First, some programming notes.
Typically this series will appear either on Friday or early Saturday morning, not Wednesday evening. However, several interesting games are occurring on Thursday night this week, so I am cranking it out a bit early this time around. The Alabama-Wisconsin preview will be up tomorrow.
Also, you’ll note not every SEC game is listed below, despite that being the intent of this piece. I have no statistics for titans like SE Missouri State and UT-Martin, so I can’t preview those games. Games which should be mismatches (your 30+ point spread type games) won’t get full previews, but will get picks. I will also be picking against the spread this season, mainly because it will provide an opportunity for everyone to ridicule me at the end of the season. On that note, place bets using these picks at your own peril. After all, I’m really just a guy with an internet connection and some time.
All statistics and spreads as of September 1st.
Game of the Week, SEC Category
|TEXAS A&M||ARIZONA STATE||THE EDGE|
|F/+||29.1% (25)||F/+||33.9% (19)||PUSH|
|FEI||0.131 (25)||FEI||0.17 (12)||ARIZONA STATE|
|S&P+||14.1 (21)||S&P+||12.7 (23)||PUSH|
|FPI||22.4 (6)||FPI||14.6 (21)||TEXAS A&M|
|OS&P+||39.8 (8)||DS&P+||23.5 (33)||TEXAS A&M|
|DS&P+||25.7 (44)||OS&P+||36.3 (24)||ARIZONA STATE|
F/+ has this game as a push, although the Sun Devils have the slightest of margins over the Aggies in that respect, due in part to FEI’s ongoing love affair with the PAC-12. Note that FPI is heavily in favor of A&M, which is something you should get used to seeing now — FPI likes to zig where the other metrics zag, at least in my limited experience. The matchup to watch is when ASU has the ball, as we’ll get to see what John Chavis has been able to do with last year’s abysmal Aggie defense. If they’re much improved, A&M should win this in a walk. If it’s not, get primed for a shootout in Houston.
THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies, straight up and to cover.
National Game of the Week
|F/+||21.8% (31)||F/+||18.6% (35)||PUSH|
|FEI||0.102 (29)||FEI||0.058 (38)||UTAH|
|S&P+||6.5 (41)||S&P+||10.4 (30)||MICHIGAN|
|FPI||9.1 (41)||FPI||11.3 (30)||MICHIGAN|
|OS&P+||29.6 (54)||DS&P+||18.4 (11)||MICHIGAN|
|DS&P+||23.1 (31)||OS&P+||28.8 (61)||UTAH|
ESPN elected to go with the TCU-Minnesota game in their late slot, which is… amusing, to say the least. That game should be a mismatch, but this one should be excellent, and it’s unfortunate that it’s been relegated to Fox Sports 1. Last year the Utes traipsed into the Big House and depantsed the Wolverines 26-10, which should have been the first sign that Brady Hoke was done. As you well know, Jim Harbaugh is the head man in Ann Arbor these days, and since he is a true Michigan Man and all that it’s just a matter of time before the Wolverines win the national title every year. Too bad they’re going to start the Harbaugh era off with a loss, albeit a close one.
THE PICK: Utah Utes straight up but the Michigan Wolverines cover.
Other SEC Games To Watch
|VANDERBILT||WESTERN KENTUCKY||THE EDGE|
|F/+||-10.7% (79)||F/+||3.8% (53)||WESTERN KENTUCKY|
|FEI||-0.039 (76)||FEI||0.037 (45)||WESTERN KENTUCKY|
|S&P+||-3.9 (77)||S&P+||-0.6 (61)||WESTERN KENTUCKY|
|FPI||1.5 (60)||FPI||1.6 (59)||PUSH|
|OS&P+||23.0 (101)||DS&P+||38.1 (114)||VANDERBILT|
|DS&P+||26.8 (52)||OS&P+||37.4 (19)||WESTERN KENTUCKY|
Year Two of the Mason era in Nashville opens with the resilient Hilltoppers, and that’s not good news for the embattled former Stanford defensive coordinator. After being the latest program left in the lurch by Bobby Petrino, the Hilltoppers ran to a respectable 9-5 finish under Jeff Brohm in 2014, capped with an exciting 49-48 shootout win over Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl. The advanced metrics are all in favor of Western Kentucky here, although FPI has these teams back-to-back. Vandy has a slight edge on offense, but the Hilltoppers have a huge edge when they have the ball, and I think that’s enough to overcome the road disadvantage.
THE PICK: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, both straight up and to cover.
Louisville Cardinals vs. API, Saturday September 5th
230 PM CDT / 330 PM EDT, CBS
|F/+||38.9% (11)||F/+||19.5% (33)||API|
|FEI||0.132 (24)||FEI||0.087 (34)||API|
|S&P+||19.6 (7)||S&P+||8.6 (34)||API|
|FPI||17.0 (18)||FPI||7.6 (43)||API|
|OS&P+||40.8 (7)||DS&P+||19.4 (13)||API|
|DS&P+||21.2 (18)||OS&P+||27.9 (70)||API|
We open yet another CBS season with Gary and Uncle Verne for a matchup in Atlanta laced with intrigue. One of Bobby Petrino’s many coaching stops was a one-year stint as offensive coordinator for API in 2002, after which he jumped to his first stint as coach at Louisville. API representatives famously gauged Petrino’s interest in their head job the following season if they fired his former boss, Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville, of course, went on to some success after this incident, which was the first of many in Petrino’s career.
API has the edge in this one down the line, and I think they win by two touchdowns, but the matchup when API has the ball should be a good one. Louisville returns one of the nation’s best defenses from 2014, held back by an uncharacteristically poor offense for a Petrino team. Like the A&M game, this is an opportunity to see if Will Muschamp can do anything with a sieve of an Auburn defense from last season. API gets some injured starters back on that side of the ball, and DS&P+ certainly thinks there’s something there, but I’m reserving judgement until we get farther into the schedule.
THE PICK: API, both straight up and to cover.
|SOUTH CAROLINA||NORTH CAROLINA||THE EDGE|
|F/+||26.6% (27)||F/+||9.0% (45)||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|FEI||0.134 (22)||FEI||0.029 (50)||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|S&P+||9.4 (33)||S&P+||7.2 (40)||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|FPI||9.2 (39)||FPI||11.3 (31)||NORTH CAROLINA|
|OS&P+||35.4 (26)||DS&P+||32.5 (83)||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|DS&P+||26.0 (47)||OS&P+||39.7 (10)||NORTH CAROLINA|
This is one of those classic advanced stats vs. the spread contests, as F/+ has this as a clear win for the Gamecocks, but Vegas gave it this game the tightest line of the week at just 2.5 points in favor of the Gamecocks. This is at a neutral site in Charlotte, so there’s no home field wonkery at play here, unless you feel like basketball-mad North Carolina is going to turn out in droves to watch Tar Heels football on a Thursday night. One matchup to watch is when UNC’s high powered offense takes the field against a South Carolina defense that was an absolute travesty last season; the edge South Carolina has on the other side of the field spells “shootout”. I’m going with the upset here.
THE PICK: North Carolina Tar Heels, both straight up and to cover.
Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday September 5th
11 AM CDT / 12 PM EDT, SEC Network
|F/+||48.8% (4)||F/+||-24.5% (99)||GEORGIA|
|FEI||0.206 (5)||FEI||-0.1 (99)||GEORGIA|
|S&P+||20.8 (5)||S&P+||-10.8 (101)||GEORGIA|
|FPI||24.3 (5)||FPI||-9.8 (105)||GEORGIA|
|OS&P+||41.8 (4)||DS&P+||28.5 (63)||GEORGIA|
|DS&P+||21.1 (17)||OS&P+||17.7 (122)||GEORGIA|
THE PICK: Georgia Bulldogs, both straight up and to cover.
UTEP Miners at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday September 5th
230 PM CDT / 330 PM EDT, ESPNU
|F/+||31.8% (21)||F/+||-30.8% (108)||ARKANSAS|
|FEI||0.11 (28)||FEI||-0.166 (119)||ARKANSAS|
|S&P+||19.4 (8)||S&P+||-10.3 (100)||ARKANSAS|
|FPI||19.9 (13)||FPI||-12.1 (114)||ARKANSAS|
|OS&P+||38.3 (15)||DS&P+||32.8 (87)||ARKANSAS|
|DS&P+||18.9 (12)||OS&P+||22.5 (106)||ARKANSAS|
THE PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks, both straight up and to cover.
Bowling Green Falcons at The Viles, Saturday September 5th
4 PM CDT / 5 PM EDT, SEC Network
|VILES||BOWLING GREEN||THE EDGE|
|F/+||28.6% (26)||F/+||-16.4% (89)||VILES|
|FEI||0.083 (35)||FEI||-0.044 (77)||VILES|
|S&P+||16.0 (14)||S&P+||-10.2 (99)||VILES|
|FPI||19.8 (14)||FPI||-6.2 (91)||VILES|
|OS&P+||33.7 (35)||DS&P+||38.3 (116)||VILES|
|DS&P+||17.7 (9)||OS&P+||28.0 (69)||VILES|
THE PICK: The Viles, both straight up and to cover.
Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday September 5th
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPNU
|F/+||-5.7% (73)||F/+||-15.2% (88)||KENTUCKY|
|FEI||-0.069 (85)||FEI||-0.084 (93)||KENTUCKY|
|S&P+||4.1 (46)||S&P+||-6.5 (85)||KENTUCKY|
|FPI||6.9 (46)||FPI||-6.4 (92)||KENTUCKY|
|OS&P+||29.2 (56)||DS&P+||34.6 (103)||KENTUCKY|
|DS&P+||25.0 (40)||OS&P+||28.1 (68)||KENTUCKY|
THE PICK: Kentucky Wildcats straight up but the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns cover.
|FLORIDA||NEW MEXICO STATE||THE EDGE|
|F/+||18.9% (34)||F/+||-42.7% (127)||FLORIDA|
|FEI||0.035 (47)||FEI||-0.171 (121)||FLORIDA|
|S&P+||7.9 (37)||S&P+||-19.1 (124)||FLORIDA|
|FPI||14.0 (22)||FPI||-12.1 (112)||FLORIDA|
|OS&P+||22.0 (108)||DS&P+||41.8 (126)||FLORIDA|
|DS&P+||14.1 (4)||OS&P+||22.7 (103)||FLORIDA|
THE PICK: Florida Gators straight up but the New Mexico State Aggies cover.
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Saturday September 5th
9 PM CDT / 10 PM EDT, Fox Sports 1
|SOUTHERN MISS||MISSISSIPPI STATE||THE EDGE|
|F/+||-33.6% (115)||F/+||24.5% (29)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|FEI||-0.161 (118)||FEI||0.117 (27)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|S&P+||-11.6 (107)||S&P+||14.0 (22)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|FPI||-8.4 (98)||FPI||11.0 (33)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|OS&P+||24.4 (91)||DS&P+||23.1 (32)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|DS&P+||35.9 (111)||OS&P+||37.0 (20)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs, both straight up and to cover.