Last Week’s Recap: Purdue, Memphis, and Cal all won outright as underdogs, but Louisville got their ass handed to them by Clemson. Also, because of Florida’s Hail Mary in the closing seconds on Saturday afternoon, I did not hit Tennessee +5. The Vols went off as a 6.5-point underdog at kickoff, so they did cover the final number, but my line last Thursday was +5.
On to this week…
Auburn at Missouri (+18), 6:30 p.m. CT
I’ll always start off with the local team, although I admit I don’t love the side or total this Saturday. Gus Malzahn will have trouble sleeping Friday night thinking about calling plays against Barry Odom’s defense, but 18 is a big number to lay on an Auburn team that has not looked good offensively. Auburn outgained Mercer 510-246 but scored just 24 points thanks to five turnovers. On the other side, Missouri has been stuck in mud offensively the past two weeks. Unless it’s Missouri State, Delaware State, or Eastern Michigan, Drew Lock and Co. have failed to put points on the board. Auburn is allowing just 3.18 yards per play defensively, which is the best in the nation. Instead of banking on Auburn waking up offensively (even against Mizzou’s shoddy defense), I’ll bet against both offenses Saturday night.
The Pick: Auburn/Missouri under 60 points
Florida at Kentucky (+2), 6:30 p.m. CT
It’s time for the Wildcats to end their losing streak against the Gators, who have won the last 30 meetings with Kentucky. The Wildcats are at home, they’re facing an offense that is woefully inept, and are facing a stout UF defense, but one that has had issues tackling through two weeks. Kentucky boasts dual-threat quarterback Stephen Johnson, who threw for 169 yards and ran for additional 74 yards in the Wildcats’ win over South Carolina. UK has been excellent against the run, limiting opponents to a SEC-low 57 yards per game.
The Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +2
Mississippi State at Georgia (-5.5), 6:00 p.m. CT
Unless oddsmakers believe that the Bulldogs will suffer a letdown after upsetting LSU at home last week, I don’t understand why this line is that high. (Besides, how could Mississippi State suffer a letdown when it’s taking on Georgia in between the hedges?) Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald accounted for four touchdowns in that upset over LSU and finished with 260 yards of total offense against one of the best defenses in the conference. The Bulldogs are averaging 47.7 points per game, which ranks first in the SEC and ninth nationally. Georgia has a quality signal-caller of its own in freshman Jake Fromm, who has passed for five touchdowns in three games since taking over the starting role for Jacob Eason. That said, I’ll take Fitzgerald and an underrated Mississippi State team getting points. I think this is a field-goal game for either side.
The Pick: Mississippi State Bulldogs +5.5
USC at Cal (+17.5), 3:30 p.m. CT
I’m going right back to the Cal well this weekend. One week after upsetting Ole Miss as a small underdog, the Golden Bears will receive their stiffest test of the season when the Trojans come to town. One reason I’ve liked Cal to start the season: The Bears have forced three turnovers in each of their first three games. Cal has also been a great second half team thus far, coming from behind to win all three of its games this season. During that span, the Bears have outscored opponents 57-13 in the second half. USC struggled with Western Michigan in Week 1 and nearly lost to Texas last week. Granted, that Texas-USC game was entertaining, but the Longhorns nearly won as a double-digit road dog. I’m fading the Trojans in their first road game of 2017.
The Pick: Cal Golden Bears +17.5
N.C. State at Florida State (-13), 11:00 a.m. CT
This is a bad spot for the Seminoles, even though they’ve had plenty of time to game plan for the Wolfpack. FSU had its scheduled home opener against Louisiana-Monroe canceled on September 9 and a meeting with Miami last weekend postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Last time we saw the Seminoles, their starting quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending injury against Alabama. Jimbo Fisher is turning his offense over to freshman James Blackman, who at least got two weeks off to prepare for his first start. Still, 13 points is a lot to lay on a team that is 1) starting a freshman under center and 2) needing to knock off two full weeks of rust.
The Pick: N.C. State Wolfpack +13
Season Record: 3-2 Against the Spread