Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM
SEC Notebook - Week 5
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Arkansas at Texas A&M
-- As of early Friday evening, most betting shops had Texas A&M (2-2 straight up, 4-0 against the spread) installed as a 21-point favorite for this annual showdown at Jerry World. The total was 61 on Wednesday but was down to 59 Friday night. William Hill had the Razorbacks with 10/1 money-line odds (risk $100 to win $1,000).
-- Arkansas (1-3 SU, 0-3-1 ATS) saw last year’s leading WR quit the team earlier this week. Jonathan Nance, who had team-highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (539) and TD catches (five) in 2017, had only one catch for negative two yards before walking away from Chad Morris’s program. Junior WR La’Michael Pettway is ‘questionable’ due to an undisclosed injury, while RB Devwah Whaley is ‘doubtful’ with a concussion. Pettway paces the Razorbacks with 11 catches for 169 yards and three TDs. Whaley is the Hogs’ leading rusher, producing 231 yards and two TDs with a 4.4 yards-per-carry average.
-- My Man, Wess Moore, who has covered the Hogs for more than a decade and often has me as a guest on his radio show, told me via text on Thursday that Whaley is ‘out’ and that Pettway is “probably going to be good to go.”
-- Since beating Eastern Illinois 55-20 as a 35-point home favorite in its opener, Arkansas has dropped three games in a row at Colorado St. (34-27 after leading 27-9 late in the third quarter), vs. North Texas (44-17) and at Auburn (34-3). That’s ‘no bueno.’
-- Texas A&M has won six games in a row over Arkansas, including three overtime victories. The Aggies captured a 50-43 win in an Instant Classic last season as two-point favorites. Kellen Mond threw for 216 yards and two TDs with one interception. He also rushed for a team-best 109 yards on 10 carries. Trayvon Williams rushed for 72 yards and one TD on 17 carries. Arkansas RB Chase Hayden ran for 77 yards and one TD on 13 totes.
-- Jimbo Fisher’s club is the nation’s best two-loss team, covering the spread in both losses vs. Clemson (28-26) and at Alabama (45-23). Mond's nine-yard TD run with 7:36 remaining gave the Aggies the backdoor cover as 24-point underdogs. Mond ran for a team-high 98 yards on 18 attempts, but he was intercepted twice and completed merely 16-of-33 passes.
-- The Hogs have seen the ‘under’ appear in three straight games since the ‘over’ was a winner vs. Eastern Illinois.
-- The ‘over’ is 3-1 overall for the Aggies.
-- ESPN will have the broadcast at noon Eastern.
Florida at Mississippi State
-- Dan Mullen spent nine seasons at Mississippi State, guiding the Bulldogs to eight consecutive postseason appearances and a one-month ride atop the national rankings when Dak Prescott was a junior in 2014. In a Bobby Petrino at Louisville (Round 1) sort of way, however, Mullen’s name seemed to pop up for a lot of other jobs, especially in the last 3-4 years of his tenure. Couple that in with the fact that Florida also hired AD Scott Stricklin away from MSU, and you have a lot of bitterness toward the school’s former coach. Furthermore, after a three-week run of blowout victories including a route of Kansas State in Manhattan, the Bulldogs stunningly got spanked 28-7 at Kentucky as 9.5-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Gators are off a feel-good pimpslap of the Volunteers up at The Swamp North in East Tennessee. That’s the backdrop for Saturday night’s showdown at Scott Field in Starkville, a venue that hasn't been kind to UF for many decades.
-- Florida (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) thumped UT 47-21 as a 3.5-point road favorite last week in Knoxville. The 68 combined points obliterated the 46-point total for ‘over’ backers. Feleipe Franks threw three TD passes without an interception and also scored on a one-yard TD run. He hit Freddie Swain for a 65-yard scoring strike to give his team a 23-3 lead early in the second quarter. Jordan Scarlett’s 19-yard TD run only 16 seconds into the third quarter put UF up by a 33-3 count. It smelled like 1996 at Neyland Stadium when Danny Wuerffel led Florida to a 35-0 first-quarter lead over Peyton Manning and the Vols. It reminded me of my only trip to Neyland in 1994 when Steve Spurrier said “starters back in” as Mannning, as a true freshman, had the Vols in the red zone trailing 31-0 late in the fourth quarter. It was UF’s 13th win in the past 14 games of this rivalry. Like I said to many of my UT friends in the fall of 2007 when they universally wanted to move on from Phil Fulmer, “Careful what you wish for! Careful!” A passionate fan base that had to endure an extremely agonizing and nationally-embarrassing coaching search 10 months ago was left hoping that another beatdown from the Gators was rock bottom last Saturday night. Is it though? Only time will tell.
-- As of early Friday night, most books had Mississippi State (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) listed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 49. The Gators were +220 on the money line (risk $100 to win $220).
-- I still don’t trust Franks, but he’s now had two quality performances at UT and vs. Charleston Southern. For the season, the third-year sophomore from Wakulla High School (FL) has completed 52.6 percent of his throws for 742 yards with a 12/2 TD-INT ratio. Swain has eight receptions for 193 yards and three TDs, while Van Jefferson has eight catches for 127 yards and three TDs.
-- True freshman Dameon Pierce has rushed for a team-high 225 yards and two TDs for an 11.3 YPC average. Scarlett, who missed all of 2017 due to a suspension, has run for 182 yards and two TDs while averaging 6.1 YPC. Franks has contributed 114 rushing yards and one TD.
-- UF was an abysmal 1-5-1 ATS as a road underdog during Jim McElwain’s Chafe-City tenure, although we have to credit an 0-2 ATS mark in two of those spots to interim head coach Randy Shannon, a former ‘Cane who should’ve never been wearing orange and blue (Thanks, Swamp Donkey!).
-- Mississippi State started 3-0 with wins vs. Stephen F. Austin (63-6), at Kansas St. (31-10) and vs. UL-Lafayette (56-10). However, the feel-good story for Chapter 1 in the reign of Joe Moorhead, the former Penn State offensive coordinator who is in his first HC gig at the FBS level (he went 38-13 at Fordham in the FCS from 2012-15 before joining James Franklin’s PSU staff), ended abruptly in Lexington. False starts put the offense in bad field position. MSU averaged only 2.0 YPC running the ball. The Bulldogs were guilty of 16 penalties for 139 yards. Nick Fitzgerald was limited to 20 rushing yards and one TD on 16 carries. He completed only 50 percent of 32 passes for 145 yards and one interception.
-- MSU has compiled a 25-16 spread record in 41 games as a home favorite since 2009.
-- Totals have been an overall wash for the Gators (2-2) with the ‘over’ hitting in their lone road trip.
-- The ‘under’ is 2-1 overall for the Bulldogs, but the ‘over’ hit on its lone home game with a total.
-- These teams haven’t met since Mullen led MSU into The Swamp and emerged with a 10-7 win as an 8.5-point underdog. Florida won in Starkville by a 29-19 score in Tim Tebow’s senior year (’09), but the Bulldogs easily covered the number as 22.5-point home underdogs.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
South Carolina at Kentucky
-- Several global books opened South Carolina (2-1 straight up, 2-1 against the spread) as a 1.5-point road favorite at unbeaten Kentucky. That number was sent out late Sunday afternoon but by lunch on Monday, nearly all betting shops had the Wildcats favored by 1 ½ points.
-- The number hadn’t moved much until Thursday afternoon when some books adjusted UK to -1 while others moved the game to a pick ‘em. The Mirage had the Gamecocks as one-point favorites with a total of 51.5 for ‘over/under’ wagers by late Thursday afternoon. There were a lot of pick ‘ems on the board Friday.
-- South Carolina was in its first road favorite role during Will Muschamp’s tenure last week at Vanderbilt. The result was an easy spread cover in USC’s 37-14 win as a 2.5-point ‘chalk.’ The 51 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 53.5-point total.
-- The Gamecocks have covered the spread in five straight road games. They’re 7-0 ATS in their past seven games played away from Williams-Brice Stadium (wins over N.C. State and Michigan on neutral fields).
-- Mark Stoops’s team improved to 4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS with its 28-7 win over Mississippi State as a 9.5-point home underdog. The Wildcats hooked up money-line supporters with a +300 return (paid $300 on $100 wagers for UK to win outright). Kentucky’s win and spread cover improved it to 4-11-2 ATS when listed as a home underdog on Stoops’s watch. The ‘Cats have failed to cover the spread in eight consecutive contests when they’re home favorites.
-- Perhaps those numbers above should be ignored, however? I say that because it seems clear that UK has its best team since Stoops arrived in 2013. RB Benny Snell is tops in the SEC and third in the nation with 540 rushing yards. The defense is filled with future NFL players like free safety Mike Edwards, strong safety Darius West, DE Josh Allen and LB Jordan Jones.
-- USC has major revenge as a motivator with four straight losses against the ‘Cats, who are 5-0 ATS in the past five games of this rivalry. I’m not sure UK’s offensive line can handle a beast like Javon Kinlaw, who dominated the Commodores last week. Kinlaw has recorded 13 tackles, three QB hurries, 2.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in three games this season.
-- The ‘over’ has cashed at a 4-1 clip in USC’s past five trips to Lexington. The ‘over’ is 2-1 for the Gamecocks this year, 2-2 for the ‘Cats.
-- South Carolina sophomore WR OrTre Smith will miss the rest of the season. Smith had 30 receptions for 326 yards as a true freshman in 2017.
-- Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.
B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets
-- Alabama was favored by 49 points for Saturday’s home contest vs. UL-Lafayette, as of late Friday afternoon. The total was 68 points. The Crimson Tide has limped to a 2-8 spread in 10 games as a favorite of 40 points or more during Nick Saban’s dynastic tenure. UL-Lafayette is 25-16 ATS as a road underdog since 2010. As we noted last week, Alabama’s team totals for the first quarter, first half and the game have cashed at a 12-0 clip so far this season. The Tide failed to take the cash for the first time last week when Texas A&M got a late TD for a backdoor cover.
-- LSU will play host to Ole Miss at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. As of early Friday night, most spots had the Tigers favored by 10 points with a total of 60. The Rebels were +300 on the money line. Ed Orgeron’s team takes an undefeated record into this contest in hopes of improving to 13-3 ATS in SEC play during the ‘Hey, Geaux Tigers’ Era under Coach O. The Tigers beat La. Tech 38-21 in Baton Rouge last weekend, but the Bulldogs took the cash as 19.5-point road underdogs. The road team had won five in a row in this rivalry until LSU won 40-24 in Oxford last year.
-- I think a lot of the criticism toward Joe Burrow is ridiculous. He’s been with this team and his WRs for about two months. Who thought LSU would be 4-0 going into a home game vs. Ole Miss as a double-digit favorite this past summer? Not me. Sure, Burrow has missed some throws and his 49.1 percent completion percentage is below average, but guess what else he’s done? Better yet, what hasn’t he done? The former Ohio St. QB hasn’t thrown an interception. Burrow has thrown three TD passes and rushed for another score. Last time I checked, the formula for success – and lots of it, particularly at LSU – was playing great defense, running the football and winning the turnover battle and special teams. Don’t let Alabama’s dynastic run stain this recipe. LSU will beat the Rebels on Saturday and go to Gainesville with an unblemished record. If it can emerge from The Swamp unscathed, a three-week stretch of bloodbaths at Tiger Stadium awaits vs. Georgia. vs. Mississippi St. (with the Bulldogs getting two weeks to prepare) and vs. Alabama (when both teams have an open date beforehand). That’s a pretty (pretty, pretty, pretty!) good situation considering how seemingly most of the national media had LSU winning only six of seven games and Orgeron getting shipped out of town about 30 days ago.
-- Auburn will take on Southern Miss at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers were favored by 27 points and the total was 53 as of early Friday night.
-- Tennessee is in its second-richest underdog spot in school history Saturday when it’s catching 31 points at Georgia. CBS will have the telecast at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
-- RIP: LSU basketball player Wayde Sims, who was the victim of an unfathomable murder in Baton Rouge on Thursday night. Wayde was the son of Wayne Sims, a stout power forward for the Tigers who played with Shaq and Chris Jackson during the Larry Brown Era.
-- After losing 43-29 at home vs. Georgia as a 14-point home underdog, Missouri is off this weekend. Vandy is hosting Tennessee State in non-conference play.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.