Last week was our third consecutive week of winning picks against the spread in conference contests. We went 5-2, which brings our season-long score to 26-22-1. Unfortunately, Vegas has closed whatever knowledge gap may have existed, and this week's slate of games is tough. We might continue our winning ways for the fourth straight week, but Don't Bet On It!
No. 6 LSU (-3) at No. 20 Texas A&M
This game is maddening because it's hard to tell which teams are going to show up. Will we see the Bayou Bengals who manhandled a fiesty South Carolina squad or the ones who struggled with Auburn and Florida? Will the Aggies who embarassed Arkansas and SMU earlier this year show up, or will it be the Aggies who struggled with Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech over the last 2 weeks? It's tempting to want to say that the Tigers struggle on the road, but Texas A&M's only loss is at home. It's also hard to pick against Aggie QB Johnny Manziel, but, then again, it's harder to pick a redshirt freshman going up against one of the best defenses in the country. Ultimately, I think we have to pick LSU here for one reason: size. LSU wants to wear down a defense with a bruising rushing attack, and each of LSU's offensive linemen has 20+ pounds on any of A&M's defensive linemen. In fact, the Aggies will have the smallest defensive line that the Tigers have seen in SEC play so far. Let's take Les Miles's brand of big boy football to win on the road, but know that this is the pick about which I am least certain this week.
Auburn at Vanderbilt (-7)
James Franklin is a better coach than Mean Gene Chizik, and Vanderbilt is better than Auburn at everything but rush defense. (In all fairness, Auburn is also far, far better at cheating than Vandy, but it's not doing them much good this year.) Anyway, if you're having a rough week, just go back and re-read that line a couple of times: Vanderbilt is favored by a touchdown over Auburn. Tiger tears are just so sweet. Let's take the Commodores to cover the spread at home and move Auburn one step closer to its inevitable hire of Bobby Petrino.
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 3 Florida (-3)
This is the second toughest pick this week. Vegas appears to agree: you get 3 points just for playing at home, so this game is basically a coin flip. Here's why we're picking the Gators to do us a solid and win at home: 21/37 for 330 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs. That's the stat line for backup Gamecock QB Dylan Thompson in his sole start for the year. Here's what the Ole Ball Coach had to say about presumptive starter Connor Shaw after last week's loss to LSU:
I don’t know if he got hit in the head tonight or not. . . . Some of his decision-making was a little off. . . . In the first half, we had a guy running a deep run on our sideline, and he threw it to the other sideline. It was pretty irritating when he had a chance to hang one in the end zone, and he threw it to the other side. He just got confused. Anyway, I guess sometimes that happens.
If Florida's (extremely stout) defense can shutdown Shaw in the first half, the temptation for Spurrier to start playing his favorite head game (QB swap) will be too great.
Middle Tennessee (+20) at No. 15 Mississippi State
The line on this game feels a little low. Middle Tennessee is only a step behind Mississippi State offensively, but defensively Mississippi State has a huge advantage. The big question is whether the Bizarro Bulldogs can avoid looking ahead to next week's showdown with the Tide in Tuscaloosa, especially coming off a big win against non-directional Tennessee last week. Dan Mullen's team won't lose -- certainly not at their own homecoming game -- but the Blue Raiders will keep it closer than 3 TDs in a trap situation.
No. 1 Alabama (-21) at Tennessee
Unlike Mississippi State, there's virtually no chance that Nick Saban's squad is looking ahead to next week's contest. Alabama is a lot better than Tennessee on every conceivable point of comparison, so we're not going to overthink this one. We're taking the Tide to roll on the road.