Week 5 of the college football season is here, including the second week of exciting SEC play.
Our handicappers Wes Reynolds and Brian Edwards are here to give you their best bets for the weekend's card.
The side doesn’t interest me, but I’m looking at this total. Neither North Carolina nor Boston College run a quick tempo offensively; not particularly a surprise for BC considering they are running a new system with a new coach and a new QB. The Eagles returned four of their five OL starters, but are only averaging 86 ypg through two games (64th out of 72 teams) and will be taking on a stingy UNC defense that only allowed 68 on the ground to Syracuse.
North Carolina showed rust in its first game and may show similar rust having not played for three weeks. Jeff Hafley was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State last year and is in his first year as BC head coach. The defense has shown progress considering they held a relatively potent Texas State offense to 74 yards under its season average. I’m taking the under.
Pick: Under 54.5
Baylor Bears (-3, 53.5) at West Virginia Mountaineers
Reynolds: After having two games (vs. Louisiana Tech and Houston) postponed due to COVID-19, Baylor finally took the field last Saturday against Kansas and won big, 47-14. However, the game was much closer than the final score indicated. The Bears had two kickoff return touchdowns and another one on a short field. In fact, the Bears only outgained the Jayhawks by a 352-328 margin.
Meanwhile, West Virginia took the betting action all week and was bet down from + 8.5 to + 5.5 at Oklahoma State. However, the Mountaineers got themselves in a hole in the second quarter with two fumbles in Oklahoma State territory that led to 10 points including a return touchdown.
This is Baylor's first road game under new head coach Dave Aranda (previously LSU's defensive coordinator) and this is a tough spot to go on the road with a team running new systems on both sides of the ball to face a hungry team that felt like they beat themselves in Stillwater last weekend. Bettors often don't like to come back for seconds when teams burn them the week before and that looks to be the case here, as the line has stayed Baylor -3 most of the week. This is when you want the underdog when they are more unwanted the following week.
Pick: West Virginia + 3
No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies at No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (-18, 52)
Reynolds: Alabama missed the College Football Playoff for the first time since the playoff’s inception during the 2014-15 season. The Crimson Tide started its revenge tour with a 38-19 non-covering win at Missouri. In fairness, Alabama led 35-3 late in the third quarter and pulled its starters to save them for games against bigger fish like Texas A&M. The Aggies never had a chance of covering as 31.5-point favorites in their opener last week, as they struggled with sloppy play (including three turnovers) and special teams mistakes, one of which led to a Vanderbilt safety. Texas A&M only won 17-12 over arguably the SEC's worst team.
Since taking over in College Station, Jimbo Fisher (0-2 SU/1-1 ATS) has lost his first two matchups with Alabama by an average of 21.5 points. These are the games that Fisher was hired to win. He was not hired to a big contract to go to the Gator and Texas Bowls. Fisher is currently just 10-7 vs. SEC opponents now in his third season and is on a long list of former assistants to lose to Nick Saban, who is 19-0 against old proteges.
Nevertheless, this line has increased from an opener of -13 at Circa Sports and may still have room to be bet up. Texas A&M was obviously looking ahead to this one so a far less sloppy effort should be expected. Very few programs can match Alabama's talent level, but the Aggies have had back-to-back national top-five recruiting classes.
Pick: Texas A&M + 18; Under 52
Edwards: Texas A&M has seen five projected starters opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. This group includes senior WR Jhamon Ausbon, who was a third-team All-SEC selection last year when he had 66 receptions for 872 yards and five touchdowns, and junior LB Anthony Hines, who was the Aggies’ second-leading tackler in 2019 (73 stops) and paced them with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Even though Vanderbilt was missing star LB Dimitri Moore, the team’s leading tackler last season (99), its top returning rusher (Keyon Brooks) and three other projected defensive starters, Fisher’s team never led by more than nine points in a lackluster 17-12 win over the Commodores last week as a huge favorite.
Unlike Texas A&M, Alabama hasn’t had any opt outs. In fact, star players like RB Najee Harris, WR DeVonta Smith and LB Dylan Moses bypassed the 2020 NFL Draft to return to school.
Alabama raced out to a 35-3 lead in Saturday’s opener at Missouri as a 29-point road ‘chalk.’ Unfortunately for 'Bama backers, Saban wanted to get five-star true freshman QB Bryce Young some reps, so he replaced Mac Jones late in the third quarter.
Jones had looked sharp, completing 18-of-24 passes for 249 yards and two TDs without an interception. Harris, who I backed at 35-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, ran for 98 yards and three TDs on 17 attempts.
Missouri outscored the Crimson Tide 13-3 in the fourth quarter to post a backdoor cover. However, gamblers who took Alabama at -7 or -7.5 in the first quarter and -17 for first-half wagers cashed tickets.
I made the Tide a 24-point favorite. Look for the Tide to deal out woodshed treatment and I’ll be on it in the first half (-10 or -10.5) and first quarter (presuming it’s -7 or fewer), too.
Pick: Alabama -18
Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs (-18, 69)
Reynolds: Mississippi State was the headline story of the past weekend in college football as the Bulldogs went to Baton Rouge and defeated defending national champion LSU 44-34, winning outright as two-touchdown underdogs. The Bulldogs debuted Mike Leach's "Air Raid" Offense with Stanford transfer QB K.J. Costello breaking the SEC single-game record for passing yards with 623 yards (5 TD passes). The season opener didn’t go so well for Arkansas, as it was defeated 37-10 at home by No. 4 Georgia. The Razorbacks led 10-5 midway through the third quarter before allowing a TD drive and then giving up a blocked punt (leading to a Georgia TD on a short field), and then throwing a pick six.
Arkansas is still a work-in-progress under first-year head coach Sam Pittman, but this line would have been under two touchdowns had it been played last weekend, so this is more of a play against Mississippi State and perhaps capitalizing on an overreaction in terms of a market adjustments. The largest market adjustments will often occur between the first and second game due to a smaller sample size. Mississippi State (10-1) is now the fourth-shortest choice to win the SEC at DraftKings ahead of both Auburn and Texas A&M. Arkansas's defense was very good for most of the game until turnovers left them to defend a short field.
Pick: Arkansas + 18
Ole Miss Rebels at Kentucky Wildcats (-6.5, 61.5)
Edwards: Kentucky lost a 29-13 decision at Auburn, but the Wildcats had advantages in total offense (384-324), first downs (21-16) and time of possession (36:29-23:31). Trailing 8-7 with 1:14 left in the first half, Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez appeared to cross the plane of the goal line for a go-ahead TD, but officials ruled him short and replay officials inexplicably upheld the spot.
Two plays later, Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was intercepted. Wilson would commit another costly turnover early in the fourth quarter, coughing up a fumble with his team trailing 15-13. The mistake gave Auburn a short field and it went 23 yards in five plays to extend its lead to 22-13.
Then Kentucky failed on a fake-punt attempt, allowing Auburn to go 27 yards in two plays for another short scoring drive. Nevertheless, outside of Wilson’s crucial errors, I liked what I saw out of Mark Stoop’s squad on The Plains.
Kentucky will enjoy an enormous advantage in the matchup between its massive offensive line and the Rebels’ defensive line. Ole Miss lost 51-35 at home against Florida, but the Gators were missing four senior starters on defense once safety Shawn Davis was ejected for targeting early in the first quarter.
Kentucky has won 12 of its past 15 home games, and compiled a 6-2 ATS record in eight home contests last season.
Pick: Kentucky -6.5
--Tennessee, an 11.5-point home favorite Saturday vs. Missouri, is 3-5 ATS in eight games as a home favorite during Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure. The Volunteers have an abysmal 15-26 ATS mark in 41 games as home favorites since 2012.
--Florida is an 18-point home favorite vs. South Carolina. The Gators are 7-2 ATS in nine games as double-digit “chalk” since Dan Mullen took over in 2018. Likewise, the Gamecocks are 7-2 ATS in their past nine contests as road underdogs.
--Auburn is a 6.5-point underdog at Georgia. As a road underdog on Gus Malzahn’s watch, the Tigers are 6-8 ATS. They are 8-15 ATS in 23 such spots since 2011. Georgia has struggled to a 9-15 spread record in 24 games as a home favorite during Kirby Smart’s tenure.
--Vanderbilt is in a 2-8 ATS slump in its last 10 games as a home underdog. The Commodores are 20.5-point home underdogs Saturday vs. LSU.
--Louisiana Tech is a 24-point underdog Friday night at BYU. The Bulldogs have produced a 15-6-1 ATS record with six outright victories in their 22 games as road underdogs since 2014. Meanwhile, BYU is 7-10 ATS in 17 games as a home favorite under Kalani Sitake.