If you listen to our modestly acclaimed SEC Football Unfiltered podcast, which I host alongside cohort John Adams, you know I’m something of a savant at picking college football games against the spread.
Wait, that’s not right. I’m lousy at it – or at least I was last season, when my against-the-spread record reminded me why I reserve my betting for the occasional blackjack table.
Nevertheless, betting is engrained in sports nowadays, as fired Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon can attest. So, with DraftKings having compiled a swath of Week 0 and Week 1 betting lines, I’ll take a stab at my early against-the-spread SEC picks.
Follow this advice, at risk of financial ruin.
Hawaii at Vanderbilt (-18.5), Week 0: Hawaii ranked as the worst team I watched last season. (Disclaimer: I did not watch Colorado.) How much difference could one year make? PICK: Vanderbilt
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Middle Tennessee at Alabama (-37): Who will be Alabama’s quarterback? Doesn’t matter in this one. Alabama is 14-2 against the spread in season openers under Nick Saban. PICK: Alabama
Virginia vs. Tennessee (-27): Defense will remain the Vols’ sticking point. Fortunately for UT, Virginia is allergic to offense. Josh Heupel’s teams know offense well. PICK: Tennessee
Massachusetts at Auburn (-39.5): If college football embraced soccer-style relegation, lowly UMass would be in Division III by now. But Hugh Freeze’s rebuild won’t be complete by early September, so expecting a 40-point triumph is too much. PICK: Massachusetts
LSU (-2) vs. Florida State: These teams rank among my College Football Playoff dark horses, and each fortified itself with key transfer acquisitions. With images of LSU’s rout of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl still playing in the brain, I’ll lean into allegations of SEC bias. PICK: LSU
New Mexico at Texas A&M (-37.5): How to quiet speculation of a rocky start to the union of Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino? Hang 50 points against a cupcake opponent in Week 1. The Aggies are positioned to exhibit the most year-over-year improvement of any SEC team. PICK: Texas A&M
Ball State at Kentucky (-26): Will Levis turned hype into second-round NFL draft selection. Bully for him, but Devin Leary is the better college quarterback. UK’s offense ought to liven, but I stop short of expecting romps. Kentucky beat Mid-American Conference opponents to open the 2018, ’19 and ’22 seasons. Never did it win by more than 24 points. PICK: Ball State
South Carolina vs. North Carolina (-1.5): The more I examine South Carolina, the more I think Spencer Rattler doesn’t have enough help, on either side of the ball. The top Heisman Trophy candidates reside outside the SEC, and UNC’s Drake Maye will supply a reminder of that. PICK: North Carolina
Florida at Utah (-9.5): The Utes return a bulk of their 2022 production, including quarterback Cameron Rising. Florida’s offense could use its own Rising. How bad have things gotten for the Gators? If Feleipe Franks suddenly reappeared in Gainesville, he’d be UF’s best quarterback. PICK: Utah
No spread set for these Week 1 games: Western Carolina at Arkansas; UT Martin at Georgia; Mercer at Ole Miss; Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi State; South Dakota at Missouri; Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt.
If these picks don’t fill your coffers, don’t fret. I’ll return with more potentially faulty advice for Week 2 games.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.
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