SEC Notebook - Week 8
October 19, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards is poised for a big weekend full of winners, starting off with an easy winner on the Stanford-ASU 'under' on Thursday night. Don’t miss out on all of his his plays for Saturday!
**Auburn at Ole Miss**
-- When Gus Malzahn beat previously-unbeaten Georgia and Alabama, the eventual participants in the College Football Playoff finals, at home in a three-week span last year, he saved his job at Auburn. Then when Arkansas came calling with a lucrative contract offer, the school had to step up to retain its coach or lose him to an inferior program within its division. Therefore, AU committed to Malzahn and paid the man to the tune of a seven-year, $49 million contract. Even with what’s believed to be a $38 million buyout according to multiple reports, there are whispers that Malzahn’s seat is rapidly warming after a shocking 30-24 loss to Tennessee as a 14.5-point home favorite last week.
-- Malzahn was originally hired by Houston Nutt to become his new offensive coordinator at Arkansas more than a decade ago. At the time, Malzahn was a high school coach with Arkansas recruiting targets Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams and Ben Cleveland on his roster. After falling out with Houston and spending a year calling plays for Tulsa, Malzahn was hired as Auburn’s OC and was given loads of credit for tutoring Cam Newton and helping Auburn to its first national championship since the 1950s. After a one-year head-coaching stint at Arkansas State, Malzahn was chosen to replace Gene Chizik in 2013. He promptly led AU to unforgettable and fortunate home wins over Georgia and Alabama on its way to winning the SEC Championship Game and facing FSU in the BCS Championship Game. The Tigers led the Seminoles nearly the entire game but let a big lead get away in a soul-crushing 34-31 loss. After that spectacular debut campaign, Malzahn went 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5 before going 10-4 last season. Now his offense is stuck in the mud, ranked 93rd in the nation in total yards, 80th in passing yards and 83rd in rushing. AU is averaging only 28.0 points per game to rank 74th in the country.
-- Long-time Auburn beat writer Brandon Marcello appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show earlier this week. He told Finebaum, “I’m not ruling out a change at the end of the season…from what I’ve been told, there’s not much concern there when it comes to the money.”
-- As of Friday, Auburn (4-3 straight up, 2-5 against the spread) was installed as a 3.5-point road favorite at Ole Miss. The total was 63 and the Rebels were +155 on the money line (risk $100 to win $155).
-- Auburn has compiled a 7-5-1 spread record in 13 games as road favorite during Malzahn’s six-year tenure.
-- Auburn started the season 2-0 with a win over Washington in Atlanta and a blowout victory over FCS foe, Alabama State. However, it allowed a late fourth quarter lead to get away in a gut-wrenching 22-21 loss to LSU as a 10-point home favorite on Sept. 15. The Tigers responded with back-to-back wins over Arkansas and Southern Miss, but they failed to cover the 27-point spread in the 24-13 triumph over the Golden Eagles. Then AU lost 23-9 at Mississippi State, which avoided a three-game losing streak with the win. Then last week happened.
-- In the loss to UT, Auburn junior signal caller Jarrett Stidham threw for 322 yards and two TDs, but he was intercepted twice. Stidham remains the starter even though he threw four picks in losses vs. UT and LSU. He completed only 50 percent of his passes at MSU and overthrew a wide-open WR for what would’ve been an easy TD. For the season, Stidham has connected on 60.6 percent of his throws for 1,499 yards with a 7/4 TD-INT ratio.
-- Ole Miss (5-2 SU, 3-4 ATS) is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS at home this season The Rebels are off a 37-33 come-from-behind victory over Arkansas in Little Rock. The Razorbacks took the cash, though, as 6.5-point home underdogs. Jordan Ta’amu was the catalyst for the winners, orchestrating a pair of TD drives late in the fourth quarter. The senior signal caller completed 26-of-35 passes for 387 yards and two TDs with one interception. He rushed for a team-best 141 yards and one TD on 17 attempts. Scottie Phillips ran for 86 yards and one TD on 18 carries, including the game-winning dash into the end zone from five yards out with 42 ticks left. DeMarkus Lodge had 10 catches for 80 yards and one TD.
-- Ole Miss took a huge hit earlier this week when Matt Luke announced that star third-year sophomore WR D.K. Metcalf would miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury. Metcalf had 26 receptions for 569 yards and five TDs this year. With a bright future on Sundays, you wonder if Metcalf has played his last down for the Rebels.
-- Phillips is second in the SEC in rushing yards (798) and tied for first in rushing touchdowns with nine. The juco transfer is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
-- Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown is sixth in the nation and paces the SEC in receptions (50). Brown in second in the league in receiving yards with 650 and has four TD grabs.
-- Ta’amu has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for an SEC-best 2,298 yards. He has a 15/5 TD-INT ratio and has run for 253 yards and four TDs with a 4.8 YPC average. Ta’amu has the SEC’s second-best QB rating (170.52).
-- The ‘under’ is 5-2 overall for AU, 3-2 in its home games. The Tigers have seen their games average combined scores of 44.6 PPG.
-- The ‘over’ is 5-2 overall for the Rebels, 2-2 in their home games. They've seen their games average combined scores of 76.7 PPG.
-- ESPN will have the broadcast at noon Eastern.
**Alabama at Tennessee**
-- As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Alabama (7-0 SU, 5-2 ATS) listed as a 28.5-point road favorite with a total of 57. The Volunteers had 20/1 odds to win outright at William Hill properties.
-- Alabama is off a 39-10 win over Missouri as a 28-point home favorite. The 49 combined points was the lowest-scoring game of the season for the Crimson Tide, and the ‘under’ (72.5) was an easy winner. Going into the game vs. Mizzou, Nick Saban’s bunch had produced a 29-0-1 spread record for bettors who backed this sequence of five wagers on the Tide each game – ‘Bama in the first quarter and first half, in addition to its team total ‘over’ in the first quarter, first half and for the game. Those bets are now 31-3-1 after the first quarter turned into a disaster for gamblers on the Tide for the spread and its team total ‘over’ in the opening stanza. Alabama went up 10-0 on a short field goal less than two minutes into the game, but a long TD pass was called back due to a shaky holding call midway through the quarter. Missouri got on the board with a 43-yard FG from Tucker McCann. With Alabama favored by seven (with heavy juice in the -155 range) or as much as 10 (at around even money) for first-quarter bets at some books, it went ahead by 10 when it was forced to settle for another short FG with 2:13 remaining. Missouri was around midfield with about 30 seconds left when it got a nice first-down run and the Tide was flagged for a horse-collar tackle. The Tigers had time to get one more play off before the first quarter ended. In a rare situation when Alabama only brought three rushers, Drew Lock had all day (and night!) to survey the field and hit a streaking Jalen Knox in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard scoring strike. This crushed bettors on Alabama for the first quarter and its team total (14) for the opening quarter also dipped ‘under’ due to the TD being called back and settling for two short FGs.
-- Nevertheless, Alabama did cover first-half bets (-18 early Saturday, -19.5 or -20 in the hour before kickoff) by outscoring the Tigers 17-0 in the second quarter. Tua Tagovailoa aggravated a sprained knee late in the first half and didn’t play in the final 30 minutes. He threw for 265 yards and three TDs without an interception before exiting. Jalen Hurts connected on 7-of-8 throws for 115 yards and had a seven-yard catch for first-down yardage when he lined up at WR in the first half. Jerry Jeudy had three receptions for 147 yards and one TD, while DeVonta Smith had four catches for 100 yards and one TD. The Tide’s team total in the 51-52 range fell ‘under’ for the first time all season.
-- Tagovailoa is listed as ‘probable’ at UT due to the knee injury. Saban hasn’t given any indication that he’ll rest Tagovailoa this week despite many pundits insisting he should do so. Smith is listed as ‘questionable’ after leaving the win over Missouri with a hamstring issue. Smith has 21 receptions for 409 yards and three TDs.
-- Tagovailoa has connected on 71.5 percent of his passes for 1,760 yards and 21 TDs without an interception. The sophomore signal caller has run for 117 yards and two TDs with a 4.7 YPC average. Jeudy has 26 receptions for 705 yards and nine TDs. Henry Ruggs has 21 grabs for 379 yards and six TDs.
-- Alabama is four-deep in the backfield with senior Damien Harris and Najee Harris splitting the role as featured RB. Najee Harris has rushed for 439 yards and four TDs with a 6.4 YPC average, while Damien Harris has 423 rushing yards, four rushing scores and a 6.5 YPC average. Josh Jacobs has a team-high six rushing TDs.
-- Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation in both total offense and scoring with its 53.6 PPG average.
-- Alabama owns a 26-19 spread record in 45 games as a road favorite during Saban’s 12-year tenure, going 1-1 ATS in a pair of such spots this season.
-- Tennessee (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) avoided a three-game losing streak and snapped an 11-game losing streak in SEC play with last week’s 30-24 win at Auburn as a 14.5-point road underdog. Jarrett Guarantano completed 21-of-32 passes for 328 yards and two TDs without an interception. Josh Palmer had three catches for 84 yards, while Jauan Jennings had five receptions for 71 yards and one TD. Ty Chandler rushed for 50 yards on 16 attempts and had five catches for 62 yards and one TD.
-- Since 2008, UT has been a home underdog 19 times. The Vols have limped to an abysmal 5-14 spread record in those spots.
-- UT is 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS at home this season, beating East Tennessee State (59-3) and UTEP (24-0) before getting smashed 47-21 vs. Florida on Sept. 22.
-- Tennessee senior LB Jonathan Kongbo saw his collegiate career end when he tore his ACL at Auburn. Kongbo, who started 10 games last season and five of six this year, had recorded 11 tackles, four QB hurries and one interception.
-- UT first-year HC Jeremy Pruitt was Alabama’s DC the past two seasons and served in the same post under Saban earlier his tenure. After beating Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M last month, Sabah improved to 13-0 in games against former assistants of his.
-- Alabama has won 11 games in a row in this rivalry, going 7-1 ATS in the past 10 encounters at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The ‘over’ is on a 5-1 run in the past six head-to-head meetings.
-- The ‘over’ is 5-2 overall for ‘Bama, 1-1 in its road assignments. This is the lowest total of the season for the Crimson Tide, who have seen its games average combined scores of 68.7 PPG.
-- Totals have been an overall wash (3-3) for the Vols, with the ‘over’ going 2-1 in their home outings.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
**Mississippi State at LSU**
-- As of Friday, most books had LSU (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) listed as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 45. The Bulldogs were +210 on the money line (risk $100 to win $210).
-- Ed Orgeron’s club is 4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS at home this year. LSU improve to 3-1 in SEC play with last week’s 36-16 win over Georgia as a seven-point home underdog. Joe Burrow led the way with 200 passing yards and 66 rushing yards for TDs on 13 attempts. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 19 times for 145 yards, while Nick Brossette had 64 rushing yards and one TD on 16 carries. Justin Jefferson had six catches for 108 yards.
-- Burrow has been the key to LSU’s surprising start. His stats aren’t that pretty, but he was money at crunch time in a game-winning drive at Auburn. He didn’t throw his first interception for lose for the first time until falling 27-19 at Florida on Oct. 6. Burrow has completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 1,415 yards with a 6/2 TD-INT ratio. He makes plays with his legs too, evidenced by 242 rushing yards and four TDs.
-- Brossette has rushed for a team-high 640 yards and nine TDs while averaging 4.8 YPC. Edwards-Helaire has run for 475 yards and five TDs with a 5.3 YPC average. Jefferson has 27 receptions for 453 yards and two TDs.
-- When these SEC West adversaries collided at Scott Field in Starkville last year, Mississippi State rolled to an easy 37-7 win as a 7.5-point home underdog. Nick Fitzgerald threw for 180 yards and two TDs without an interception, in addition to rushing for 88 yards and two scores on 14 attempts. RB Aeris Williams rushed 23 times for 146 yards. The Bulldogs covered the spread for the fourth straight time in this series, while the ‘under’ connected for a third straight time in this rivalry.
-- Since losing at MSU last season, Oregon has led LSU to a 10-1 spread record in 11 SEC games. Since taking over for Les Miles, Oregon is 14-4 ATS against SEC competition. The Tigers are 6-6 ATS as home favorites on Orgeron’s watch.
-- Mississippi State (4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS) has had two weeks to prepare for LSU after capturing a 23-9 win over Auburn as a 3.5-point home underdog. Fitzgerald rushed for 195 yards and two TDs on 28 workmanlike carries. Kylin Hill had 126 rushing yards on 23 attempts for the Bulldogs, who didn’t have a turnover and committed only one penalty. They had a 22-15 edge over AU in first downs and a 418-304 advantage in total offense.
-- Joe Moorhead’s squad leads the nation in scoring defense (12.7 PPG) and is eighth in total defense, 14th versus the pass and 18th in run defense.
-- MSU is 1-1 both SU and ATS on the road. The Bulldogs won 31-10 at Kansas State but took a 28-7 loss at Kentucky.
-- The ‘under’ is 4-1 overall for Mississippi State, 2-0 in its road assignments. The Bulldogs have watched the ‘under’ cash in three straight games. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 43.7 PPG.
-- After hitting in four consecutive contests, the ‘over’ is 5-2 overall for LSU and 3-1 in its home games. The Tigers have seen their games average combined scores of 48.9 PPG.
-- ESPN will have the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
**Vanderbilt at Kentucky**
-- As of Friday, most spots had Kentucky (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) favored by 12.5 points with a total of 47. The Commodores were +400 on the money line (risk $100 to win $400).
-- Mark Stoops’s team started the season 5-0 before dropping a 20-14 decision at Texas A&M in overtime. The Wildcats failed to cover the number as 4.5-point road underdogs. UK struck first in College Station when Terry Wilson found Lynn Bowden for 54-yard scoring strike. The Aggies didn’t get on the board until Kellen Mond’s three-yard TD pass to Quartney Davis with 1:14 left in the second quarter. The game remained knotted at 7-7 until Mond hit Jace Sternberger for a 46-yard TD pass with 10:13 remaining. The ‘Cats got fortunate when they forced a fumble and Darius West turned it into a 40-yard scoop-and-score TD to tie the game with 4:17 left. The Aggies won in the extra session on a 10-yard TD run by Traveon Williams.
-- UK is led by senior RB Benny Snell, who was somehow only given 13 carries that he turned into 60 rushing yards at Texas A&M. For the season, Snell has run for 724 yards and eight TDs with a 5.7 YPC average. Wilson, the juco transfer QB who was originally signed out of HS by Oregon, has run for 304 yards and three TDs while averaging 4.6 YPC.
-- Wilson has completed 66.4 percent of his throws for 703 yards with a 3/5 TD-INT ratio. Bowden has 27 receptions for 273 yards and two TDs.
-- UK is ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 13.8 PPG. The ‘Cats are 11th in the country in total defense and 23rd in both pass and run ‘D.’ This unit is led by senior DE Josh Allen, who has produced 37 tackles, six sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, five QB hurries, three passes broken up and two forced fumbles. West, LB Jordan Jones and safety Mike Edwards are other standouts on this unit.
-- UK is undefeated in four home games with a 2-2 spread record.
-- Vanderbilt (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS) started the season with home wins over Middle Tennessee (35-7) and Nevada (41-10), but it has lost three of its past four games while going 0-4 ATS. The Commodores raced out to a 21-3 lead over Florida in the first half of last week’s home game as seven-point underdogs. However, leading rusher Ke’Shawn Vaughn was forced out of the game in the first half with an undisclosed injury and the offense wasn’t the same without him. Before exiting, Vaughn had a 75-yard TD catch and ran for 56 yards on only seven totes. The Gators narrowed the deficit to 21-13 at halftime thanks to a Lamical Perine seven-yard TD run with 2:30 left in the second quarter. They also got a 25-yard FG from freshman kicker Evan McPherson with one tick left until intermission. UF took its first lead on the opening play of the final stanza when Jordan Scarlett ripped off a 48-yard TD run. Vandy would answer with a 42-yard FG with 12:10 remaining. The Gators went ahead of the number for the first time all day on an 11-yard TD pass from QB Feleipe Franks to Freddie Swain. Vandy got a 53-yard FG to make it a one-possession game and make it a push for our purposes with 3:55 remaining. Then with 37 seconds left, UF’s Dan Mullen took the risk of having a FG blocked but it worked with McPherson burying a 43-yarder for the spread cover.
-- Vaughn has been upgraded to ‘probable’ at UK. The Nashville native sat out last season after transferring back home from Illinois. Vaughn has rushed for a team-high 495 yards and five TDs with a 6.9 YPC average. He has seven catches for 131 yards and one TD.
-- Vandy senior QB Kyle Shurmur is playing outstanding football, much better than his stats suggest due to lots of drops from his young wideouts. The son of the New York Giants head coach has a 58.7 completion percentage and has thrown for 1,629 yards with an 11/5 TD-INT ratio. Kalija Lipscomb has 49 receptions for 560 yards and six TDs, while TE Jared Pinkney has 22 catches for 348 yards and three TDs.
-- Vandy is 0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS on the road. During Derek Mason’s five-year tenure, the Commodores are 11-11 ATS as road underdogs. They’re 1-1 ATS in a pair of such spots this year, covering at Notre Dame as 14-point ‘dogs in a 22-17.
-- UK has won back-to-back games over Vandy both SU and ATS, including last year’s 44-21 win in Nashville as a 2.5-point road underdog. Snell ran for 116 yards and three TDs on 17 attempts, while Bowden had three receptions for 79 yards. Shurmur completed 30-of-43 passes for 308 yards and one TD, but he was intercepted four times.
-- Vandy is 5-2 ATS in the past seven games of this rivalry. The ‘under’ is on a 5-1 run in the last six encounters.
-- Vandy might be without a pair of senior starters. OG E.J. DellaRippa and DT Louis Vecchio are both listed as ‘questionable’ with undisclosed injuries.
-- The ‘under’ is 4-2 overall for UK, 2-2 in its home games. The ‘Cats have seen the ‘under’ cash in three consecutive games and their games are averaging combined scores of 43.2 PPG.
-- The ‘under’ is 5-2 for Vandy, 2-0 in its road assignments. The ‘Dores have watched their games average combined scores of 51.3 PPG.
-- Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Missouri (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) will play host to Memphis at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network. As of Friday, most spots had Mizzou listed as a 9.5-point favorite with a total of 73. Mike Norvell’s team is winless both SU and ATS in a pair of road assignments. Memphis raced out to a 30-17 halftime lead at home vs. unbeaten UCF last weekend, only to go scoreless in the second half and lose a 31-30 decision. Nevertheless, Memphis covered the spread as a five-point underdog. Norvell’s team brings the nation’s leading rusher to town in Darrell Henderson, who has rushed for 1,133 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 10.3 YPC. Lock will be without his favorite target Emanuel Hall for a fourth straight game. Hall, a first-team All-SEC selection last year, had 18 receptions for 430 yards and three TDs in his teams’ first three games. Lock has struggled mightily in three SEC games in which his team is 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS. The senior QB who is predicted to be a first-round pick by most draftniks has only 1 TD pass compared to five interceptions in SEC play. For the season, Lock has completed 58.7 percent of his throws for 1,629 yards with a 12/6 TD-INT ratio.
-- Arkansas (1-6 SU, 3-3-1 ATS) is hoping to get its second win of the season at noon Eastern vs. Tulsa on the SEC Network. The Razorbacks have ripped off three straight spread covers and they’re 2-1-1 ATS in four home games this year. The Golden Hurricane lost a lead in the final minute of play last week just like Arkansas did vs. Ole Miss. Tulsa allowed South Florida to rally for a 27-25 win on a walk-off FG. As of Friday, most books had the Hogs listed as seven-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 55.5.
-- Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M are off this week. The Gators, who have won five in a row both SU and ATS, will take on Georgia next week in Jacksonville. The look-ahead line at 5Dimes is UGA -7.5. The same book had the Bulldogs favored by 11 at this time last week.
-- Sportsbook.ag has Alabama as the -200 ‘chalk’ to win the CFP. UGA has 10/1 odds, LSU is at 40/1, UF is 100/1, Mississippi State is 500/1 and UK is 1,000/1.
-- Tagovailoa is the -150 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at the offshore book.
-- 5Dimes.eu has Alabama as the -350 favorite to win the SEC Championship Game. The next-shortest odds belong to UGA (+275), UK (15/1), UF (15/1), LSU (15/1), MSU (100/1), Texas A&M (100/1), South Carolina (500/1) and Tennessee (1,000/1).
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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