggies in November. Calling for Texas A&M to win by nearly three touchdowns by anyone this late in the season is a horrible idea. Considering A&M is only a two-point victory away — over a terrible Florida team — from a four-game losing streak, this team looks ready to call it a season. Add in the fact the offense has lost all its momentum under Kellen Mond and is currently rotating QBs like Steve Spurrier did back in the day, I’ll take New Mexico and the points.
Texas A&M 24, New Mexico 14
Connor: It’s hard to trust New Mexico to go into College Station and not get blown out this week. After all, the Lobos averaged 9.3 points per game the last month. That was against Mountain West foes. New Mexico simply can’t throw, which doesn’t bode well in a road game that it figures to be trailing in. Nick Starkel showed some promise in his return against a stout Auburn defense. I expect him to like what he sees even more against a New Mexico squad that surrendered 20 passing touchdowns this year.
Texas A&M 45, New Mexico 7
Tennessee at Missouri (-11)
Michael: The hype surrounding Missouri may be a bit overdone at the moment. All the Tigers have done to make many believe the program is trending in the right direction is beat a terrible Florida team the week it fired its coach and destroyed UConn and Idaho out of conference. While Tennessee has quickly turned into the laughingstock of the SEC, if not the nation, it’s easy to overlook the fact the team is still playing hard each and every week. The Tennessee defense, in particular, has shown up well nearly all season, outside of the Georgia Tech opener and in the second half against Georgia. The Vols have also been doing a great job of forcing turnovers in recent weeks and Jarrett Guarantano, who is listed as probable after missing the second half of last weekend’s game, appears to have found his footing in the offense. All that being said, Tennessee is currently devastated with injuries, again, and could easily give up a play or two that could be the difference in this game.
Missouri 31, Tennessee 27
Connor: I’m buying Missouri’s improvement. A month ago, I didn’t think that I’d type those words in 2017. But after watching this team play well offensively in three straight SEC games, I’m a believer in the Tigers’ offense, especially at home. Tennessee’s offense, on the other hand, is still missing in action. The fact that the Vols are double-digit underdogs against a Missouri team that has just one conference win tells you everything you need to know about the state of Tennessee football. I’m not sure it’ll really matter who Tennessee has under center on Saturday. Whoever gets the start won’t be able to keep up with Drew Lock and Co. The Vols’ free fall continues and John Currie continues to pretend that everything is fine in Knoxville.
Missouri 31, Tennessee 17