It’s Tin Horn weekend! For those of you not familiar with the reference, Nick Saban once stated the following when asked about his team potentially overlooking a game with Charleston Southern:
And they ran through our ass like s*** through a tin horn, man. And we could not stop them. Could not stop them. Could not stop them because we could not get a look in practice.
Saban was referencing a 2011 game against then FCS Georgia Southern, who came into Tuscaloosa with their option attack and ran the ball 39 times for 302 yards, the most Alabama had allowed on the ground since 2007.
Saban used the reporter’s question as an opportunity to send a message to his team, as he so often does. However, the question is certainly valid. It is not easy for SEC teams to come into this weekend with full focus and motivation against clearly inferior teams, especially since they usually have a marquee matchup the following week. The coaches, despite what they say to the media, might use the week to prep for a bigger game the week after (see Alabama/Auburn next week) instead of giving full attention to what are often foreign, option-based FCS attacks. Teams will also use this week to rest players dealing with injuries and pull starters sooner than usual if they jump out to a big lead.
As a result of the aforementioned reasons, large non-Power Five underdogs against the SEC have been very successful wagers in recent years. Over the last six seasons, FCS (and a few non-Power Five) double-digit underdogs have gone 21-10 ATS against the SEC on “Tin Horn Weekend.” The 21 underdogs covered by a combined 333 points (15.9 average), and the 10 favorites covered by a combined 112.5 points (11.25 average); therefore, the underdogs covered by a net 220.5 points over the course of all 31 games, which means you got over a touchdown in value (7.11 average).
Additionally, ranked FBS teams are just 55-82 (40.1 percent) ATS against FCS schools since 2005, which would apply to Alabama (and Clemson). Check out this Betlabs article to see some more trends for this upcoming weekend.
Two FCS teams have actually pulled off upsets during this weekend before:
- 2015: Citadel (+22.5) at South Carolina
- 2013: Georgia Southern (+29) at Florida
There have been nine overall FCS wins over FBS teams this season. Let’s take a quick look at the four SEC vs. non-Power Five matchups on Saturday to see if there is another potential major upset on the horizon.
Wofford at South Carolina -21.5
Wofford, the strongest FCS team playing this weekend, has the best shot at pulling off an outright FCS upset win. The Terriers come into this game ranked in the FCS top 10 at 9-1 on the season. They run a very effective triple option, which the Gamecocks have not seen all season. In fact, this will be the first time Will Muschamp has had to prepare for the option during his tenure at South Carolina, which has not faced the triple option since this same weekend two years ago against Citadel, a game they lost outright as 22-point favorites. This is also a classic lookahead spot for South Carolina, which has a date with Clemson on deck. The only concern I have for the Terriers from Spartanburg is their motivation to win this game, since they may not want to risk injuries prior to the FCS playoffs. Having said that, I think Wofford is certainly worth a play catching over three touchdowns. This is just not the type of offense you want to face without familiarity, as the Terriers will run their triple option offense out of many different looks (shotgun, diamond, etc.).
Louisiana Monroe at Auburn -36.5
In one of the biggest sandwich spots of the year, the Tigers will host ULM after their massive win against Georgia with a trip to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama for the SEC East next week. Monroe should be the more prepared team coming off of a bye, and they are still bowl motivated sitting at 5-5 on the year. I would imagine Auburn uses this game to give a number of players rest, especially Kerryon Johnson, who has been getting almost 30 carries a game over the course of a grueling SEC schedule. One matchup to watch in this game is the ULM return game on special teams. Over the last four weeks, Auburn’s coverage units have been some of the worst in football, as they have allowed over 40 yards per kick return and over 30 yards per punt return during that span. The Warhawks can take advantage with Marcus Green, one of the best returners in the country (rated as the No. 3 kick returner). I personally played Louisiana Monroe +37 earlier in the week.
Mercer at Alabama -42.5
Mercer comes into this game sporting a 5-5 record after securing their biggest win of the season last weekend on the road against Western Carolina. They are the No. 1 team in FCS red zone scoring, so they could potentially take advantage of the few opportunities they get deep inside Alabama territory. It’s a classic sandwich spot for the Tide after their win in Starkville with Auburn on deck. I expect Alabama to run a pretty vanilla offense, rest their injured defensive starters and get reps for the backups on offense. Mercer won’t be afraid of the stage, as they actually played at Auburn earlier this season and only lost by a score of 24-10. I would look at the Bears catching anything over 42.
UAB at Florida -10.5
This is the first time since 1986 that Florida has been favored by less than 14 points at home against a non-Power Five team. UAB (7-3) has been a covering machine (8-2 ATS) and is one of the best stories in all of college football. They might be overmatched athletically, but they will certainly be emotionally involved on this stage. I’m not sure where Florida is mentally, but I do know they are not in good shape physically. Florida’s roster has been decimated by injuries/suspensions, and they could have close to 30 scholarship players unavailable on Saturday. The biggest concern is on their offensive line, since they will be without their starting tackle and recently lost their starting center for the season. Take a look at this article to see how bad things really are in Gainesville. The Blazers might be worth a ML shot, as they seek their SIXTH outright win as an underdog this season.
For more insight into all of the FCS/FBS matchups this weekend, check out the latest episode of our DeGen and Juice podcast.