Well, we finally came through with a winning week, finishing 4-3. We were just a half a point away from a 5-2 week before LSU folded in overtime against Alabama. C'est la vie. We are now 37-40 with four weeks to go. Let's try and even that record this week. As always, home teams in bold.
Last Week: 4-3
Western Kentucky -8 Army
This spread has been falling since it was released on Sunday. It started out at ten points or so, and is now just above a touchdown. I'm a little confused at the love Army is receiving after their 'upset' of Connecticut last week. The win was the third of the season for the Black Knights, which matches their total from last season and is tied for their highest seasonal win total since 2010. The Black Knights should eclipse that threshold next week against Fordham, but I don't see them keeping this one especially close. Western Kentucky has been outstanding on offense this season, scoring at least 34 points in every game except one. However, they have also allowed at least 27 points in every game. Hence their 4-5 record. Army has been pretty forgiving on defense themselves, allowing nearly 33 points per game and over six yards per play. Even the historically bad Wake Forest offense averaged over five yards per play against the Black Knights. I expect this to be a high-scoring game, but Western Kentucky should win this one by double-digits.
Iowa -3.5 Illinois
Perhaps this spread is an overreaction to the transitive property (which does not exist in sports by the way). In one of their few solid performances under Tim Beckman, the Illini upset Minnesota at home three weeks ago. Then last week, those same Golden Gophers eviscerated the Hawkeyes. The betting public is still down on Iowa for that egg they laid. Illinois has the worst defense in the Big 10, as they are currently allowing over seven yards per play to their Big 10 opponents. The spread should be about a touchdown. Take the Hawkeyes to cover here.
South Carolina +6.5 Florida
If I had told you before the season that one of these teams would enter this game needing to spring an upset in their final three games to qualify for a bowl, most would probably have pegged the Gators as that underachiever. Certainly, Florida is not where they were at their peak under Urban Meyer, but the Gators can clinch a winning season with a victory against the Gamecocks (assuming they beat Eastern Kentucky next week). The Gators enter having won two in a row, and still have an outside shot at getting to the SEC Championship Game, which is more an indictment of the SEC East than praise for the Gators. South Carolina enters having lost four of five (and four in a row in the SEC) after a 3-1 start. The defense is among the worst in the SEC, allowing more yards per play than every team except Texas A&M and Arkansas. Despite Florida's offensive struggles, the Gators should be able to move the ball against the Gamecocks as comparable bad offenses (Vanderbilt and Tennessee) certainly have. Despite the failings of the defense, the Gamecocks have been competitive thanks to their fantastic offense. The offense has racked up at least 35 points in six of their past seven SEC games. Despite their poor record, South Carolina has been effective as an underdog ATS in a small sample size this season, winning outright against Georgia and fighting Auburn to the bitter end. Florida is just 4-8 ATS as a home favorite since 2012, and with this spread close to a touchdown, I expect the Gamecocks to keep it close.
Wisconsin -6 Nebraska
This game will go a long way toward determining the Big 10 West's division. Currently these two teams are tied with Minnesota at 4-1. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they play both of these teams on the road to close the regular season, as well as Ohio State this weekend, so the winner of this game will be in the driver's seat. After a rough start to the conference season that saw them lose to Northwestern for the first time since 2009 and struggling with Illinois in a ten-point home win, the Badgers have gone on their usual Big 10 steamrolling tour. They have won their past three games against Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue by a cumulative 123-23 score. Nebraska has quietly won eight of nine, with the lone loss coming at Michigan State. The Huskers are looking to lose less than four games for the first time under head coach Bo Pelini. In their three previous meetings as Big 10 foes, the home team has won each game, with the Badgers taking the rubber match in the 2012 Big 10 Championship Game. Wisconsin's two wins came by 31 and 39 points respectively, while Nebraska's win was a much closer three-point margin. This is the smallest home spread for Wisconsin under second-year coach Gary Andersen. Under Anderson, the Badgers are a healthy 7-3 ATS as a home favorite (typically large number). Look for the Badgers to win this one by at least double-digits.
Auburn +2.5 Georgia
As I discussed over the summer, Auburn should be expected to be less than stellar ATS as a double-digit favorite. The Tigers are just 2-3 ATS as a large favorite, including last week's outright home loss to Texas A&M. They are also just 3-5 overall ATS as a favorite of any kind. However, when the Tigers are catching points, they have been money in the bank under Guz Malzahn. Including last year's BCS Championship Game, Auburn is a healthy 6-0 ATS with four outright upsets, including one two weeks ago against Ole Miss. This line is probably too much of an overreaction to Auburn's loss at home to Texas A&M. Plus, while Mark Richt has not developed the reputation Les Miles enjoys in regards to failing to cover the spread, the Bulldogs are just 33-42-4 ATS since 2005. Bank on Malzahn and the Tigers getting back on track here.
Missouri +5.5 Texas A&M
It's amazing how one week can shift your perception of a team. Last week at this time, the Aggies were coming off a less than decisive win against Louisiana-Monroe, had lost three straight SEC games by at least 15 points, and were three touchdown underdogs against the defending conference champion. Then the Aggies jumped out a big lead, made a timely special teams play, enjoyed a little snapping good fortune, and now are 7-3 with two home games left. But has anything really changed with the Aggies? Sure, they score a lot of points (sometimes), but they also have one of the worst defenses in the SEC. On the other sideline, Missouri is the polar opposite of Texas A&M. They combine the worst offense in the conference with the best defense. Texas A&M's SEC games have seen about 69 points scored on average between the Aggies and their opponents. Meanwhile, Missouri's SEC games have seen the Tigers and their opponents combine for roughly 40 points per game. Missouri's defense should be able to hold the Aggies in check and the Tigers have been money in the bank as a road underdog since joining the SEC, going 6-2 ATS in the role.
LSU +2.5 Arkansas
So let me get this straight. One of these teams is ranked in the top-25 of the current AP Poll and the other has not won an SEC game since 2012. And of course, the team currently riding a 17-game conference losing streak is favored. During their 17-game skid, Arkansas has had a few close calls, losing seven games by a touchdown or less, including their last two against LSU. In both of those games LSU was a double-digit favorite. They struggled, but won the Les Miles way. Were LSU giving points, I would advise you to avoid this game at all costs. However, since the Tigers are catching nearly a field goal here, they should be a solid play. LSU will be able to move the ball against an Arkansas defense that is statistically the worst in the SEC. After playing Ole Miss and Alabama in their last two games, LSU should get out some of their collective offensive frustrations on the Hogs.