It’s the third week in October, and you know what that means in the SEC: time for Tennessee and Alabama to renew their long rivalry, with a lot on the line between two one-loss teams. And sports bettors should expect a low-scoring grinder between two squads that have become defined by their defense.
The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have the second- and third-best scoring defenses in the SEC this season, with Alabama allowing an average of just 16 points per game, and Tennessee allowing an average of only 17.
The increased reliance on defense has become evident in both teams’ performances against totals: Alabama has gone UNDER in two straight and five of its last six, while Tennessee has gone UNDER in two straight and three of its last four.
Alabama has learned to live with starting quarterback Jalen Milroe and all his inconsistencies, putting the onus on its defense to hold opponents in check. That’s produced low-scoring slogs against the likes of Texas A&M and Arkansas, both of which the Tide defeated by single digits.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has been throttling opponents behind one of the top pass rushes in the SEC, holding South Carolina to 20 points and the Aggies to 13.
It all shapes up as a much different game that what we saw last year in Knoxville, where the Volunteers won 52-49 to snap a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.
Hendon Hooker and Bryce Young, the signal-callers in that game, have both moved on. If Tennessee is going to defeat Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday for the first time since 2003, defense will most likely be the reason why.
LSU’s Perfect OVER Mark Intact
And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where LSU continues to run roughshod over sportsbook totals by putting up points at a record pace.
The Tigers’ 30-point blowout victory over hapless Auburn last week in Death Valley marked the sixth time the Bayou Bengals have gone OVER the total in as many games against FBS competition this season.
After combining with Ole Miss and Missouri respectively to put up 104 and 88 in its last two games, Saturday was a closer scrape for OVER bettors—the LSU-Auburn game finished at 66 combined points against a 63.5-point total, with Josh Williams’ 1-yard touchdown run with 2:28 to play clinching the OVER.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels added three more passing touchdowns (his 22 touchdowns are at least eight more than anyone else in the SEC) and moved up to +1400 in Heisman Trophy odds, ahead of both North Carolina’s Drake Maye and USC’s Caleb Williams.
The Tigers step out of conference play this weekend to host 30-point underdog Army, which is coming off a 19-0 loss to Troy. The total for the game is 58 points, the lowest total LSU has seen in four weeks.
Even though the Black Knights are offensively challenged, we’d expect LSU to keep its over streak alive into the Nov. 4 showdown at Alabama—when irresistible force and immovable object will clash in Tuscaloosa.
Gamecocks Hit Rock Bottom
In retrospect, it may well turn out to be one of the worst bets anyone could have made on SEC football this season. A moment of silence, please, for those poor souls who wagered on South Carolina to go over a preseason win total of 6.5.
South Carolina’s regressive 2023 campaign hit rock bottom last Saturday when the Gamecocks held a 10-point lead over Florida with nine minutes remaining—only to see the Gators storm back and steal a victory in Columbia as 2-point underdogs.
A Gamecocks program that had won seven and eight games respectively over the past two seasons now sits at 2-4, and will need a miracle to just reach bowl eligibility, much less go over the 6.5-win total.
Indeed, this is not what anyone envisioned from Shane Beamer’s third season, particularly with Spencer Rattler enjoying a fantastic year at quarterback.
The Gamecocks have now failed to cover in two straight, losing both games outright, and this Saturday are a 7-point underdog at a Missouri team that manhandled Kentucky in Lexington this past weekend.
Missouri, which has beaten South Carolina four straight times, has covered four of five—the exception being a terrible beat on a pick-six in the final seconds against LSU.
After that the Gamecocks go to Texas A&M, against whom they’re 1-8 all-time, and are winless in College Station. Kentucky and Clemson await the final two weeks of the season. It looks for all the world like South Carolina will stagger out of Kyle Field at 2-6, that 6.5-win total from the preseason looking like nothing more than a mirage.
Those Befuddling Bulldogs
Georgia last weekend won a game at Vanderbilt that was far closer than anyone anticipated, allowing Vanderbilt to cover the spread for the first time against an FBS opponent this season.
While the 32.5-point line was indeed a big one, Georgia winning by 17 was still not what anyone expected. The Commodores scored the first touchdown of the game just three minutes in, and pulled within 10 of Georgia on another score with 6:14 left. In between the Bulldogs lost star tight end Brock Bowers to an ankle injury, the exact severity of which was still not known as of Monday.
It all continued what’s been a befuddling season against the spread for the Bulldogs, who now own a 1-5 ATS mark against FBS competition, and remain somewhat radioactive to bettors despite their ability to continue to win outright.
Georgia has this week off in advance of the Florida game on Oct. 28. And with Vandy finally covering for the first time, the lone SEC team yet to beat the spread against an FBS foe is Mississippi State, a 7-point underdog at Arkansas on Saturday.
Player Prop Watch
A few SEC players to watch for potential prop bets, should they be made available:
SEC Pick 3 For Week 8
Third week of October is a perfect time for an SEC Pick 3.
Arkansas -7 vs. Mississippi State
The Razorbacks have been painfully close throughout their five-game outright skid: lost to BYU by seven, lost at LSU by three, lost at Ole Miss by seven, lost at Alabama last week by three. All those games were winnable, and quarterback KJ Jefferson gave the Crimson Tide fits in last week’s loss.
The Hogs are overdue to break through, and Saturday brings a prime opportunity in Fayetteville against a Mississippi State team that was last seen slogging it out past Western Michigan at home, and has yet to cover against an FBS opponent this season.
Army at LSU, oVER 58
We’re riding this train for as long as it stays on the tracks. The Tigers have put up 48, 49 and 55 points over the past three weeks, Daniels is playing at a stratospheric level, and LSU is forced to score at will to make up for its struggling defense.
Granted, Army will bring in a triple-option offense that will run the ball and try to eat as much clock as possible. But that total remains a relatively modest one for LSU, the only team in the nation with a perfect over record to this point.
Ole Miss -6 at Auburn
How bad is Auburn’s offense right now? The Tigers managed just 18 point last weekend against an LSU defense that had allowed 39, 55 and 31 over the preceding three weeks.
Hugh Freeze has a full-blown rebuilding project on his hands, with no clear starter at quarterback and the lowest-scoring offense in the SEC.
Jordan-Hare Stadium will be deafening as always, but visiting Ole Miss has more than enough weapons on offense to take the crowd out of it and cover as a modest favor on the road.