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.
Last week: 1-6 (14 percent) | 2016 season: 10-10 (50 percent)
Tennessee Volunteers (-27.5) vs. Ohio Bobcats : After a surprise loss to Texas State Bobcats , the Bobcats realigned themselves with a solid, double-digit win against Kansas. In that win, Ohio played the kind of game that Tennessee will hate in a Noon non-conference spot: a grinding, physical rushing attack. With 329 yards (5.8 per carry) on the ground, Ohio showed me it can sit on the rock for long enough to keep this game within four touchdowns. Pick: Bobcats +27.5
Vanderbilt Commodores (+6.5) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets : Vanderbilt got right with a win against Middle Tennessee but still faces the weekly grind of must-win situations after the loss to South Carolina Gamecocks to open the season. We haven’t checked in with Georgia Tech since the Aer Lingus College Football Classic in Dublin, Ireland, but those impressions might work here since Vandy, like Boston College, is familiar with low-scoring defensive battles. Take the points and pray for field goals. Pick: Commodores +6.5
Alabama Crimson Tide (-10) at Ole Miss Rebels : I think Jonathan Allen might be the perfect college football player in 2016. There’s not another example of size, strength, speed and talent that impresses me more than what I’ve seen from No. 93 this season. After what I expect to be a slow-starting first half, expect Alabama to hit just enough big plays to make Ole Miss and Chad Kelly press on offense. That’s when Allen and Kelly will become very familiar, and the Tide will pull away with a vengeful victory on the road. Pick: Crimson Tide -10
South Carolina (-3.5) vs. ECU: Beating NC State in thrilling fashion in front of the home fans was huge for Scottie Montgomery’s first year as coach. The Pirates have a few unique playmakers (Zay Jones, for one) that can burn South Carolina’s defense for big plays, but for the most part there is a talent and coaching advantage on South Carolina’s side. Throw in the location (Columbia) and that’s a CFB Matrix triple threat edge. Pick: Gamecocks -3.5
Kentucky Wildcats (-19.5) vs. New Mexico State Aggies : Don’t pick this game. Asking for Kentucky, a team that has just one touchdown drive in its last six quarters of game action, to cover a three-score spread should make any picker feel uncomfortable. Asking New Mexico State, a team that Jeff Sagarin ranks alongside above-average FCS teams at No. 154 in Division I, to cover any spread is uncomfortable. The only pick to like here is the under, but since I have to… Pick: Wildcats -19.5
Mississippi State Bulldogs (+13.5) at LSU Tigers : Are we sure that Danny Etling is definitely a better option than Brandon Harris ? Cam Cameron and Danny Etling, both former Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo quarterbacks, will get a chance to prove that Indiana connection is the right move for Les Miles going up against a talented, but beatable, Mississippi State defense. As for Brandon Harris, LSU fans should hope for the best because I think the Tigers will need him again before the end of the season if SEC West title contention is in the cards. Pick: Tigers -13.5
Texas Longhorns A&M (+3.5) at Auburn Tigers : Auburn’s defense and defensive line is nasty, or at least appears nasty in limited action against quality competition. Texas A&M will have to get gritty and establish some sort of rushing attack against the Tigers, Otherwise, Trevor Knight is in for a world of hurt on Saturday night in Jordan-Hare. If Clemson can be held to a six-point win then Texas A&M can certainly be beaten in this crucial SEC West nightcap. The Aggies could surprise me here with a win, proving to be the SEC West contender I picked in the preseason, so I’m hoping to be incorrect and siding with the oddsmakers. Pick: Tigers -3.5
Florida Gators (-36.5) vs. North Texas Mean Green : North Texas is bad and Luke Del Rio just started cooking. Distrust in Florida’s offense is the only thing that is keeping this line under 40 because the Mean Green are one of the five worst teams in FBS college football right now. Pick: Gators -36.5
Arkansas Razorbacks (-31) vs. Texas State: There isn’t a team outside of Alabama that I trust more in a close game scenario than Arkansas. In 2016, the Hogs “sexy” pro-style offense is great for playing close games and, often, winning those close games. A 21-point win is going to feel just as nice as a 31-point win after that dog fight in Fort Worth against TCU. I don’t see this game getting out of control unless Texas State, now led by Everett Withers, is just totally inept on offense. The Bobcats have been off since outlasting Ohio in a triple-overtime win on the road, so I’ll ride with the team’s currently undefeated record as a road underdog. Pick: Texas State +31
Georgia Bulldogs (+6.5) at Missouri Tigers : Don’t sleep on Missouri’s offense. Drew Lock still has a way to go before those blue-chip promises are fulfilled on the field, but the Tigers offense has moved the ball in its first two games this season. Turnovers and red zone execution hurt Mizzou against West Virginia, but this is a group that is looking to snap the ball 80-90 times on offense. Again, long way to go, but I like Missouri’s chance to spring an upset in Jacob Eason ‘s first trip outside the state. Pick: Missouri +6.5
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / SEC Week 3 Odds, Picks: State of Alabama ready to roll and an upset in the East