Stoops: ‘We’re going to need to play our best football game of the year’ against Georgia
Such a weird season in the SEC. Feels like marquee match-ups have been few and far between in terms of the championship chase. Suddenly, BOTH the East and West divisions can be wrapped up on the first Saturday of November in this week’s blockbuster CBS doubleheader.
▪ Georgia is favored by 9.5 points on the road at Kentucky in what will serve as an unofficial “SEC East Championship” game (CBS, 2:30 p.m.). Both teams enter with one league loss. Both only have one conference game remaining. So…the winner of Bulldogs/Wildcats would own the tie-breaker if needed. Early betting favored Kentucky at the opening line of +10. We may see a battle between “sharps” (pro bettors) and the public through the week…with casual fans laying -9.5 on Georgia, but “value” bettors taking the full 10 with the defensive-minded home underdog.
▪ Alabama is favored by 14 points on the road at LSU (CBS, 7 p.m.). The undefeated Crimson Tide would clinch the West with a victory. One-loss LSU would still have work to do to lock down a stunning divisional crown. Another defensive-minded home underdog that sharps are looking at seriously. Experienced veterans will wait to see if the public’s tendency to bet Alabama in big games will drive that line higher before kickoff. No reason to take +14 now if +14.5 or +15 might go on the board later in in the week.
Obviously betting markets are assuming Alabama/Georgia for all the SEC marbles in early December. But, those markets have done a horrible job this season of anticipating how well Kentucky and LSU will perform when not laying points.
Kentucky as an Underdog
Beat Florida 27-16 as a 13.5-point dog
Beat Miss. State 28-7 as a 9.5-point dog
Beat South Carolina 24-10 at pick-em
Lost at Texas A&M 20-14 in OT as a 5-point dog
Beat Missouri 15-14 as a 7.5-point dog
That’s 5-0 against market expectations at the end of regulation, with a heartbreaking (for bettors) non-cover at College Station in overtime. When not favored, Kentucky outperformed 60-minute expectations by 24.5, 30.5, 14, 5, and 8.5 points. An average regulation cover of 16.5 points suggests that the Wildcats will at least have a chance to make Saturday’s showdown interesting.
For its part, LSU is undefeated straight up and ATS when not favored. All three victories covered by double digits.
LSU as an Underdog
Beat Miami 33-17 as a 3-point dog
Beat Auburn 22-21 as a 10-point dog
Beat Georgia 36-16 as a 7-point dog
Market wins by 19, 11, and 27 points
Wow … an average cover of exactly 19 points! Do that again…and we’ll have a major upset Saturday night causing playoff chaos.
Results this past Saturday for Mississippi schools:
▪ Mississippi State (-1.5) impressed in a 28-13 win over Texas A&M. The Bulldogs won total yardage 384-293 and yards-per-play 7.2 to 4.3. All four touchdowns came on drives of 75 yards or longer. That victory put MSU one win away from bowl eligibility at 5-3. Bulldogs still have a losing record in the SEC at 2-3.
▪ Ole Miss had a bye. Rebels are 1-3 in the SEC, 5-3 overall (but ineligible to play in a bowl game this season).
▪ Southern Miss (-6) was upset at Charlotte 20-17. Second straight non-cover where the Golden Eagles had impressive stats but lost the turnover category. Here, Southern Miss won total yardage 426-224 (an edge of more than 200 yards!) and yards-per-play 5.8 to 4.1. But a 3-1 loss in turnovers was “lowlighted” by another interception return for a touchdown (which happened vs. UTSA too). Southern fell to 3-4 on the season, 2-2 in Conference USA play. Little chance of catching Alabama-Birmingham (5-0) at the top of the East division standings.
On tap this week:
▪ Ole Miss is pick-em at home against South Carolina. Kickoff has been moved to 11 a.m. for an SEC Network telecast. A win will clinch at least a .500 record in 2018 for the Rebels.
▪ Mississippi State is a 21-point favorite at home against Louisiana Tech. Scheduled kickoff has been moved to 6:30 p.m. for a telecast on the SEC Network. That should be the win clinches a bowl bid for the Bulldogs.
▪ Southern Miss is +3.5 at home against Marshall. That kickoff is at 2 p.m. Quarterback Jack Abraham is probable to return after suffering a facial laceration in Charlotte.