Picking college football games against the spread is a battle we are all destined to lose at some point. Even the sharpest sharps go cold and those stone-cold locks will break the other way when you are relying on the action of 18-22 year-olds exerting themselves physically over a 3-to-4 hour weekend window. Trends, intimate knowledge of the rosters, schemes and latest news can improve your shot at making winning picks, but sometimes you just have to follow your gut with these things.
Sometimes I’m right. I can also be wrong, of course, but I’m going to be here every Wednesday with picks against the spread for the entire SEC slate. Expect some ATS trends to sway my judgment as much as inside information or the old-fashioned hunch.
(NOTE: FCS games omitted)
Last week: 9-4 (69 percent) | 2016 season: 9-4 (69 percent)
Kentucky (+17) at Florida: Kentucky’s collapse against Southern Miss in the opener and the Gators’ record winning streak in the series is enough to favor the Gators. Sure, Florida will win. But 17? This game was 14-9 a year ago, including a drive where Kentucky had six chances to score inside the five and left with a field goal. Both teams missed an ATS cover by two scores last week and unless the Florida pitches a shutout, I can’t see this being a three-score game. Pick: Wildcats +17
Alabama (-28.5) vs. Western Kentucky: This spread seems about right. Alabama vs. Group of Five opponents usually goes like this: the Tide allow one, maybe two opportunities early, mostly dominate the second and third quarters and then let the backups cruise in the fourth quarter. WKU coach Jeff Brohm has done a great job installing an offense that can remain productive after the loss of 12th-year senior Brandon Doughty, but Alabama’s depth makes a garbage time touchdown or the backdoor cover seem less likely. Pick: Alabama -28.5
Vanderbilt (-5.5) vs. Middle Tennessee: While my South Carolina cover hit last week, I misfired on my expectations for Vanderbilt’s offense. Ralph Webb pulled out the rug from Middle Tennessee by slipping through tackles on a 39-yard game-winning touchdown run a year ago to give the Commodores a 17-13 win. The rematch looks ripe for another rock fight, but I’ll give the edge to MTSU and its new offense having a wrinkle or two that could be the difference in a game with a razor thin margin for error. Even at 45, I’d also consider the under here. Pick: Blue Raiders +5.5
South Carolina (+6.5) at Mississippi State: The play is take the under (44.5). You don’t want to be sweating your Saturday night away hoping for points from either offense. Damian Williams might be the answer at quarterback for Mississippi State, but as of Tuesday, Dan Mullen hadn’t committed to a starter and could continue the back-and-forth with Williams and Nick Fitzgerald, the starter in the opener. My confidence isn’t in South Carolina’s offense, but its defense and edge in special teams. Pick: Gamecocks +6.5
Arkansas (+7.5) at TCU: I was way off on Arkansas last week and hopefully should see some course correction here in Week 2. Louisiana Tech has a spicy defense, but until the Razorbacks’ third down efficiency (3 of 12 in the 21-20 win) improves, it’s going to be tough to expect the 2016 Hogs to continue the success of last season. I think this line should be closer to 9 or 10, but I’m fascinated to learn about both the Frogs and Hogs on Saturday night. Pick: Horned Frogs -7.5
Auburn (-19.5) vs. Arkansas State: This line has jumped from 17 to 19.5 and everywhere in between over the last few days. Some may point to Auburn’s uncertain quarterback situation, but I think many (like me) have no idea what to make of a game that Auburn could win by 7, 17 or 27 points. The real football angle is looking for Auburn’s offense to find a rhythm and the real ATS angle here is to stay the hell away. Pick: Tigers -19.5
Tennessee (-11.5) vs. Virginia Tech: Tennessee probably needs the oddsmakers to be right since the recent results in close games are a little unnerving for Vols’ fans. Josh Dobbs will play better and Tennessee will win thanks to a talent advantage, but I think the scene — a football field in the middle of Bristol Motor Speedway — sets up for a clunky game. Sight lines will be off, the routine will be weird for the players and that has me shying away from anyone having a truly dominant showing. Maybe I’m blinded by Bud Foster fandom, but I don’t see Tennessee’s offense scoring more than 24 points in this game. Pick: Hokies +11.5
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / SEC Week 2 Odds, Picks: Can the Vols carry the banner at the Battle at Bristol?