SEC Special: Betting Odds & Picks for Every SEC College Football Game in Week 4 (Saturday, Sept. 26)

SEC Special: Betting Odds & Picks for Every SEC College Football Game in Week 4 (Saturday, Sept. 26) article feature image
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Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: James Cook (4), George Pickens (1) and Matt Landers (5).

  • Fan of SEC football? Looking for ways to bet all 7 conference matchups this weekend? You're definitely in the right place.
  • Our staff has provided full betting guides for every SEC game on Saturday's loaded college football card.
  • Find odds, picks and predictions for each game below, and check out our NCAAF Odds page for updated betting odds before kickoff.

Editor’s Note: Games that kicked off at 12 p.m. ET have been moved below the late afternoon and evening games.


SEC football is back, and we’ve got what you need in order to bet all seven of today’s season-opening SEC conference games. You might need two or more TVs to watch the games, but you won’t need more than one article. Find game odds, picks, and full analysis for all seven SEC matchups below.

Saturday’s 7-Game SEC Card:

  • 12:00 p.m. ET | No. 5 Florida at Ole Miss
  • 12:00 p.m. ET | No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn
  • 3:30 p.m. ET | Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU
  • 4:00 p.m. ET | No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas
  • 7:00 p.m. ET | No. 2 Alabama at Missouri
  • 7:00 p.m. ET | Vanderbilt at No. 10 Texas A&M
  • 7:30 p.m. ET | No. 16 Tennessee at South Carolina

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: John Emery Jr.

Collin Wilson: No. 6 LSU vs. Mississippi State

LSU Odds -16.5 [BET NOW]
Mississippi State Odds +16.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 57 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV CBS

Odds updated Thursday night and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


There may not be a game on the slate with more unknowns than Mississippi State at LSU. Fresh off a national championship, the Tigers lose a plethora of players and a handful of coaches. Dave Aranda departs for Baylor with his shoes being filled by former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.

There may not be much of a schematic change on defense, but new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan takes over for Joe Brady. On top of that, quarterback Myles Brennan leads a cast of faces looking to replace the national championship two-deep.

The changes do not stop just with the Tigers. The Mississippi State Bulldogs will switch from a 52% rush-dominant offense in 11 personnel to a Washington State model that rushed 18% of the time in 10 personnel.

There could not be a bigger contrast in what the returning Mississippi State offensive players had schematically in 2019 compared to what the game plan will be under Mike Leach on Saturday. On top of those changes, KJ Costello transfers from Stanford and an offense that ran only two plays in 10 personnel the entire season.

Here’s a friendly reminder that @kj_costello will be wearing maroon this fall pic.twitter.com/QnI7K8JTGt

— 🏴‍☠️Barstool Mississippi State🏴‍☠️ (@HailStateStool) March 21, 2020

From a defensive standpoint, Zach Arnett joins Mississippi State as the defensive coordinator after serving in the same role at San Diego State. Arnett has been with the Aztecs since 2011, so it’s safe to assume that the Bulldogs will be running the 3-3-5 in the vision of Rocky Long. Arnett acknowledges this is a change for a defense that ran exclusively in the 4-2-5 last season.

Betting Analysis & Pick

When you mix all of these ingredients in place, there may be a betting angle on both the side and the total. Myles Brennan is known to have an arm that can get it down the field in a spread attack. But one element the new quarterback may lack is Joe Burrow’s ability to take off and avoid pressure.

Without Burrow and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, expect LSU to leave the run-dominant 21 personnel in favor of more 11 personnel — from which the Tigers threw the ball at a 62% clip last season.



In combination with a Mike Leach offense, the clock may stop multiple times for incompletions or moving the chains. A higher number of plays per game would get over the number with a bit of success in opponent territory.

Betting on a team with new schemes and coaches on both sides of the ball is generally not a profitable bet. Nevertheless, this matchup features a sufficient number of substantive changes to both teams’ schematic game plans that it justifies the action. So, we’ll back LSU and the over in this contest.

The Bet: Over 57; LSU -16.5 or better

[Bet the LSU point-spread now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]


Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Ian Donald-McIntyre.

Mike Calabrese: No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas

Georgia Odds -28 [BET NOW]
Arkansas Odds +28 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -3096/+1425 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 52.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
TV SEC Network

Odds updated Friday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.


This season has not been kind to first-year head coaches. As a group, the new kids on the block are a woeful 4-10 against the spread.

The narrative surrounding these poor performances has been that new hires have simply been unable to navigate a tricky and altogether unique offseason. From the loss of spring practices to opt-outs and everything in-between, continuity has reigned king through three weeks of the 2020 college football season. Since Week 1 in late August, the safest bets have largely been teams with known commodities under center and a veteran coaching staff.

Will that trend continue with the return of SEC football, or will the sample size prove to be too small to return any meaningful trends?

Enter Sam Pittman and his Arkansas Razorbacks, the proverbial pigs to the slaughter in this SEC opener. The first-time head coach has a new staff, a transfer quarterback, at least six new starters on a revamped defense and a conference losing streak that sits at 19 games.

Making matters worse is that Pittman and the Razorbacks will be facing off against the most profitable SEC team since 2016 in Georgia (33-23 record ATS). Under Kirby Smart, the Dawgs are a near surefire bet as road favorites, winning 13-of-15 outright while posting an 11-4 record ATS.

Is this play as simple as it sounds? Not for my money.


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Arkansas Razorbacks

Many college basketball programs looking to reinvent themselves have turned to the 3-point shot and high-pressure defensive strategies as quick shortcuts to success. Similarly, college football teams often hope to change their fortunes by hiring coordinators who can provide explosive offenses and disruptive defenses.

On offense, big homerun plays can mitigate talent gaps. It’s unlikely to string together multiple long touchdown drives when you’re outgunned in terms of personnel, but a few plays of 40 or more yards can help narrow the gap in an instant.

On defense, the days of measuring success by yards allowed are over. If you can create havoc through tackles for loss, sacks, forced fumbles, defended passes and interceptions, you can turn a game on just a few plays. Arkansas seems to understand that and may have the personnel to fit the coaching hires they made this offseason.

In December, Arkansas hired Barry Odom to repair its woeful defensive unit. The former Missouri head coach may have failed as a leading man, but his defenses were often a problem for SEC opponents. In his first season as defensive coordinator, the Tigers finished in the top 10 of nearly every meaningful metric, including havoc.

Five years later, during his final season in Columbia, the Tigers defense finished 17th in SP+ despite lacking any true edge rushers or disruptive players in their secondary. I mention this because it speaks to Odom’s flexibility — he can win with an aggressive style carried out by talented pass rushers as he did in 2015, or he can game-plan his way around talent gaps and still cultivate a stingy defense.

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The Razorbacks ranked in the 100s nationally in tackles for loss, sacks, passes defended and interceptions last season. The bar for improvement is very low, but it is promising that they return six starters and a pair of defensive line transfers.

I expect Odom’s defense to put up some resistance in the first half against a UGA offense that is pairing an offensive coordinator/play-caller who has been out of the college game for five years with a new starting quarterback.

Additionally, UGA is replacing 50% of its offensive production (99th nationally). Despite the admitted talent gap, that lack of continuity doesn’t generate confidence that the Dawgs will come off the starting block firing on all cylinders.

When the Razorbacks do have the ball, there’s actually a lot to like.

Feleipe Franks, their fifth-year senior at quarterback, has shown flashes throughout his career. Interestingly,  this collection of skill position players may be the best he’s ever worked with considering Rakeem Boyd’s NFL future and U of A’s receiving corps featuring highly-touted recruits. The offensive line returns three starters and 61 career starts, and allowed only 19 sacks all of last season (26th nationally).

But the real reason I’m bullish on Arkansas is Kendal Briles.

Kendal Briles
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images. Pictured: Kendal Briles

As I mentioned above, offensive explosiveness is at a premium in the modern game, and Briles can generate it. The former Broyles Award finalist has worked overnight magic nearly everywhere he’s coached.

In his first seasons as offensive coordinator and play-caller at Baylor, FAU, Houston and Florida State, his offenses had an average SP+ finish of 25th, with masterful reinventions at FAU and Houston to his credit. But his work at FSU may have been his best yet considering their dearth of talent along the offensive line. Despite that patchwork front, the Seminoles’ attack improved dramatically in terms of total offense (361.2 to 403.2 yards per game) and scoring (21.9 to 29.1 points per game).

Given that his skill position players are the most talented group he’s worked with since his Baylor days, it’s reasonable to expect some big plays from a play-caller who dialed up 44 plays of 30 or more yards just two seasons ago at Houston.


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Georgia Bulldogs

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the local media in Athens, mainly to see who they anticipate will start on Saturday. A byproduct of that interest has been my exposure to Kirby Smart and his interactions with the local press.

It appears that Smart is interested in getting his reserves experience in the event they’re needed in larger roles in case COVID-19 or other injuries wreak havoc this season.

How to Play It

Given the roster turnover at Georgia and Smart hinting at extended opportunities for his two-deep, I’ll grab the key number of 28 and would play this at any number above +25.5.

Pick: Arkansas +28

[Bet Arkansas +28 now at PointsBet risk-free up to $250]


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: DeVonta Smith.

Collin Wilson: No. 2 Alabama at Missouri

Alabama Odds -27.5 [BET NOW]
Missouri Odds +27.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 56 [BET NOW]
Time 7:00 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds updated late Thursday night and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


New Regime at Mizzou

Missouri will be under new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who has no issue sharing COVID-19 results. One of the best decisions Drinkwitz made was to retain defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who is largely regarded as a rising star under former head coach Barry Odom.

Missouri finished third in defensive success rate last season, but the Tigers failed to deliver high marks in havoc and containing explosiveness. The toughest task will be taking on an Alabama team that missed the College Football Playoff last season.


Evaluating Mac Jones, Alabama’s Next Man Up at QB

Mac Jones returns at quarterback for Alabama following Tua Tagovailoa’s departure from the program. A deeper dive on “Tua’s backup” reveals that Jones was actually more than efficient under center for the Tide:

There was not a drop in efficiency when the blitz was aimed at Jones — a more impressive feat when you consider the bulk of his playing time came against Alabama’s toughest opponents. Jones had a 62% completion rate over 52 pass attempts that went longer than 10 yards. Jaylen Waddle and a host of other Crimson Tide targets should feast during the 2020 season.

Alabama returns 60% of a defense that finished 37th in success rate. Those aren’t necessarily the numbers that Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding are looking for, but this will be the first time in Saban’s tenure that the Crimson Tide enter the season without injury. Golding has led havoc-minded defenses since his days at Southern Miss and UTSA.


Betting Analysis & Pick

As for the number, our projections are well below the market number — and for good reason. This is a terrible matchup for Missouri, which is installing fresh schemes under new coaches. Having COVID-19 breakouts through camp and a five-way battle at quarterback have not helped the perception of this team either.

The one worry with Alabama covering this inflated number is the offense going vanilla with Texas A&M on deck. The first half is also inflated, but one of the sharpest plays on Alabama football over the last several years is to play the first half spread in these four-touchdown contests. Nick Saban has been very profitable in first-half double-digit spreads up to three touchdowns since 2012:

The Bet: Alabama +15.5 First Half

[Bet Alabama to cover the first half point spread now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]


Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

Dillon Essma: No. 10 Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt

Texas A&M Odds -30.5 [BET NOW]
Vanderbilt Odds +30.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 46 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV SEC Network+

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The Aggies welcome Vanderbilt to College Station on Saturday to kick off Week 1 of SEC conference play. The Commodores’ expectations have to be pretty low given the recent state of the Vanderbilt program. Texas A&M, on the other hand, is the overwhelming favorite and will want to start its season off with a strong showing,


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Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M finished last season with an 8-5 overall record, albeit with a brutal gauntlet of a schedule. Not only did the Aggies play the likes of Georgia, Alabama, and LSU, but they also had to play Clemson in the non-conference.

This is Jimbo Fisher’s third season in College Station, so Fisher should have the trending upward in the conference now that he has two full recruiting cycles under his belt.

The Aggies offense finished third in the SEC in rushing success rate and finished fifth in passing success rate last season. That’s a solid foundation to build on in Year 3 of Fisher’s tenure, and A&M is sufficiently deep that it’s reasonable to expect improvement.

Texas A&M brings back 17 of 22 total starters from last season: Eight starters on offense and nine on defense. Starting quarterback Kellen Mond is back, along with the team’s top running back, wide receiver, and four starting offensive linemen. I would expect a strong year with Mond and his weapons returning.

The Aggies defense  led the SEC in stuff rate last season and ranked fourth in defensive-back havoc. With nine starters returning, including each of the team’s top four tacklers from 2019, this defense could be really special. I think Jimbo will have them prepared and ready to go on Saturday.



Vanderbilt Commodores

By almost any objective measure, Vanderbilt clearly struggled last year en route to a 3-9 overall record for the 2019 season. The Commodores ranked dead-last on both sides of the ball in SP+ among SEC teams. Vandy’s defense had a very difficult time getting off the field, ranking last among SEC teams in creating havoc and defensive rushing success rate.

The Commodores do return all 11 starters on that side of the ball, so you’d expect some degree of improvement for such a cohesive group. But it will be an uphill climb in this heavyweight conference.

The offense returns just five starters, with basically zero experience at the QB position. Vandy must also replace each of its top two WRs from 2019.

The only hope for the Commodores is that their defense improves with the experience they have back, and that they can run the ball decently well until they fortify the QB position.

They did finish fourth in rushing explosiveness last season, but only ranked around the middle of the pack in rushing success rate. So, it will likely be another very tough year for Vanderbilt.


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Betting Analysis & Pick

Texas A&M has the edge in basically every statistical advantage in this matchup, which is why they are favored by over four touchdowns. I expect the Aggies is be pretty sharp this year, and I really like the continuity they have back on both sides of the ball.

Vandy should struggle offensively given its limited returning production, especially at QB. That cannot feel comfortable for the Commodores when they stare across the line at A&M’s front-seven.

Texas A&M will win big — the Aggies might even pitch a shutout.

Pick: Texas A&M -30.5 (-110). Play up to -31 (-120).

[Bet Texas A&M to cover the spread now at PointsBet risk-free up to $250]


Silas Walker/Getty Images. Pictured: Ty Chandler.

Stuckey: No. 16 Tennessee at South Carolina

Tennessee Odds -3.5 [BET NOW]
South Carolina Odds +3.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -175/+143 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 43.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV SEC Network

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The Vols and Gamecocks will meet in Columbia on Saturday in an important SEC opener for both coaches.

Let’s take a closer look at this conference clash — the only SEC matchup of the weekend with a spread under a touchdown.

South Carolina Has Unique Continuity on Offense

The pressure is on Will Muschamp this year after a very disappointing few years at South Carolina. A win over Tennessee in the home opener will be a step in the right direction for 2020. A loss and things could get ugly. For what it’s worth, Muschamp owns a 7-1 record against Tennessee as a head coach between Florida and South Carolina.

In the offseason, Muschamp brought in Mike Bobo as the new offensive coordinator. Bobo should fix some of the recent downfield passing woes. And I think they now have the right man under center in Collin Hill — a transfer from Colorado State, who has had three ACL surgeries in his college career. Hill won the job over incumbent starter Ryan Hilinski.

I’m looking to stay away from teams with new coordinators, schemes and quarterbacks early in the season but South Carolina is a unique case. Hill started for Bobo for two years at Colorado State.

While I think Hill was the right choice at quarterback, there are other question marks on this offense. The Gamecocks lost their top two backs (Rico Dowdle and Tavian Feaster) and wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who now plays for the Vegas Raiders. Star running back recruit Marshawn Lloyd also tore his ACL over the summer, which means someone else will need to emerge as the new feature back.

Edwards’ departure also leaves Shi Smith and a bunch of inexperienced options at receiver against a very experienced Tennessee secondary, led by cornerback Bryce Thompson.

Bobo is known for his downfield passing attack but a lot of his quotes have focused on how little South Carolina ran the ball last year, so I think we’ll see a more run-heavy offensive attack early on in the season to set up a few deep shots.

An interesting side note is that Bobo and Jeremy Pruitt are very familiar with each other’s schemes. The two friends spent time together on the Georgia staff and even lived in the same neighborhood in Athens.

The SC defense has potential with linebacker Ernest Jones and cornerback Israel Mukuamu. The key will be trying to replace star defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (now a 49er), who demanded so much attention on the interior. Muschamp hopes his two 5-stars Zacch Pickens and Jordan Burch can help fill the void.

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Tennessee Might Start Slow

After a disastrous season opening loss, Tennessee finished on a six-game winning streak in 2019, which gave some hope for Vols fans coming into 2020. Harrison Bailey is the future at quarterback, but it’s still Jarrett Guarantano’s show this year.

However, the real stars of the offense are up front. The Vols have the potential to feature one of the best offensive lines in all of college football when at full strength with a group of five blue chippers all over 300 pounds, led by guard Trey Smith.

However, that might not be the case on Saturday as prized Georgia transfer and future pro Cade Mays has still not received clearance from the SEC. Also, star left tackle Wanya Morris is listed as “OR” on the depth chart after recently being quarantined.

Tennessee’s offense won’t have the services of starting tight end Austin Pope (important in run game) and lost three of its top four receivers from last season, notably Marquez Calloway (now a New Orleans Saint) and Jauan Jennings (fifth all-time leading receiver in program history).

The lone returning starter Josh Palmer will have to step up and Tennessee hopes USC transfer Velus Jones can step in and provide a spark on the outside and possibly in the return game. It might take time for the passing game to find itself, so I’m not expecting much on Saturday.

This will still be a heavy, rush-based, grind it out attack that features Eric Gray running behind a massive offensive line.

Star linebacker Henry To’o To’o leads a defense that has plenty of potential. It’s a unit that really improved at the end of last season, holding each of its final six opponents under 24 points. The competition certainly helped, but the improvement was visible.

It’s worth noting that Tennessee has dealt with COVID complications throughout camp with 40-plus players missing from some practices. There is definitely cause for concern about how Tennessee will look early on.



How I’m Betting Tennessee-South Carolina

I make this closer to Tennessee -1, so I’ll gladly take over a field goal in a game where points should come at a premium, making the points even more valuable on the home dog. I also like the under (43 or better) in a game where I think both defenses have the edge.

I’ll ultimately trust the quarterback I think will make more plays in Collin Hill. I’m just not a fan of the maddeningly inconsistent Guarantano. Tennessee also may be completely out of synch early on after all of the COVID camp interruptions.

The Bets: South Carolina +3.5, Under 43 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]


James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Stiner.

Collin Wilson: No. 5 Florida at Ole Miss

Florida Odds -13.5 [BET NOW]
Ole Miss Odds +13.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 57 [BET NOW]
Time 12:00 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds updated late Thursday night and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Predicting how Lane Kiffin calls a game as an SEC head coach may be the biggest wild card of the weekend. Florida Atlantic ran exclusively out of 11 and 12 personnel with an even distribution between the run and pass. Now, Kiffin is handed two quarterbacks with very different skill sets in Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee.

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Corral has plenty of history with Florida and Dan Mullen after being a previous commit to the Gators. The Long Beach native was sacked 13 times in 72 drop backs last season but won the starting job after the most recent Rebels scrimmage. Winning the job does not guarantee Corral all the snaps, as the speed of Plumlee should have him under center, in the slot, or anywhere he can turn on the jets.

No. 1 LSU got the win …

But that didn't stop @OleMissFB freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee from introducing himself to the Tiger defense 💨 pic.twitter.com/Ps7ATgyO4D

— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) July 3, 2020

The biggest question is if Todd Grantham’s defense will be ready for the multiple looks from Ole Miss. The Gators return 67% of a defense that was 21st in success rate during 2019. Primarily a 3-3-5 defense, Florida has been known to blitz often from multiple looks.

Grantham has had multiple stops in a defensive role for SEC programs since 2010, so he’s no stranger to Kiffin’s play-calling.

The Ole Miss offense should continue to be innovative, explosive and sometimes stalled in moving the chains. As for the Florida offense, Kyle Trask is back under center behind an experienced offensive line that struggled with pressure.

Trask had a -13 differential in big-time throws versus turnover-worthy throws, per Pro Football Focus. Regression should come for Trask’s turnover ratio, but Ole Miss may not be the defense to force the issue. This is the first game for the two-headed defensive coordinator role between Chris Partridge and DJ Durkin.

This game gets a Jefferson Pilot timeslot as a number of storylines go down. COVID-19 has affected each team to varying degrees: The Gators have reported three cases and the Rebels have reported 27 players who have missed a scrimmage this month alone. Trask will work against a secondary that gave up more 10-yard passing plays than any defense in the country in 2019.

This bet is against a Florida offensive line that has failed to protect Trask. With a projection under two touchdowns, grab Ole Miss at +14 if or when it pops and pray that the Rebels’ nearly inevitable list of COVID-19-related inactives does not include key line-movers.

The Bet: Ole Miss +14

[Bet Ole Miss to cover against the spread now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Seth Williams.

Stuckey: No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 23 Kentucky

Auburn Odds -7.5 [BET NOW]
Kentucky Odds +7.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -320/+245 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 49.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
TV SEC Network

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The SEC has finally arrived. In a week full of conference games with large spreads and unbalanced matchups, this battle between two ranked teams has plenty of intrigue. Let’s dig in.

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Auburn Tigers Preview

Auburn does return starting quarterback Bo Nix, who I expect to make a significant jump in efficiency during his sophomore season. He’ll also benefit from getting all three of his top receivers back. I think Auburn will find success against what I believe is an overvalued Kentucky secondary.

That said, Auburn isn’t without questions on the roster, especially in the trenches. The Tigers have to replace four offensive linemen as well as three defensive linemen now on NFL rosters. The defensive line still has returning experience with Big Kat Bryant and Tyrone Truesdell, plus some talented newcomers that excellent defensive line coach Rodney Garner should get up to speed quickly. Still, this will be a big test at the point of attack against one of the best offensive lines in the country.

Auburn’s linebacker group is very solid, but the secondary lost four of five starters from the 4-2-5 base, with only nickelback Christian Tutt coming back. We will see if Terry Wilson can take advantage with a group of unproven wide receivers.


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Kentucky Wildcats Preview

The Wildcats are a program on the rise in the SEC. After six straight losing seasons between 2010-15, Kentucky has posted four straight winning seasons with an average of eight wins over that span.

The biggest question mark coming into this season is how will they replace the production of do-everything quarterback Lynn Bowden, who now sits on the Miami Dolphins roster.

Quarterback Terry Wilson

The Cats can at least lean on an experienced quarterback in Terry Wilson, who has gone 12-3 in 15 career starts in Lexington. He suffered a knee injury in Week 2 last year that cost him his season, so all eyes will be on how well he’s recovered — both mentally and physically.

The good news for Wilson is that he will drop back behind one of the best offensive lines in the entire nation. That front, led by star center Drake Jackson and two other potential All-SEC players, will pave the way for a heavy ground-and-pound attack that returns all three top running backs from a season ago.

Wilson’s Supporting Cast

Wilson obviously doesn’t have the same running ability as Bowden, so Kentucky will need to throw the ball more. The problem is we don’t know much about the Kentucky receiving corps due to the lack of passing in 2019.

Believe it or not, Lynn Bowden actually finished as the team’s leading receiver in a year when Kentucky finished in the bottom-five nationally in passing yards per game. Josh Ali is the team’s leading receiver with 233 receiving yards last season. We aren’t really sure what we”ll get from Kentucky through the air against an Auburn secondary that must replace three starters.

In addition to Bowden, the defense was the star of the show for UK last year. The Wildcats defense finished in the top 20 in scoring and No. 2 against the pass. On paper, this unit could get even stronger with seven of the top nine tacklers returning. The secondary remains intact and Quinton Bohanna is a star on the interior. There are some holes to fill at linebacker in Kentucky’s 3-3-5 scheme, but this is an extremely experienced group.

However, I think this defense may be a bit overrated. Last season, they benefited from a schedule full of super passing offenses and favorable weather conditions. UK played in a handful of games in monsoon-like rain and winds. And with Kentucky’s heavy run-based attack, that really had no effect on its offense. Nonetheless, the weather still benefited UK by foiling opposing offenses’ plans and at least partially neutralizing the athletic playing field.

As I previously mentioned, Kentucky finished second nationally in passing yards allowed per game at only 167.8. That’s a bit of a fraudulent ranking. Just take a look at UK’s 2019 opponents and their respective pass yardage rankings.

  • Toledo (85th)
  • Eastern Michigan (28th)
  • Florida (16th) 
  • Mississippi State (109th)
  • South Carolina (74th)
  • Arkansas (103rd)
  • Georgia (72nd)
  • Missouri (73rd)
  • Tennessee (75th)
  • Vanderbilt (115th)
  • UT Martin (N/A)
  • Louisville (65th)
  • Virginia Tech (86th)

In the first game of the season, Toledo’s starting quarterback got hurt. Then, over the next two weeks, the Wildcats faced the only top-70 passing offenses they saw all year. They allowed over 300 yards passing in both of those games.

After those three games, nobody was talking about Kentucky as an elite pass defense. From that point on, the Wildcats defense faced nine straight FBS teams ranked outside of the top 70 in passing yards,  in addition to an FCS team. And interestingly enough, they played three of those games (Georgia, Vanderbilt, Louisville) in horrendous weather conditions.

This pass defense is severely overrated in my opinion.


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Betting Analysis

In a year where continuity seems to matter much more early in the season, Kentucky has the edge there. The Wildcats bring back seven starters on offense and eight on defense, while the Tigers only return seven starters in total.

I do think Kentucky’s defense is getting too much love for last year’s bevy of fluky results, but the advantage in the trenches could be significant.

I make this line just under 10, so I would certainly take Auburn at -6.5 — but not over 7 where it currently sits. This is a game where we’ll learn a lot about both teams, so I may just sit back and enjoy while looking for a live opportunity.

The Pick: Auburn -6.5 if you can find it; otherwise, live-bet the game.

[Bet Auburn to cover the spread of -6.5 (or any listed odds) at FanDuel completely risk-free for $1,000]

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