Last week: 8-2 straight up, 5-2 against the spread
Season: 29-4 straight up, 17-10 against the spread
In some ways, weeks like this one are tougher to pick than ones like last week where we had big games between notable schools. When Ole Miss is coming off of a huge win to face Vandy, how can you possibly guess what kind of effort the Rebels will give? Maybe they'll play to the top of their ability and just steamroll the Commodores. Maybe they'll overlook the team that didn't win a conference game a year ago and sleepwalk through it. The same goes for LSU in its road game at Syracuse. I can count on Leonard Fournette being Leonard Fournette, but what about everyone else?
Plus how will a Jim McElwain team deal with the distraction of key players being suspended for a big game? We don't know yet. Alabama will treat its ULM game as a practice, but will the sheer talent difference be enough to cover a 38-point spread? And this isn't even to mention Auburn breaking in a new quarterback who's never taken a snap.
I might get lucky and hit on a lot of these picks. Don't be fooled if it happens though: I have no idea how many of these games will go. As always, the lines come from the Yahoo pick 'em contest.
LSU (-24) over Syracuse 30-3
I'm tentatively going with the Tigers to cruise here. The Orange are a team that wins with defense and little offense, but its defense hasn't faced anyone like Fournette. I think its offense is tame enough that LSU will threaten a shutout too. There's real 17-6 potential here, though, if the Tigers don't take it seriously or are otherwise affected by being so far from home.
South Carolina (-14.5) over UCF 35-10
UCF is so, so bad, and George O'Leary seems to have retired already. If the Gamecocks can't win this by a couple of touchdowns, this season will really start to look like it's going to be an outright disaster.
Florida (-1.5) over Tennessee 24-20
The majority of betting houses quoted on Yahoo's odds page have the Vols favored by 1 or 1.5, but the actual pick 'em game agrees with Bovada having the Gators by a point and a half. I think Florida was favored by most every outlet before the announced suspensions of Treon Harris and Jalen Tabor swung many of the lines towards Big Orange.
Anyway, my gut says to take Tennessee, but my head says Florida based on what I saw in the UT-OU game. The Vols defense didn't do well with the tight end the couple times the Sooners went there in the pass game, and UF has more and better options there. Even though Florida's offensive line isn't good, I think Tennessee's run defense will struggle without Curt Maggitt. Plus the Vols had issues with Baker Mayfield's mobility, and Will Grier is faster and more elusive.
Now, Jalen Hurd could put the team on his back and carry UT to a victory, so I'm not all in on Florida here. Derek Barnett could snap Grier in half at some point too, leaving the guy who ended up Vandy's fourth stringer last year as the only available signal caller for the Gators. I don't like going against my gut, but maybe the home field advantage will be just enough to push the Gators over the top.
Alabama (-38) over Louisiana-Monroe 44-10
This could be a game where the Tide is mad and just throttles ULM, but like I said above, it's going to be more like a practice. I think 38 points is a lot to cover in practice mode, and in comparable circumstances, UGA only beat Monroe by 37 in Week 1.
Texas A&M (-7) over Arkansas 38-20
I'm basing this on the idea that the Aggies will get some big passing plays while the Hogs will continue to have issues finishing drives.
Ole Miss (-24.5) over Vanderbilt 30-7
Don't tell anyone I said this, but it's possible that there are some ways (mostly related to the pass) in which Vandy's is the toughest defense the Rebels' will have faced yet. But you didn't hear that from me.
Kentucky (-3) over Missouri 10-6
I guess Russell Hansbrough's return will help the Tiger offense, but he may not be 100%. First team to ten points wins, I think.
Mississippi State (+2) over Auburn 44-40
This could blow up in my face if Sean White, once the MVP of the Elite 11, plays OK. I have a suspicion that the Auburn run game has been struggling in part because Jeremy Johnson's passing stopped scaring defenses. If White plays well enough for the run to get back on track, then AU won't be in horrible shape.
Still, nothing about the Tiger defense gives me confidence if Carl Lawson isn't on the field, and he won't be. Between Dak Prescott, De'Runnya Wilson, Ashton Shumpert, Brandon Holloway, Fred Ross, and Fred Brown, MSU should have enough weapons to outgun a redshirt freshman making his first start.
Georgia over Southern 66-19