Jaylen Wright's Volunteers are featured in the Week 3 SEC Betting Preview

SEC Betting Preview Week 3: Showdown Looms in The Swamp

Texas players raised their arms and bounded over to the small visiting section of Bryant-Denny Stadium, the only part of the facility that wasn’t quickly emptying out.

The celebration late Saturday night capped a convincing 34-24 victory at Alabama, and encapsulated so much about what’s unfolded in the SEC over the first two weeks of the college football season.

The SEC is 1-8 ATS vs Power Conference Teams

The Longhorns’ outright victory in Tuscaloosa as 7.5-point road underdogs was the exclamation point in what’s been a wretched performance by SEC teams against power-conference competition.

The league where It Just Means More went 0-5 against the spread in Week 2 against power conference foes, on the heels of a Week 1 in which it went 1-3.

The lone spread victory for an SEC team against a power conference opponent was turned in by Tennessee, which in Week 1 covered as 28-point home favorites against a Virginia team with other things on its mind.

Will the Trend Continue in Week 3?

Week 3 brings three more power conference matchups: Kansas State visits Missouri as a 5.5-point favorite, Ole Miss is a 19.5-point home favorite over Georgia Tech, and BYU is a 10-point underdog at Arkansas.

But the real focus of Week 3 in the SEC will be the kickoff of conference play, headlined by one of the league’s best rivalries unfolding once again in the Swamp.

Vols Favored in Gainesville

Tennessee opened as a 7-point road favorite at Florida, an eye-catching line in a series where the Gators have won 16 of the past 18 meetings.

While one of those rare outright Volunteers victories came last season in Knoxville, Florida still covered in that game, which it lost 38-33 as a 10.5-point underdog. 

Unknowns abound as the teams prepare to meet again in Gainesville. While the Volunteers own the SEC’s lone ATS victory against a power conference opponent, that win comes with something of an asterisk, given that it was Virginia’s first game since the program was beset by tragedy last fall.

And Tennessee hardly looked dominant this past week against FCS opponent Austin Peay, which it led 13-6 at the half and beat 30-13 in one of the lowest-scoring games under coach Josh Heupel.

Meanwhile the Gators looked punchless in a 24-11 opening loss at Utah, where they struggled even to get the ball snapped at times and came nowhere close to covering as 4.5-point road underdogs.

Florida was never challenged in a 49-7 victory last Saturday over FCS McNeese State, and we assume Billy Napier’s team has used the past two weeks to work on the offensive shortcomings that were glaringly evident in Salt Lake City.

Yet we’re leaning toward Tennessee here because of the Volunteers’ pass rush, which has recorded 11 sacks over its first two games, tied for first nationally.

The Gators allowed five sacks in their opener against Utah, which makes the UNDER on the total of 57.5 also appealing.

Bulldogs & Big Numbers

As for other conference games this week, South Carolina may have been the last team to beat Georgia in Sanford Stadium—pulling a 20-17 shocker in 2019—but since then the Bulldogs have pummeled the Gamecocks 45-16, 40-13 and 48-7.

The Bulldogs were a .500 prospect covering huge spreads last season, covering 25.5 at South Carolina, 27.5 against Auburn and 37.5 against Vanderbilt. But Georgia also failed to cover 29 at Missouri, 22.5 at Kentucky and 35.5 at Georgia Tech. Notably, those latter three games were all away from home, which isn’t the case this week.

LSU, which followed up its thrashing at the hands of Florida State with a blowout of Grambling, is a 10-point favorite at Mississippi State, which needed overtime to edge past 10-point underdog Arizona last week.

The Tigers have won four out of five in this series, including 31-16 last season in Baton Rouge. But the Bulldogs have a far more balanced offense this season thanks to running back Jo’Quavious Marks, which takes a lot of pressure off star quarterback Will Rogers.

Jackets in the Grove

Can anyone in the SEC beat the spread against a power conference opponent?

Missouri, which needed everything it could muster to slip past 21-point underdog Middle Tennessee last week, is a 5.5-point home underdog to Kansas State.

Arkansas, which slogged past 38-point underdog Kent State 28-6, is a 10-point home favorite against a BYU team that survived Sam Houston State 14-0 in its opener.

Then there’s Ole Miss, which among SEC teams had the best win of Week 2 in a 37-20 win at Tulane, which was without star quarterback Michael Pratt.

The Rebels covered as 7-point road favorites and next host 19.5-point underdog Georgia Tech. Behind new coach Brent Key and new quarterback Haynes King (a Texas A&M transfer), the Yellow Jackets put up 34 points and covered a 7-point spread in a close loss to Louisville in their opener.

Player Prop Watch

A few SEC players to watch for potential prop bets, should they be made available:

  • South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler has passed for at least 300 yards in two consecutive games to open this season, and has now eclipsed the 300-yard mark in his last four regular-season games dating back to last year.
  • Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers has passed for two touchdowns in both games to open this season, and has now found the end zone at least twice in his past four regular-season contests dating back to last season.
  • Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe has passed for at least two touchdowns in two straight games to open this season, and done the same in three consecutive starts dating back to a fill-in appearance for the injured Bryce Young last year.
  • Mississippi State running back Jo’Quavious Marks has rushed for over 100 yards and scored at least one touchdown in both games to start this season.
  • Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright has rushed for at least 100 yards in both games to start this season, and in three consecutive regular-season games dating back to last year.
  • South Carolina wide receiver Xavier Legette has gone over the 100-yard mark in receiving yards in two consecutive games to open this season.
  • Texas A&M wide receiver Evan Stewart has gone over the 100-yard mark in receiving yards in two consecutive games to open this season.

SEC 3-Pack, Week 3 Picks

To build off of the player props to consider above, here's my three favorite SEC picks of the week.

Alabama -32 at South Florida

Do you know how angry Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are going to be this week?

Very angry.

Alabama has covered eight straight games against Group of 5 opponents, with most of those contests involving huge spreads.

South Florida lost its home opener to Western Kentucky and has dropped 17 straight to FBS opponents. Yes, it’s in Tampa. It won’t matter.

Georgia -27 South Carolina

Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler has had an outstanding start to the season, but South Carolina has virtually no running game to support him.

Expect Georgia to come hard after a one-dimensional Gamecocks offense, and for the Bulldogs to cover yet another big number at home against their neighbors to the north.

Tennessee At Florida, uNDER 57.5

The Volunteers have the best pass rush in the league, and it’s hard to trust Florida’s offense based on one big outing against McNeese State.

Tennessee isn’t quite Utah, which for two seasons now has been dominating opponents on the line of scrimmage just as they did the Gators in their opener.

But that Vols front seven is still very good, and has the ability to make this a grind-it-out affair on a hot night in the Swamp.