It’s a college football weekend loaded with big games, and in the SEC the biggest involves Ole Miss making the short trip over the state line to play Alabama. And yet, due to the upheaval surrounding the Crimson Tide right now, this matchup from a sports betting perspective suddenly feels more radioactive than the Nevada Test Site.
QB Carousel In 'Bama
Let’s face it: sports bettors who early last week backed Alabama to cover a big number against lowly South Florida got submarined by coach Nick Saban’s game of quarterback roulette, which involved benching Jalen Milroe, starting Tyler Buchner, and then benching Buchner for third-stringer Ty Simpson.
The final result was an ugly 17-3 victory for 33-point favorite Alabama, and the Crimson Tide failing to cover against a Group of 5 opponent for the first time since 2017.
It all leaves so many questions unanswered for this week. Undoubtedly, Milroe had his issues in the loss to Texas. But the same Alabama offense that rolled up 56 points in a rout of a fairly decent Middle Tennessee State squad looked lost against a South Florida team that two weeks earlier had lost to Western Kentucky.
Was Saban tinkering with his quarterback rotation in Tampa because he knew he had a sizeable margin for error against a bad team? Was it all just sandbagging with the Rebels coming up next?
In the aftermath of the South Florida game, Saban told reporters that he’d evaluate all the quarterbacks for Ole Miss, which doesn’t give sports bettors much to go on.
And then add the news that broke Sunday night, when Rebels coach Lane Kiffin told reporters that his film study seemed to indicate Alabama had secretly demoted defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in favor of cornerbacks coach Travarius Robertson.
Kiffin is ever the instigator, we know, but it all paints a picture of further unpredictability in Tuscaloosa.
Of course, maybe that’s just what Saban wants. The fact that Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite seems to invite action on Ole Miss, which bettors can find as a +240 underdog.
The wise play here might be to wait until later in the week, hoping for a little more clarity on Alabama’s quarterback situation—or just passing on this matchup altogether, and choosing from the many other SEC games this week that bring a bit more certainty to the table.
Send Mizzou a Fruit Basket
Meanwhile, the SEC’s reputation against non-conference foes continues to take a beating. Not only did Alabama look awful at South Florida, but Arkansas lost outright to BYU as a home favorite, and Vanderbilt lost outright as a favorite at UNLV.
There were two positive sign: Ole Miss covering as a 17.5-home favorite against Georgia Tech, and Missouri upsetting 4-point favorite Kansas State on a 61-yard field goal.
That field goal, the longest in SEC history, came on the heels of some wretched late-game clock management by Missouri that nearly forced the contest into overtime. But the Tigers somehow pulled it off, and in the process recorded the lone victory against a ranked power-conference opponent by an SEC team this year. A fruit basket is surely on the way from the conference office in Birmingham.
Through Week 3, the SEC is 3-9 ATS against major-conference competition, with Tennessee’s victory over Virginia in Week 1 standing as the only other triumph. Six of those losses were outright by double digits.
The good news: with everybody ramping up conference play this week and next, there are no more SEC games against power-conference opponents until rivalry weekend on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
LSU Loving the Over
Three games into the season, some betting trends are beginning to establish themselves in the SEC.
Ole Miss is 2-0 ATS in games against FBS competition, covering as a 7-point favorite at Tulane before covering 17.5 at home this past week against the Yellow Jackets.
LSU has gone OVER the total in its two games against FBS foes, eclipsing a total of 57.5 in its opening week loss to Florida State, and then going OVER (by a half-point!) in its rout of Mississippi State last week.
On the other side of the spectrum, Georgia has failed to cover the spread in two games against FBS competition, and faces a huge number as a 41-point favorite over UAB this week. The Bulldogs also went UNDER the total against both Ball State and South Carolina.
Mississippi State and Arkansas are also both 0-2 ATS so far against FBS foes, while Florida has gone UNDER in FBS games against Utah an Tennessee to this point.
Then there’s Vanderbilt, which last weekend was a rare 4.5-point road favorite at UNLV, and jumped out to a 17-0 lead in Las Vegas. But the Commodores gave up 30 unanswered points, had to score a touchdown to tie with 1:12 left, and lost 40-37 on a field goal with 5 seconds to go.
The ’Dores dropped to 0-3 ATS this season versus FBS opponents, and they’re a 14-point underdog at Kentucky this week.
Player Prop Watch
A few SEC players to watch for potential prop bets, should they be made available:
SEC Pick 3: Week 4
With conference play underway, we have a three-pack of plays!
LSU -18 Arkansas
Maybe it was just a bad night against Florida State, or maybe the loss to the Seminoles lit a fire under LSU. Either way, the Tigers have been on a tear since, last week blowing out Mississippi State as s 9.5-point road favorite.
This time it will be night in Death Valley, and the opponent will be a reeling Arkansas team that sneaked past Kent State before losing outright at home to underdog BYU last week.
South Carolina -6 Mississippi State
The Gamecocks showed tremendous poise as big underdogs at Georgia last week until the Bulldogs’ relentless running attack wore them down. South Carolina is 5-3 as a home favorite under coach Shane Beamer, and quarterback Spence Rattler is enjoying a tremendous season.
The Bulldogs will try to establish the run, but the worries are on defense — Gamecocks receiver Xavier Legette has to be licking his chops after watching LSU’s Malik Nabers go for 13 catches and 239 yards last week.
Kentucky -14 Vanderbilt
The Wildcats are 2-0 ATS versus FBS teams this season, though they’ve played only Ball State and Akron. But former N.C. State quarterback Devin Leary has proven to be a nice fit at a program that traditionally wins behind defense and the run game, and Vandy hardly inspires confidence on the road: the Commodores coughed it up as a favorite last week at UNLV, and before that were dispatched rather easily by 10-point home favorite Wake Forest.