SEC Notebook – Week 9

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I’ll be in Las Vegas this weekend posted up at the Aria. I’m sure I’ll drift around town a good bit and try to hook up with GambLou, KellyinVegas, Matt Youmans and a few others in the industry at some point. A visit to The Westgate SuperBook is a high likelihood as well, but I’ll be with three buddies from college so it’s hard to get everyone on the same page.

Being in Vegas this weekend is good and bad. Why bad? Well, Alabama has an open date and if not for pounding the hell out of the Crimson Tide in the first quarter and first half, in addition to taking its team total ‘over’ in the first quarter, first half and the game basically every time all season, I’m not sure I would’ve made my rent payment this month.

Kidding, but you get the point. The sequence of five plays supporting ‘Bama has kept me afloat and provided play/drinking money for the rest of each weekend. Those five plays – times eight for the unbeaten boys from T-Town – have cashed at an utterly ridiculous 36-3-1 against-the-spread clip.

But again, Alabama is off this week and won’t even have to face LSU star LB Devin White in the first half of next week’s showdown in Redstick. Redstick, you say? Who, what, where, when and why am I pointing out sticks of a red color? It’s French, people, French for Baton Rouge, where a man that likes to wear ‘The Hat’ once said that “opponents’ dreams go to die” – inside of Tiger Stadium, of course.

Enough about Week 10, though. It’s Week 9 that we have looming, and this week is all about Jacksonville. We call it The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and don’t give a shit if CBS quit using that moniker a decade or so ago. Trust me: Libations galore will be consumed in excess and the combination of eye candy dressed in orange and blue and red and black is……fabulous to take in.

So why won’t I be there? Well, I figured in August that it’d be a weekend in which I’d rather be in LV. And I’ll be just fine taking in the game out in the desert but if Mullen keeps producing five-game winning streak such as the one the Gators are currently enjoying, you bet your ass I’ll be posted up next to the St. John’s River head-hunting puppies at this time next season.

Anyhow, let’s break down some SEC action for this weekend…

**Florida vs. Georgia**

-- As of early Friday, most books had Georgia (6-1 straight up, 3-4 against the spread) installed as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 52. The Gators were +220 to win outright (risk $100 to win $220).

-- Kirby Smart’s team finished as the runner-up in last year’s College Football Playoff, losing in overtime in gut-wrenching fashion to Alabama. UGA raced out to an undefeated start with six straight wins, only to see that unblemished resume tarnished in a trip to Redstick two weeks ago. LSU took it to Smart’s bunch early and often in a 36-16 win as seven-point home underdog. The Tigers hooked up money-line supporters with a +240 return (paid $240 on $100 bets). Jake Fromm, who stepped in as the team’s starting QB midway through the first quarter of last year’s season opener as a true freshman, was a picture of poise and composure for 15 games. But in Baton Rouge against a salty LSU defense, Fromm struggled to pick up blitzes, rushed into bad decisions and looked lost and confused for 60 minutes of football. Fromm completed only 16-of-34 passes for 209 yards and one TD with two interceptions. UGA coughed up two fumbles and was minus four in the turnover department.

-- Although Georgia certainly still controls its own destiny to accomplish all of its goals, there’s zero room for error whatsoever moving forward. With Fromm’s struggles the last time out and the presence of true freshman Justin Fields, the five-star recruit who was last year’s No. 1 dual-threat QB in the high-school ranks, there have plenty of whispers out of the Athens area that Fields could see more playing time against the Gators, who get after the QB even more than LSU with two elite edge rushers (Jabari Zuniga and Jachai Polite) and constant blitzes being dialed up by DC Todd Grantham, who used to hold the same post at UGA for Mark Richt years ago.

-- Fromm has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,409 yards with a 13/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He now has a 37/11 career TD-INT ratio. Fields has connected on 18-of-25 throws (72.0%) for 200 yards and two TDs without a pick. Fields has rushed 18 times for 136 yards and three TDs for a 7.6 yards-per-carry average. Mecole Hardman has 24 receptions for 358 yards and four TDs, while Riley Ridley has 25 catches for 337 yards and five TDs.

-- Elijah Holyfield has run for a team-best 488 yards and four TDs while averaging 7.5 YPC. D’Andre Swift, who was upgraded to ‘probable’ earlier this week with a sprained ankle, has run for 362 yards and four TDs with a 5.1 YPC average.

-- Georgia is ranked 17th in the nation in total defense, 16th at defending the pass and 12th in scoring ‘D’ (16.3 points per game). The UGA offense is ranked 20th in the country in scoring, averaging 39.0 PPG.

-- Florida (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS) has won five in a row both SU and ATS since dropping a 27-16 decision to Kentucky at The Swamp in Week 2. The Gators are off a 37-27 win at Vanderbilt as nine-point road favorites. The Commodores raced out to a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter, but UF answered with 10 straight points to get to within one possession before intermission. Felipe Franks found Van Jefferson for a 38-yard scoring strike with 5:23 left in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 21-20. The on the first play of the final stanza, RB Jordan Scarlett ripped off tackle for a 48-yard TD run to give the Gators their first lead of the day. After Vandy answered with a field goal, UF responded and went ahead of the number for the first time all day on Franks’s 11-yard TD pass to Freddie Swain. The ‘Dores got a 53-yard FG to make it 34-27 with 3:55 left and get their betting backers back into the lead. However, with 37 ticks remaining, UF’s Evan McPherson buried a 43-yard FG to give the Gators the spread cover.

-- UF had a 31-17 edge on Vandy in first downs and a 576-336 advantage in total offense. Franks threw for 284 yards and two TDs with one interception. Lamical Perine rushed for 121 yards and one TD on 23 carries, while Scarlett ran for 113 yards and one score on 16 attempts. Perine also had four receptions for 93 yards, and Jefferson had three catches for 65 yards and one TD.

-- If UF can prevail in Jacksonville over UGA, it can win the SEC East for the third time in four seasons if two things take place: First, Kentucky has to lose once and it plays Saturday at Missouri before hosting UGA next week. Second, UF would need to finish 2-0 in league play with home games remaining versus both Missouri and South Carolina.

-- UF is ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense, sixth at defending the pass and 15th in scoring ‘D’ (16.6 points per game).

-- Florida is 21-7 against UGA in the past 28 meetings. Two of UF’s losses, including last year’s, came when its coach had been fired that week. In 2004, Ron Zook was pink-slipped on Sunday and the Gators didn’t even practice on that Monday. This time last year, Jim McElwain made moronic remarks to the media that made his bosses pirate, and he informed his team on Tuesday that he might get fired. Then on game day, Twitter exploded early Saturday morning (about eight hours before kickoff) with multiple reports that McElwain would be fired regardless of the UF-UGA result later that day. The result was Georgia taking it to the Gators in a 42-7 win as a 13.5-point ‘chalk.’

-- The ‘over’ has hit in back-to-back UF games and three of its past four to improve to 4-3 overall. The Gators have seen their games average combined scores of 51.0 PPG.

-- The ‘under’ is 4-3 overall for UGA. The Bulldogs have watched their games average combined scores of 55.3 PPG.

-- CBS will have the broadcast at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

**Kentucky at Missouri**

-- As of Thursday morning, most books had Missouri (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS) listed as a seven-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 55.5. The Wildcats were +250 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).

-- Kentucky (6-1 SU, 3-4 ATS) has won three in a row over Missouri, going 2-1 ATS after failing to cover as an 8.5-point home favorite in last year’s 40-34 win. Star RB Benny Snell gashed the Tigers for 117 rushing yards and two TDs on 20 carries. Missouri star QB Drew Lock threw for 355 yards and three TDs without an interception in the losing effort. Two seasons ago in Columbia, Snell exploded for 192 rushing yards and two TDs on 38 workmanlike attempts. Lock threw for 220 yards and two TDs without an interception, but the Tigers lost 35-21 as 7.5-point home favorites. In 2015, UK won a 21-13 decision as a 2.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The ‘under’ is on a 3-1 run in the past four games of those SEC East rivalry.

-- Missouri is 0-3 in SEC play with a 43-29 home loss to Georgia, a 37-35 loss at South Carolina and a 39-10 loss at Alabama. Lock has a 1/5 TD-INT ratio in those three games, but he has 15 TD passes compared to merely one interception in four non-conference games.

-- Missouri bounced back from the loss at Alabama to trounced Memphis by a 65-33 count as an 8.5-point home favorite last week. The 98 combined points catapulted ‘over’ the 70.5-point total. Lock threw three first-half TD passes and Christian Holmes had a 42-yard pick-six to send Mizzou to intermission with a 48-20 advantage. The Tigers caught a break when Memphis star RB Darrell Henderson, the nation’s leading rusher, went down with an injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. Lock hit on 23-of-29 throws for 350 yards and four TDs without a pick. Larry Rountree had 118 rushing yards and three TDs on nine carries. TE Albert Okwuegbunam had six receptions for 159 yards and three TDs, while true freshman WR Jalen Knox had five grabs for 104 yards and one TD.

-- Lock has 10,674 career passing yards to rank second only to Chase Daniel in the school annals. He needs 1,842 yards through the air in the next five regular-season games (and a likely sixth game in he postseason) to break Daniel’s school record. For this season, Lock has completed a career-best 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,979 yards with a 16/6 TD-INT ratio. He has three rushing scores as well. However, Lock has a 15/1 TD-INT ratio against non-conference foes. He has struggled mightily in three SEC losses, throwing only one TD pass compared to five picks.

-- Missouri senior WR Emanuel Hall might return to the field for the first time since Week 3. Hall was initially dealing with an injury and then left the team briefly to be with his family after his father passed away recently. He has reportedly look improved health-wise at practice this week but remains ‘questionable’ vs. UK. Hall was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2017 when he hauled in 33 receptions for 817 yards and eight TDs. He had 18 catches for 430 yards and three TDs in wins over UT-Martin (51-14), vs. Wyoming (40-13) and at Purdue (40-37) to start the season.

-- Mark Stoops’s team got all it wanted from Vanderbilt, just like Florida did the week before and Notre Dame did back in Week 3, in a 14-7 non-covering home win as a 10.5-point favorite. Snell’s seven-yard TD run with 8:04 left provided the winning points. Snell ran 32 times for 169 yards and one TD, while QB Terry Wilson produced 91 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Wilson threw the ball only nine times for three completions and only 18 yards, but he had one TD pass without an interception.

-- Snell has rushed for 893 yards and nine TDs with a 5.6 YPC average.

-- The ‘over’ is 5-1-1 overall for Mizzou, 3-0-1 in its home games. The Tigers have watched their games average combined scores of 69.4 PPG.

-- The ‘under’ has cashed in four consecutive UK games to improve to 5-2 overall. The ‘Cats have seen both of their road games stay ‘under’ the total. They’ve watched their games average combined scores of 40.0 PPG.

-- The SEC Network will have the broadcast at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Tennessee at South Carolina**

-- As of Wednesday morning, most books had South Carolina (3-3 straight up, 3-3 against the spread) installed as a 7.5-point home favorite with a total of 54.5. The Volunteers were available to win outright for a +250 payout (risk $100 to win $250).

-- Will Muschamp’s team has had two weeks to prepare since falling to 2-3 in SEC play with a 26-23 loss to Texas A&M as a 2.5-point home underdog. USC fell to 2-2 both SU and ATS at home. The Gamecocks rallied from a 16-0 third-quarter deficit to score back-to-back TDs and get a pair of two-point conversions to go into the final stanza knotted at 16-16. The Aggies would answer with a go-ahead drive that netted a field goal. On its ensuing possession, QB Jake Bentley hit Shi Smith on a first-down play for what appeared to be at least a 15-yard gain, but Smith dropped the pass that hit him on the numbers. Three plays later, USC had to punt the ball back to Jimbo Fisher’s team, which promptly went on a time-consuming drive that was capped by a TD to give it a 10-point advantage with 1:36 remaining.

-- South Carolina would mount one final scoring drive that ended with Bentley finding Deebo Samuel for a six-yard scoring strike with 48 ticks left. The onside kick was unsuccessful, however. A&M enjoyed a 458-299 advantage in total offense and a 25-19 edge in first downs. Bentley struggled in the first half and the crowd let him hear about it. The true junior recovered in the second half and finished the day completing 17-of-35 passes for 223 yards with a 3/1 TD-INT ratio. Samuel had seven receptions for 88 yards and one TD, while Smith had three catches for 51 yards and one TD. Bryan Edwards had four grabs for 42 yards, but he coughed up a costly fumble on a promising drive in A&M territory.

-- South Carolina’s defense is poised to get a huge lift when junior DE D.J. Wonnum returns to the starting lineup for the first time since sustaining an ankle injury in a Week 1 victory over Coastal Carolina. Wonnum was a third-team All-SEC pick last year when he produced 57 tackles, six sacks, seven TFL’s, five PBU and two QB hurries. After missing the loss to A&M, back-up RB A.J. Turner has been cleared to play even though some mid-week injury reports still had him marked as ‘questionable’ (concussion).

-- As a home favorite during Muschamp’s three-year tenure, USC has posted a 5-5 spread record and is 1-0 ATS in the lone such spot this season.

-- Many pundits such as Your Truly were confident that Bentley was poised for a big season. However, it hasn’t turned out that way – at least to date. He has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards with a 10/7 TD-INT ratio. When he was injured vs. UK and couldn’t play the following week vs. Missouri, senior back-up Michael Scarnecchia was given his first career start. Scarnecchia answered the call and then some, connecting on 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards and three TDs without an interception in a 37-35 comeback victory. When Mizzou went up 35-34 on a 57-yard FG with 1:18 remaining, Scarnecchia led USC down into FG range to set up Parker White’s 33-yard game-winning boot with two ticks left.

-- After scoring six TD in two games and the first play from scrimmage in Week 3 last season, Samuel went down with a season-ending leg fracture. He nonetheless opted to return to school for his senior campaign and leads the team in receptions (33), receiving yards (382) and is second in TD catches with four. Edwards has caught 28 balls for 351 yards and five TDs, while Smith has 21 receptions for 314 yards and two TDs.

-- Junior RB Rico Dowdle has rushed for 356 yards and two TDs with a 4.3 YPC average, while Ty’Son Williams has run for 255 yards and two TDs with a 5.5 YPC average. Turner has run for 131 yards on 21 attempts for a 6.2 YPC average.

-- Tennessee (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS) has lost by 26 points or more four times, including last week’s 58-21 defeat to Alabama as a 29-point home underdog. The 79 points soared ‘over’ the 57.5-point total. Starting QB Jarrett Gurantano, who had four TD passes without an interception in the two previous games and was off the best performance of his career when he threw for 328 yards in a 30-24 upset win at Auburn, was shaken up (chest injury) in the first half and had to leave the game. Keller Chryst, a back-up grad transfer who led Stanford on a six-game winning streak in 2016 before tearing his ACL in a bowl-game win over North Carolina, came in off the bench and threw a pair of second-quarter TD passes to pull his team within 35-14. However, Alabama got a nine-yard TD pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Irv Smith with 15 ticks left to put the Crimson Tide up 42-14 at intermission. The Vols would get one second-half score on a 27-yard pick-six off Jalen Hurts from Kyle Phillips.

-- Jeremy Pruitt’s club couldn’t generate anything on the ground against the Tide, who limited UT to 31 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Chryst completed 9-of-15 throws for 164 yards and two TDs without an interception. Jauan Jennings had six catches for 102 yards, while RB Ty Chandler had three grabs for 39 yards and one TD. Tyler Byrd had a 20-yard TD catch.

-- UT is 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS in a pair of road assignments. The Vols lost 38-12 at UGA but covered the number as 30.5-point underdogs, and they beat Auburn 30-24 as 14.5-point puppies. Chandler rushed for 50 yards on 16 carries and had five receptions for 62 yards and one TD at AU.

-- UT is ranked No. 110 in the nation in total offense, 93rd in passing yards, 98th in rushing yards and 90th in scoring with its 25.9 PPG average. Gurantano (63.0%) has 1,192 passing yards with a 6/2 TD-INT ratio. Chryst has completed 16-of-28 throws (57.1%) for 277 yards and three TDs without an interception. FOX Knoxville radio host Russell Smith told on Wednesday morning that Guarantano took all the first-team reps when media members were briefly allowed access to Tuesday’s practice.

-- Totals have been an overall wash for the Gamecocks (3-3), but they've seen the ‘over’ go 3-1 in their four home contests. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 54.7 PPG.

-- The ‘over’ is 4-3 overall for the Vols, 1-1 in their road assignments. They’ve watched their contests average combined scores of 55.9 PPG.

-- The underdog has covered the spread in six straight head-to-head meetings between these SEC rivals. The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight games and four of the past five in this rivalry. UT is 5-2 ATS in its past seven trips to Williams-Brice Stadium.

-- South Carolina has won back-to-back games in this rivalry both SU and ATS to bring Muschamp’s record to 6-0 vs. Tennessee as a head coach. When these teams met in Columbia two years ago, Butch Jones’s UT squad controlled its own destiny to win the SEC East. Making his second career start, then-freshman Bentley completed 15-of-20 passes for 167 yards and two TDs without an interception to lead USC to a 24-21 win as a 14.5-point home underdog. Dowdle, then a true freshman also, rushed for 127 yards and one TD on 27 carries, while Samuel hauled in eight receptions for 83 yards. Edwards, another true freshman at the time, had four catches for 41 yards and one TD.

-- When these schools collided at Neyland in Knoxville last season, USC captured a 15-9 win as a 2.5-point road underdog. Turner’s 20-yard TD run late in the third quarter pulled the Gamecocks into a 9-9 tie when the PAT failed. White’s two FGs from 21 and 36 yards out provided the winning points. Turner rushed for 86 yards and one score on 14 attempts, while Edwards has six receptions for 63 yards. Guarantano completed 11-of-18 throws for 133 yards without a TD or INT. Chandler rushed for 45 yards on four totes.

-- The SEC Network will provide television coverage at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

**Texas A&M at Mississippi State**

-- As of Tuesday night, most books had Mississippi State (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS) installed as a 2.5-point home favorite. -- After racing out to a 3-0 start both SU and ATS, Joe Moorhead’s team has dropped three of its past four games both SU and ATS. Mississippi State is off a 19-3 loss at LSU as a six-point underdog. Nick Fitzgerald ran for 131 yards on 23 carries, but he was a disaster throwing the football. The senior signal caller completed only 8-of-24 passes for 59 yards and was intercepted four times.

-- Mississippi State owns home wins over Stephen F. Austin (63-6), UL-Lafayette (56-10) and Auburn (23-9), in addition to a 31-10 win at Kansas State. The Bulldogs have lost 28-7 at Kentucky and 13-6 vs. Florida. The loss to LSU dropped them to 1-3 in SEC play.

-- MSU is ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, 10th in pass defense, 20th at defending the run and fourth in scoring ‘D’ (13.6 PPG). Standouts on this unit include senior DE Montez Sweat, a first-team All-SEC selection in 2017. Sweat is in a tie for the SEC lead in sacks and has 31 tackles, 2.5 TFL’s, five QB hurries and one forced fumble. Junior DT Jeffery Simmons has produced 36 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, two QB hurries and two PBU, while senior safety Mark McLaurin has recorded 48 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, one forced fumble, one QB hurry and one PBU.

-- Fitzgerald has rushed for a team-high 644 yards and seven TDs with a 5.3 YPC average. However, he's struggled mightily in the passing game in Moorhead’s new offense. Fitzgerald has completed merely 46.9 percent of his throws for 768 yards with an abysmal 4/7 TD-INT ratio. RB Kylin Hill has run for 516 yards and three TDs while averaging 6.8 YPC. However, Hill was listed as ‘questionable’ due to an ankle injury as of Wednesday. WR Osirus Mitchell is the team leader in receptions (14), receiving yards (251) and TD grabs (two).

-- Texas A&M (5-2 SU, 6-1 ATS) is 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS on the road. The Aggies lost 45-23 at Alabama but they covered the number as 24.5-point underdogs thanks to a nine-yard TD run from Kellen Mond with 7:36 remaining. Jimbo Fisher’s club went to Columbia two weeks ago and eked out a 26-23 win over South Carolina as a 2.5-point favorite.

-- After leading the Gamecocks 13-0 at intermission, Texas A&M extended its lead to 16-0 in the third quarter. However, South Carolina scored 16 unanswered points to pull even going into the final stanza. After going ahead 19-16 on Seth Small’s 39-yard FG, the Aggies got a stop and then at clock galore on a long TD drive that was called by Trayveon Williams’s three-yard dash into the end zone. A&M enjoyed a 25-19 edge in first downs and a 458-299 advantage in total offense. Mond connected on 25-of-37 throws for 353 yards and one TD without an interception. Junior TE Jace Sternberger had seven receptions for 145 yards and one TD, while Williams rushed for 78 yards and one TD on 19 carries.

-- Williams has rushed for 798 yards and eight TDs with a 5.7 YPC average. Mond has run for 255 yards and four TDs.

-- Mond, a true sophomore, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,800 yards with a 10/5 TD-INT ratio. Sterberger has 29 receptions for 496 yards and six TDs.

-- Texas A&M is ranked second in the nation at defending the run, 21st in total defense and 29th in scoring ‘D’ (20.6 PPG). The Aggies are 14th in the country in total offense and 24th in passing yards.

-- The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight and is now 4-3 overall for the Aggies, 1-1 in their road assignments. They’ve watched their games average combined scores of 52.9 PPG.

-- The ‘under’ is 5-1 overall for the Bulldogs, 2-1 in their home games. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 40.6 PPG.

-- Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Arkansas (2-6 SU, 4-3-1 ATS) will welcome Vanderbilt to Fayetteville for a noon Eastern kick on the SEC Network. As of early Friday, most spots had Derek Mason’s club listed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 53.5. The Razorbacks are winless in four SEC contests, but they did snap a six-game losing streak in last week’s 23-0 win over Tulsa as a seven-point home ‘chalk.’ Chad Morris’s squad has covered the spread in four consecutive outings. Vandy (3-5 SU, 4-4 ATS) is also 0-4 in conference play and in dire need of a victory to bolster its post season hopes. I’m not implying Mason is on a hot seat and I’ll clearly state it would be a poor decision to make a move in a different direction. With that said, the AD just retired and a new one will be brought in soon. Therefore, Mason needs to get to the six-win mark, making a win at Arkansas crucial. On deck, the Commodores play at Missouri before hosting Ole Miss and Tennessee. The ‘under’ is 6-2 overall for the ‘Dores, 5-3 overall for the Hogs. Vandy has seen the ‘under’ emerge in each of its road assignments.

-- [...] updated its Games of the Year this week. The book has Alabama favored by merely 14 points at LSU. Considering how LSU’s White is out for the first half due to a targeting penalty in last week’s 19-3 win over Mississippi St., I think that number is short. I’m expecting the Tide to be favored by at least 18 and my number is 21.

-- Other Games of the Year lines include UGA -9 at UK, Ole Miss -1.5 vs. S-Carolina, Alabama -24 vs. MSU, LSU -17 at Arkansas, UGA -13 vs. Auburn, Texas A&M -11 vs. Ole Miss, MSU -18.5 vs. Arkansas, MSU -5.5 at Ole Miss, Alabama -23 vs. Auburn and LSU -1.5 at Texas A&M.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards