2020 Record: 23-9
Last Week: 8-4
No Action: Baylor...again.
Mortal Lock of the Week: 3-0
What went wrong? Offensive lines, man. Offensive lines. Miami’s showed up; Louisville’s did not. UL-Lafayette’s got manhandled by Georgia State. And Oklahoma State’s got injured. Etc.
What went right? Told you to steer clear of that Navy-Tulane game, but that it may be among the most entertaining to watch. All Navy did was come back from 24-0 and win 27-24 (obligatory #GoNavyBeatArmy.) As I predicted, the underdogs did very well. Among them, Syracuse covered that huge number on the road. That tight spread (+3.5) in the Marshall game came up big for you if you were ballsy enough to heed our advice (the Herd even got the S/U win!) See also La. Tech, where I told you the Bulldogs would swing the road upset — and they did. See also Troy, who I said were going to pummel that gross MTSU team. And, of course, ND did exactly as predicted, and completely obliterated a terrible USF team, keyed by the Irish defense, natch.
With that recap completed, let us turn our attention to the fourth week of action, the first with all of the non-sissyman teams. God’s conference begins play this week! And there are plenty of spreads to like here in SEC action...and a trio to avoid.
It’s time to give away money, y’all.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:
MTSU + 7 1⁄2 at UTSA — I know Mighty Mitzu looks like trash, and the Roadrunners have been a wee bit better than expected, but this is the kind of game where the Blue Raiders’ experienced coaching and marginally better talent (even if young) may make the difference and get MTSU off the schneid. That hook is brutal too.
Tennessee -3 1⁄2 at South Carolina — The Vols are the better team. Maybe? On the other side of the ledger, Hilinski lost his starting job, there are key losses on defense for the Gamecocks, offensive talent that is inconsistent...and Will Muschamp. No brainer, right? Not in Columbia, where weird things happen and USC consistently plays above their heads. If you think you know what’s going to happen in this one, you’re telling lies to yourself (though I do think UT will win, FTR). No outcome would surprise me, particularly given the Vols’ traditional face-plant when expectations are building in Knoxville. Don’t bet on this one; just daydrink and watch some Bammer sloppy seconds derp it up for 60 minutes.
Aggie -30 1⁄2 vs. Vanderbilt — Just based on talent, the Aggies should run the ‘Dores out of the building. I suspect they do too. But I don’t like 1. Jimbo’s old-school, don’t run it up mentality, and 2. a thin A&M defense holding off a late backdoor cover. If this game finishes something like 44-14, you may kick yourself.
Miss. State +17 at LSU — The Tigers have just 69 players on the roster (#nice), have lost everyone with a pulse, and are facing a Mike Leach team that will air it out (no joke) 60 times a game into the teeth of a secondary that has a ton of questions. For all of those negatives, LSU should win going away. But, you get the nagging feeling it won’t be that dominating of a win. Then again...Mike Leach in road games and Mike Leach’s disdain for defense. yuck. Consider this one a scouting opportunity, LSU 42-MSU 28
Underdogs With Bite
Ole Miss +14 vs Florida — C’mon, admit it? Do you trust Dan Mullen to win a season-opening road game against his true nemesis, Ole Miss? By double-digits? With all three of the Gators’ starting WRs sitting out? I love the young talent for the Rebels that have spent the last two years getting their teeth kicked in because of sanctions. And, keyed by a powerful running game and one of the best offensive minds in the biz, I suspect OM gets to the edge a bunch, where the Gators are incredibly soft tacklers. I have had this one circled as a potential upset on my calendar. But, even if that doesn’t happen, I do think the Rebs cover at home. Alabama head-coach-in-waiting LMFK ain’t Matt Luke.
Army +13 1⁄2 at Cincinnati — These two are among the very best of the Group of Five programs going (we’ll count you, Army, since you’re an independent.) It’s a shame this one is going to be played so early in the season. The Bearcats likely win, yet you can easily foresee a defensive scrum breaking out in the Queen City as the Black Knights try to kill clock, play sound defense, and exploit any mistakes that come their way. Be wary of junk points late — the service academies never quit. But it’s probably not good enough. 35-23 Cincy.
FSU + 12 1⁄2 at Miami — Is there a worse 2-0 team in America than the ‘Canes? Is Miami 13 points better than a team that, for the first time, may have about the same amount of talent? Neither team’s offensive lines have been good, but the nod goes to the ‘Canes who will lean on the legs of D’Eriq King and Cam’Ron Harris. Still, it’s hard to see a blowout in this one. I like the ‘Noles getting almost two touchdowns, Miami 31 — FSU 20
West Virginia + 8 1⁄2 at Oklahoma State — What I saw last week from the Pokes terrified me. If the offense is really that reliant on one offensive lineman (and it wasn’t great to begin with before the injury), this could be The Mullet’s most disappointing season ever. On paper, this should be a beating, even without OSU’s starting QB. But the game’s not played on paper, and I like the Mountaineers’ defensive front to get the cover in a low scoring game that is won upfront. WVU’s offense still isn’t there yet, but the front four can win this one if Okie Lite sleepwalks. OSU 27 — WVU 21
Bet The House, Baby
Alabama - 25 1⁄2 at Mizzou — I like Eli Drinkwitz. He’s not the sexy hire that the Mississippi schools got, but he’ll likely be there longer than his new Western brethren. But there are a lot of questions in CoMo — the least of which are a new quarterback and losing anywhere from 9 - 13 players for this week’s matchup against the nation’s most talented team. The Mizzou pass rush is pretty decent and the linebackers are outstanding. This is a good opportunity for the ‘Bama road-grader offensive line to cut their teeth and blow open some holes. Alabama starts a bit slowish, but this one is never in doubt. Not the sexy Alabama offense we’ve become accustomed to, but a much better pass rush and a more deliberative approach still leads to a blowout. Alabama 45 — Mizzou 13
Troy +14 at BYU — Blood. So much blood. The last time we saw Mormons this pissed off at southerners encroaching on their territory, we got the Baker-Fancher wagon train. Expect Brigham Young’s namesake school to do a similar metaphorical slaughter to this latest crop of hayseeds. Troy finds out that facing a huge step up in talent — after on a 2800-mile road trip, in a game played nearly a mile high — matters a whole lot. BYU 48 — Troy 17
FIU at Liberty (-7) — Speaking of momentum, the Flames went to Western Kentucky and kicked the Hilltoppers’ tooth out. That was honestly one of the most impressive wins last week. I’m not betting against Horny Hugh to lose this one at home, especially with as fast and active as the defense was and with as spry and troublesome as we know his offense can be. Liberty 38 — FIU 24
Worth Your Consideration
FAU -3 vs. USF — This one doesn’t have quite the heat of the Bulls-Knights just up the road, and we do have two new coaches in play. (Well, in Willie Taggart’s case that’s “coach”). We saw what one was capable of last week in a grisly defenestration at the hands of Brian Kelly. But, ignoring the score, we turn to what the Bulls did well, any signs of hope. I didn’t see any. FAU has the distinct talent advantage here, particularly on offense. And with no returning starters on the Owls defense, and a generous USF D, this could be a fun (if terrible) shootout. FAU 37 USF 31
NC State + 6 1⁄2 at Va Tech — If Justin Fuente wants to be taken seriously as a major-division coach, he has to get a lot more consistent in these games where his team should win pretty handily. And, don’t let the score of last week’s game fool you, the Wolf Pack still have some issues to address up front. The Hokies can bully this team and force some turnovers at home, and I suspect they will do just that. JF has spent five years accruing talent. It will matter in this home opener. VT 30 — NCSU 20
Auburn vs Kentucky (+7 1⁄2 ) — There is a lot to like about the UK defense. Then again, the same can be said about the ‘Barner defense. The offenses are both putrid though, and I don’t see that changing in a game that will be played very close to the vest. Don’t underestimate piss-poor kicking, and plenty of turnovers, by both teams to matter in the end. You can play the spread here if you wish (buy that half point, if so.) But the smarter move with both of these traditionally slow-starting squads is to play the totals, and take under 49 1⁄2. Let’s call it Auburn 27 - Kentucky 17
Duke + 5 1⁄2 at Virginia — I have no idea why the Hoos aren’t a bigger favorite. Through two games, the Blue Devils are -7 in the turnover ledger, and the defense has a habit of giving up big plays after the offense gacks one up. Otherwise, the Duke defense plays pretty solid. Wanna’ guess what UVA’s defense does pretty well? Forces interceptions and avoids big gainers. Look for those Blue Devil turnovers and chunk plays-against to be the difference (again), as Cutcliffe drops to a disappointing 0-3. But, I do think ball security will be a little bit better, allowing DU to actually cobble together a few drives...just not enough to cover. Cavaliers 35 — Blue Devils 27.
Tulane - 3 1⁄2 at Southern Miss — The Eagles are reeling. Their coach got fired after one game. They got destroyed by South Alabama and shut down by a La. Tech team that returned just two starters. Sometimes, you ride momentum. And though USM has better players, I don’t think they’ve got a better headspace. Willie Fritz will have his Green Wave rebound after last week’s Falcons-esque second-half choke to Navy. Should be lots of sexy #RTDB going on in this one. This spread looks right on the money, TBH. Tulane 27 — USM 23.
Mortal Lock of the Week
Like last week’s Notre Dame — USF game, there’s not much to talk about here (Georgia -26 at Arkansas.) Despite the losses for the ‘Dawgs, you don’t see how the Hogs possibly get points against one of the nation’s betst front sevens while they also get to run free like gazelle against a generous Arkansas defense. UGA would have to try to not score to make this one close. With a new quarterback, Kirby is not taking his foot off the gas until much later in the game than he otherwise would. This is a blowout early and doesn’t stop. It’s going to be a long, long year in Fayetteville — I don’t see a single win on the SEC slate for the Hogs...for a third straight year. UGA 52 — Arkansas 6
With so many cancellations occurring (Notre Dame, some Florida and Texas schools, etc.), I’ll go ahead and give you a bonus to make up for it. To