SEC Notebook - Week 6
October 5, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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**Missouri at South Carolina**
-- BetOnline.ag opened South Carolina (2-2 straight up, 2-2 against the spread) as a 1.5-point favorite for Saturday’s SEC home tilt vs. Missouri. Within an hour, BetOnline adjusted the Gamecocks to 2.5-point favorites. Less than an hour later at 5:17 p.m. Eastern, the offshore book had USC down to a one-point ‘chalk.’ Eleven minutes earlier, The Wynn sent USC out as a favorite of 2.5 points. That number wasn’t around long, though, as The Wynn took the line down due to the uncertainty of junior quarterback Jake Bentley’s status (knee). Some books like The Westgate and The Golden Nugget in Vegas refrained from hanging a number until late Tuesday morning on the West coast.
-- South Carolina third-year head coach Will Muschamp informed the media on Tuesday that Bentley was ‘probable’ despite the knee injury that caused him to leave last week’s 24-10 loss at Kentucky. On Wednesday, Muschamp also said WR Bryan Edwards “was good to go” even though he’s dealing with a sore ankle. However, Muschamp backtracked on Bentley after Thursday’s practice and said he’d be a “game-time decision.” Then news surfaced early Friday that back-up Michael Scarnecchia was going to get the starting nod. Scarnecchia, a fifth-year senior who was recruited to USC by Steve Spurrier, has never started a game in his collegiate career. He appeared in his fifth career game at UK last week, completing 4-of-6 passes for 45 yards after Bentley sprained his knee. Scarnecchia threw his first career TD pass during mop-duty in a season-opening victory over Coastal Carolina.
-- As of early Friday afternoon, most books had Missouri installed as a one-point favorite with the total in the 63-64 range.
-- Missouri (3-1 straight up, 3-1 against the spread) has had two weeks to prepare for the Gamecocks, who are 4-2 both SU and ATS in their past six head-to-head meetings with the Tigers. Barry Odom’s team lost 31-21 as a 6.5-point underdog at Williams-Brice Stadium two years ago. Then in Week 2 of last season, Muschamp’s bunch went on the road and captured a 31-13 victory as a three-point underdog.
-- Missouri is led by senior QB Drew Lock, who threw for 3,964 yards and had a 44/13 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2017. As a true freshman in 2015, Lock hit on 21-of-28 throws for 136 yards and two TDs without an interception to lead the Tigers to a 24-10 home win over USC. Since Muschamp took over, however, his defensive schemes have baffled the signal caller that most draftniks have pegged as an early first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock completed 23-of-40 passes for 302 yards and one TD in 2016, but he was intercepted twice by the Gamecocks. Then last year, Lock connected on only 14-of-32 attempts for one TD and was against picked off twice.
-- On the flip side, Bentley has been sharp in two wins against Missouri. He has completed 40-of-56 passes for 441 yards and three TDs without an interception. Deebo Samuel turned seven touches into 167 all-purpose yards, including a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD and a 25-yard rushing score, in last season’s road win at Missouri.
-- Odom’s team won its first three non-conference games vs. UT-Martin (51-14), vs. Wyoming (40-13) and at Purdue (40-37) on a walk-off field goal. Before taking its open date, the Tigers lost 43-29 to Georgia but covered the number as 14.5-point home underdogs.
-- Many pundits have buried USC and Bentley for two losses by double-digit margins in the first four games. Bentley has undoubtedly struggled in what I thought we be a break-out campaign for the true junior. He has thrown more interceptions (six) in USC’s first three SEC games than he threw in his first seven starts as a 17-year-old true freshman in 2016 (four).
-- South Carolina is looking at its highest total of the season by at least (again, the tally was in the 63-64 range early Friday) 7.5 points since the previous low was 55.5 vs. Coastal Carolina. The ‘under’ has been a winner in six straight games of this rivalry, including last year’s game when the 44 combined points dropped below the 71-point total. Since Muschamp was hired, the highest total USC has seen (besides the 71-point tally last year at Mizzou) has been 58 points. In the 15 games on Muschamp’s watch when the total has been 50 points or more, the ‘under’ has cashed at an 11-4 clip.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for noon Eastern on The SEC Network.
**Alabama at Arkansas**
-- As of early Friday, most betting shops had Alabama (5-0 straight up, 3-2 against the spread) listed as a 35-point favorite with a total of 57.5. -- Like we’ve noted in several SEC Notebooks previously, the best way to back ‘Bama this season has been to play the ‘over’ on its teams totals not just for the game, but also for the first quarter and the first half. These (three wagers each time out) bets are now 15-0 for the season, although some bettors might’ve had a hard time locating a team total for the Tide in the first quarter of last week’s home win over UL-Lafayette. Betting ‘Bama in the first quarter and the first half is also an unscathed system to date. These plays are 9-0-1 with the Tide getting a push as a seven-point home favorite in the first quarter of its game vs. Texas A&M two weeks ago (14-7 at the end of 1Q).
-- Alabama covered the number in its first three games, but its have been left extremely disappointed when Nick Saban’s back-ups have allowed backdoor covers in consecutive contests. Trailing 45-16 midway through the fourth quarter, Texas A&M scored a TD to get the money as a 25-point road underdog. Then last week, UL-Lafayette scored a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to cover the spread in a 56-14 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
-- Alabama true sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa has been nothing short of sensational in his first five career starts. He has connected on 66-of-88 passes (75.0%) for 1,161 yards and 14 TDs without an interception. Tagovailoa has rushed for 115 yards and two TDs on 20 carries for a 5.8 yards-per-carry average. Jalen Hurts, who helped the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in 28 starts during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, has 394 passing yards and a 5/1 TD-INT ratio.
-- Alabama sophomore WR Jerry Jeudy is just downright nasty! He reminds me a lot of former Florida WRs Jack Jackson and Jacquez Green from the Steve Suprrier Era. Jeudy has 19 receptions for 423 yards and six TDs. Henry Ruggs III has 19 catches for 296 yards and five TDs.
-- Arkansas (1-4 SU, 0-3-1 ATS) picked up its first spread cover in last week’s 24-17 loss to Texas A&M as a 20-point underdog. The Razorbacks have lost four in a row SU since beating Eastern Illinois 55-20 in their season opener. They blew a 27-9 late third quarter lead in a 34-27 loss at Colorado State in Week 2. Then in Fayetteville on Sept. 15, North Texas came into town and smashed the Razorbacks 44-17 as a five-point road underdog.
-- Arkansas is 14-11 ATS in 25 games as a home underdog since 2008.
-- The ‘over’ is 4-1 for the Tide, but the ‘under’ was a super-fortunate winner in its lone previous road assignment when the 69 combined points slithered ‘under’ the closing 70-point tally.
-- This will be a noon Eastern kick on ESPN.
**LSU at Florida**
-- As of early Friday afternoon, most books had LSU (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS) listed as a two-point favorite with a total of 44.
-- LSU remained unbeaten and hooked up its backers in last week’s 45-16 win over Ole Miss as an 11-point home ‘chalk.’ The 61 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 60-point total thanks to Joe Burrow’s 35-yard TD dash with 2:56 remaining. This space pointed out a few weeks ago how ridiculous we found the national criticism of Burrow. We noted how he clearly and easily passed our ‘eye test’ and that stats never paint an accurate picture of an LSU signal caller. Burrow had his best game in an LSU uniform against the Rebels, hitting on 18-of-25 passes for 292 yards and three TDs without an interception. He also ran for a team-high 96 yards and one TD on nine carries. Justin Jefferson had five receptions for 99 yards and two TDs.
-- Burrow has completed 53.4 percent of his throws for 1,023 yards and six TDs without an interception. He’s also produced 154 rushing yards and a pair of scores. RB Nick Brossette is enjoying a breakout campaign, rushing for 481 yards and six TDs with a 4.7 YPC average. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 275 rushing yards, five TDs and a 4.8 YPC average. Jefferson has caught a team-best 18 balls for 294 yards and two TDs.
-- Florida (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS) improved to 2-1 in SEC play with last week’s 13-6 win at Mississippi State as a seven-point road underdog. The Gators hooked up money-line supporters with a payout in the +220 neighborhood. The 19 combined points went ‘under’ the 50-point tally. UF wideout Kadarius Toney, a former QB in high school, found TE Moral Stephens for a 20-yard scoring strike in a double-pass trick play to put his team in front to stay with 8:26 left in the third quarter. UF enjoyed a 20-15 edge in first downs and a 357-202 advantage in total offense.
-- UF’s defense didn’t have star LB David Reese in the team’s first three games due to a sprained ankle and was without CeCe Jefferson in its first two contests (suspension). Since the return of these players, the Gators have been outstanding on the defensive side of the ball. For the season, UF is ranked second in the country in pass defense, 19th in total defense (312.6 YPG) and ninth in scoring ‘D’ (14.0 PPG).
-- Florida’s DEs Jabari Zuniga and Jachai Polite have started to really produce the last couple of weeks. Polite recorded a pair of sacks at Mississippi State to bring his season total to four, which is tied for fifth in the SEC. The junior has 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two passes broken up. Zuniga has produced 17 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL’s and a pair of QB hurries.
-- Since 2011, the Gators have limped to a 2-5 spread record in seven games as home underdogs.
-- UF third-year sophomore QB Feleipe Franks has produced solid numbers to date. He’s connecting on 57.1 percent of his passes for 961 yards with a 12/3 TD-INT ratio. He has also rushed for 110 yards and one TD. Franks, a Wakulla HS (Fla.) product, seems to be showing improvement and that’s a credit to Dan Mullen. Franks has all the talent in the world but his decision-making has been suspect in his first two years on the field. We’ll see how he fares against a nasty defense this weekend. I hope I’m wrong but I’m still not buying in on Franks, who I believe is much more likely to make a critical mistake than Burrow.
-- This is a coin-flip game to me and a definite pass. UF has the edge in the head-coaching department, but I give the Tigers the advantage at the QB position. Both teams are extremely talented on defense, but it’s hard to back an ‘under’ in college football that’s in the low 40s.
-- When these teams met last season at The Swamp (thanks again for the back-to-back home games, Joe Alleva), LSU captured a 17-16 victory thanks to a missed PAT by UF in the second half. Gamblers backing Florida were able to cash in, however, as a 1.5-point home ‘dog. The ‘under’ improve to 4-2 in the past six encounters in this rivalry with the 33 combined points dipping below the 42.5-point total.
-- LSU junior LB Devin White is on his way to earning first-team All-American honors. The second-team All-American in 2017 has produced 44 tackles, four TFL’s, three PBU, three QB hurries, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery with a 29-yard return. Sophomore CB Greedy Williams garnered first-team All-SEC honors when he intercepted six passes as a true freshman last year. Williams has 18 tackles, two picks, two PBU and one QB hurry so far this season.
-- The ‘over’ is 3-2 overall LSU, but the ‘under’ cashed in its only road outing. The Tigers have watched their games average combined scores of 48.8 PPG. This is the lowest total they’ve seen this year.
-- The ‘under’ is 3-2 overall for UF, 2-1 in its home contests. The Gators have seen their games average combined scores of 49.4 PPG.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
**Vanderbilt at Georgia**
-- As of early Friday afternoon, most spots had Georgia (5-0 SU, 2-3 ATS) listed as a 26.5-point favorite with a total of 54. With a trip to Baton Rouge on deck (check out the spread for this game in Bonus Nuggets below), this situation here wreaks of a look-ahead game for UGA.
-- Vanderbilt (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) is on the road for just the second time this season. The Commodores completely outplayed Notre Dame in South Bend, but they lost 22-17 due to a missed field goal, a fumble at the goal line and multiple dropped passes on a potential game-winning drive at crunch time. Nevertheless, they hooked up their backers as 14-point underdogs.
-- Vandy has compiled an 11-10 spread record in 21 games as a road underdog during Derek Mason’s five-year tenure. The Commodores are 14-8 ATS with three outright victories when they’ve been ‘dogs of eight points or more on Mason’s watch. The last time here in 2016, former LB Zach Cunningham’s open-field tackle on fourth-and-1 conserved a 17-16 triumph for Vandy at UGA as a 14-point road underdog.
-- Kirby Smart’s club improved to 3-0 in SEC action with last week’s 38-12 non-covering win over Tennessee as a 30.5-point home favorite. UGA had a 26-11 edge in first down and a 441-209 advantage in total offense. However, the Volunteers cut the deficit to 24-12 early in the fourth quarter. UGA would respond with a pair of TDs in the final four minutes, but UT took the cash nonetheless.
-- UGA true sophomore QB Jake Fromm has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 924 yards with a 9/2 TD-INT ratio. Meanwhile, Vandy senior QB Kyle Shurmur has a 62.3 completion percentage, 1,231 passing yards and a 9/4 TD-INT ratio. Shurmur’s favorite target is Kalija Lipscomb, who has 43 receptions for 480 yards and six TDs.
-- The ‘under’ started the season 4-0 for the ‘Dores, who saw the ‘over’ appear for the first time in last week’s 31-27 win over Tennessee State as 28-point home ‘chalk.’ The 58 combined points elevated ‘over’ the 51.5-point total.
-- The ‘under’ is 3-2 overall for UGA, 3-0 in its home outings. The Bulldogs have seen their games average combined scores of 56.2 PPG.
-- This is a 7:30 p.m. Eastern kick on the SEC Network.
**Kentucky at Texas A&M**
-- As of early Friday, most books had Texas A&M (3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS) installed as a 5.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 50.5. The undefeated Wildcats were +180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180).
-- Mark Stoops’s squad is 3-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1997. Kentucky (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS) is led by senior RB Benny Snell, a second-team All-SEC choice last year. Snell has run for 664 yards and eight TDs while averaging 5.8 YPC.
-- Wilson, who originally signed with Oregon in 2016 before going the juco route, has hit 62-of-93 pass attempts (66.7%) for 595 yards with a 2/5 TD-INT ratio. He is a dangerous scrambler who has run for 300 yards and three TDs with a 5.8 YPC average. Wilson’s favorite target is Lynn Bowden, who has caught 24 balls for 218 yards and one TD. Wilson hasn’t been forced to do much throwing the ball as UK has done a great job of taking early leads (its seven-point deficit vs. Mississippi St. is its biggest of the year to date). He is most effective this way when the ‘Cats can lean on the ground game (which obviously includes Wilson’s athleticism as well) and not put too much pressure on Wilson to make a lot of throws. It will be interesting to see how he performs when (if?!) UK faces its first double-digit deficit of the season.
-- Kentucky’s defense is led by senior DE Josh Allen, who leads the SEC and is tied for fourth in the nation in sacks with six. Allen has also recorded 33 tackles, 4.5 TFL’s, five QB hurries, two forced fumbles and two PBU.
-- UK is ranked 12th in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring ‘D,’ allowing only 12.6 PPG.
-- Texas A&M failed to cover in last week’s 24-17 win over Arkansas in Arlington. Junior RB Trayveon Williams led the way with 152 rushing yards and two TDs on 29 carries. Kellen Mond threw for 201 yards, but he had a pair of interceptions and zero TD passes.
-- Mond had been playing well before the trip to Jerry World. For the season, the true sophomore signal caller has connected on 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,221 yards with a 7/4 TD-INT ratio. Mond provides a scrambling dynamic, as evidenced by his 215 rushing yards and four TDs.
-- This is the first meeting between these schools since 1953. The ‘Cats have lost nine road games in a row against SEC West competition.
-- UK owns a 12-11 spread record in 23 games as a road underdog during Stoops’s six-year tenure.
-- The ‘over’ is 3-2 overall for the Aggies, 2-1 in their three home contests.
-- The ‘under’ is 3-2 overall for the ‘Cats, 1-0 in their lone previous road assignment (a 27-16 victory at UF).
-- ESPN will provide television coverage from College Station at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
**Auburn at Mississippi State**
-- As of early Friday, most books had Auburn (4-1 SU, ATS) installed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 42. The Bulldogs were +150 to win outright.
-- The only blemish on Auburn’s resume is a 22-21 home loss to LSU on a walk-off FG in Week 3. Gus Malzahn’s club opened the season with a huge 21-16 win over Washington in Atlanta. The Tigers’ defense held the Huskies to three total points on three second-half trips into the red zone. They’ve bounced back from the loss to LSU to win back-to-back home games over Arkansas (34-3) and Southern Miss (24-13). AU failed to cover the spread as a 27-point ‘chalk’ vs. the Golden Eagles, but it did take the money as a 29.5-point favorite against the Razorbacks.
-- This is Auburn’s first true road assignment of the season. During Malzahn’s six-year tenure, Auburn owns a 7-4 spread record in 11 games as a road favorite.
-- Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham has completed 82-of-130 attempts (63.1%) for 963 yards with a 5/2 TD-INT ratio. He also has a pair of rushing scores. Junior WR Darius Slayton has 13 receptions for 188 yards and one TD. JaTarvious Whitlow has a team-best 326 rushing yards and four TDs with a 5.3 YPC average.
-- Mississippi State (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) was flying high going into Lexington in Week 4. Since then, however, things have rapidly gone South for MSU, which lost 28-7 at Kentucky and then dropped a 13-6 decision to Florida and ex-coach Dan Mullen as a seven-point home favorite last week. The Bulldogs have managed only 13 points and 403 yards of total offense in the past eight quarters.
-- Senior QB Nick Fitzgerald is struggling mightily and I expect him to be on a short leash Saturday at Scott Field. True sophomore back-up QB Keytaon Thompson played well in the second half of the Egg Bowl last year and then outplayed Lamar Jackson in a Taxslayer Bowl victory over Louisville. When Fitzgerald was suspended for the season opener, Thompson threw for 364 yards and five TDs without an interception in a 63-6 win over Stephen F. Austin. He also rushed 10 times for a team-high 109 yards and two TDs.
-- Fitzgerald is completing just 49.1 percent of his passes for 640 yards with a 4/2 TD-INT ratio. He has run for 318 yards and five TDs while averaging 4.5 YPC. RB Kylin Hill has rushed for 348 yards and three TDs with a 7.7 YPC average.
-- MSU is 2-1 both SU and ATS at home this year. The Bulldogs are 15-10 ATS in 25 games as home underdogs since 2008.
-- Auburn is ranked third in the nation in scoring defense, limiting foes to only 12.6 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ is 4-1 overall for the Tigers, 3-1 overall for the Bulldogs (there was no total in the opener vs SF Austin).
-- ESPN2 will have the broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Here are some upcoming SEC spreads that can be bet right now from 5Dimes.eu:
Georgia -7.5 at LSU
Ole Miss -6 at Arkansas
LSU -6 vs. Mississippi State
Auburn -10 at Ole Miss
Missouri -8.5 vs. Memphis
Alabama -31.5 at Tennesssee
Mississippi State -3.5 vs. Texas A&M
Auburn -8.5 vs. Texas A&M
Alabama -15.5 at LSU
South Carolina -3 at Ole Miss
Alabama -24.5 vs. Mississippi State
LSU -17 at Arkansas
Georgia -11 vs. Auburn
Texas A&M -11.5 vs. Ole Miss
Mississippi State -21 vs. Arkansas
Mississippi State -6 at Ole Miss
Alabama -18 vs. Auburn
LSU pick ‘em at Texas A&M
-- Ole Miss senior safety C.J. Moore is out indefinitely with a pectoral injury. Moore had 51 tackles, three interceptions, 2.5 TFL’s, two PBU and one QB hurry last season. He had 17 tackles, one interception and three PBU through five games this year. The Rebels are already last in the SEC in every defensive category. In fact, they’re 14th in rushing defense with no other SEC team within 37 yards of them, and they’re last in total defense by a margin of 122.8 yards per game compared to the SEC’s 13th team in total ‘D.’ Matt Luke’s club has failed to cover the number in three straight games going into this week’s home date vs. ULM as a 22.5-point favorite.
-- If any team in the league needed an open date this weekend, it was certainly Tennessee. The Vols have this weekend off to prepare for their first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium in a decade to face Auburn next Saturday.
-- Missouri, Mississippi State and Kentucky have their open dates next weekend.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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