Like most college football fans that pay attention to the lines, I was shocked when I read Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite over LSU. Granted, most sports books moved the line down to 6, but that’s still a big number given how well the Tigers played in the first two months of the season. Oddsmakers want to avoid heavy one-sided action and they had to know plenty of casual bettors would flock to LSU as soon as this line was released. And yet, they still made ‘Bama a 7-point favorite.
This looks like one of those classic examples of oddsmakers seeing through public perception, which is that the talented Tigers can win this game outright, and everyone but them is left surprised by the result. I could be overthinking the situation, but in these situations I want to align myself with Vegas as often as possible.
From an on-field standpoint, the Tigers finally have an offense capable of making it a game with ‘Bama. Joe Burrow is the current Heisman favorite and he’s quarterbacking Steve Ensminger’s offense to near perfection. That said, Auburn held LSU to a season-low 23 points two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, largely thanks to a “3-1-7” package that the Tigers didn’t anticipate seeing. The seven defensive back alignment was designed by Kevin Steele to slow down LSU’s record-breaking spread offense and it worked. The Tigers were held scoreless in the first quarter and mustered just 10 points in the first half before making key second-half adjustments, which included running the ball at Auburn’s under-maned front.
The key is that Ensminger did make adjustments. The bigger takeaway, however, is that there is now a blueprint to slow LSU. Alabama doesn’t have Auburn’s talent or experience on its defensive line, but it does have Nick Saban, a mastermind who no doubt will build off Steele’s game plan and throw a wrinkle or two of his own at Burrow.
On the other side, Tua Tagovailoa probably won’t be 100% but the Tigers will also be missing a key piece defensively. LSU’s pass rush is 30th in the nation at producing sacks, but they are now without sack leader Michael Divinity. That’s a huge blow to a defense that does have All-American Grant Delpit leading the secondary, but a defensive backfield that isn’t mistake-prone. In Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Alabama has the best collection of receivers in the nation. If LSU can’t consistently get to Tua, the Tide can strike for explosive plays.
College Football Week 11 Selection: Alabama Crimson Tide -6
I don’t see the Trojans getting off the mat after taking a beating last week in a 56-24 home loss to Oregon. Turnovers were an issue a week ago for USC and ASU isn’t an opponent you want to face if you’re having problems with ball security. The Sun Devils have recovered 11 fumbles this season, which is tied for third-most in the nation.
The Sun Devils are also a team that gives defenses fits because of freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. He’s completed 135-of-223 passes for 1,902 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s been especially lethal on third downs and he’s a running threat as well, rushing for 273 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. While ASU doesn’t posses Oregon’s talent offensively, the Sun Devils can still cause all sorts of issues for a USC defense that is getting healthier, but has had all sorts of problems getting off the field.
At 5-4 and Clay Helton’s future up in the air, this is the perfect time to fade the Trojans. They were just routed by Oregon at home and now have to travel to an opponent they have owned in recent past, yet is more than capable of beating them this year thanks in large part to Daniels and an opportunistic defense.
College Football Week 11 Selection: Arizona State Sun Devils +2.5
This isn’t the same Tennessee team that dropped its opener to Georgia Southern as a 24.5-point home favorite. After falling to 1-4 on the year, the Vols rattled off three wins in their last four games, which included romps of South Carolina (41-21) as a four-point dog and UAB (30-7) as a 13.5-point favorite.
Bryce Thompson is a name to watch if you happen to tune into this SEC matchup tonight. The All-American cornerback intercepted three passes versus South Carolina and helped hold UAB to 237 yards of total offense a week ago. As a whole, the defense is starting to take shape under Jeremy Pruitt, especially against the run. Over their last two games, the Vols held the Blazers and Gamecocks to just 2.6 yards per carry. That’s key for tonight, as Kentucky has lived and died offensively because of its ground game.
Speaking of the Wildcats, they’ve lost 32 of 34 games to the Volunteers. While most of the current players had nothing to do with those losses, “ownage is ownage.” Given how well Tennessee has played of late, I like the Vols’ domination of Kentucky to continue.
College Football Week 11 Selection: Tennessee Vols +1.5