While college football has been going on for three weeks now, it doesn't really feel like college football until the SEC starts playing. With that said, college football is finally back! We didn't know if we'd get to see any football a couple months ago, but with the new SEC conference only schedule, each team will face off against at least a fairly formidable opponent every Saturday (unless they're playing Vandy or Arkansas).
Bucket Squad's college football experts, Nick Swatson, Alex Hill, Jacob Perry, and Micah Woods, will give you their picks on the money line, point spread, and over/under for each SEC matchup every week, so even if your team loses on the scoreboard, you can still win in your bank account. Additionally, Alex Hill will provide detailed information on each matchup, backed by data and analytics, to show you why he picked the way he did, and why you should too.
We'll track our experts' records each week to see how their picks are faring individually. See who has the hot hand after each week and thus who you should side with as the season progresses. Whoever wins at the end of the season will win the greatest prize of all... bragging rights over their friends.
#5 Florida at Ole Miss (FLA -13.5, O/U 57.0)
Kyle Trask is brilliant, Kyle Pitts might be one of the next greats, and that combination will dominate defenses this year. Those things, in conjunction with their stifling run defense, is all you need to know about Florida.
Ole Miss was a team last year that earned over 400 yards per game, but gave up almost as much as they earned (most of it given up through the air, mind you). Their defense, simply put, REALLY struggles against teams that are great on the offensive side of the ball. You just have to imagine that with Kiffin at the helm, this team will be electric and innovative on the offensive side of the ball.
You also have to assume that Ole Miss will continue to be a sub-par (and that’s putting it nicely) defensive team. What’s wild is that when I saw the O/U of 57 for this game, my original reaction was that it’s too high. But after necessary research and data, this game should fly over that total to the mid 60s or low 70s. This is an easy win for us, and the books will adjust accordingly for these teams after this one.
#23 Kentucky at #8 Auburn (AUB -7.5, O/U 49.5)
Kentucky is coming off an 8-5 season where they were led carried by Lynn Bowden Jr. Meanwhile, Auburn is coming off somewhat of a roller coaster season being led by a true freshman in Bo Nix.
Kentucky ended the season strong, winning their last four and beating Virginia Tech in their bowl game. Meanwhile, Auburn finished with a loss to Minnesota, ending with a 9-4 record. Kentucky, while improved in other areas, does not have their workhorse gamer they relied on so many times last season. On the other hand, Bo Nix is set for a breakout season, with a good offensive line and more weapons than an army barracks.
Here’s the deal: Kentucky beats the teams they’re supposed to beat. But I would argue that they have generally low upset value, especially this season. What we’re looking at here is a classic example of the Tigers being stronger and faster than the lesser Wildcats. I’ll take Auburn by 17 and an easy win. And I’m not just saying this because I hate Kentucky. Say, 31-14. Buy the hook to 7 if you’re scared, but as the saying goes, “scared money don’t make money.”
Mississippi State at #6 LSU (LSU -16.5, O/U 57.5)
LSU lost a lot from last year, as we all know, and there may not be a team as dominant as theirs in college football ever again. What they didn’t lose is Ed Orgeron (name me a single person who wouldn’t fight a grizzly bear if that man asked them), as well as their incredibly intricate and successful offensive game plan. All they need is Myles Brennan to be an average quarterback (who has the ceiling to be more than that) and one who doesn’t make terrible decisions for this offense to work.
Meanwhile, Mike Leach has to be up there with the likes of Lane Kiffin for being the most entertaining coaches on and off the football field (The Egg Bowl will be must see TV every single year now). Anyway, with that said, Leach, who isn’t known for his past team’s incredible defensive prowess, will need time to get his team in working order.
People are also already writing off this LSU team again, who will want to go and out show everyone they aren’t to be taken lightly. I’m also expecting KJ Costello to start for MSU here, whose already average numbers are inflated greatly against subpar defenses and inferior competition. I lean the over in this game, but the play is 100% LSU -16.5. Not even Leach can come in first game with this team and compete with LSU off the bat. LSU by 4 touchdowns.
#4 Georgia at Arkansas (UGA -28.5, O/U 52.5)
Okay, hear me out, Arkansas +26 is the move here. Yes, you read that right. I know, I know.
I’m sure everybody and their mother is on Georgia in this one. Georgia is bigger, faster, stronger, and better coached/developed. They are, however, matched up against an incredibly talented Auburn team week 2. They will have a methodical game plan taking their time every drive against an Arkansas team looking to prove they’re much improved from seasons past. Not that Kirby Smart won’t have them prepared, but it’s hard to get excited and amped up to play a team that combined for 4 wins in two seasons. There are also coaching ties with Arkansas’ staff formerly coaching at Georgia, which gives them extra motivation.
This is purely a tune-up game for Georgia, who isn’t entirely built to blow teams out (aside from my Volunteers...). My prediction here is that Georgia sleepwalks to a 14-21 point win. I’m also waiting closer to gameday to place a bet where we will probably be finding +30 or better to be safe. Just don’t put me on Old Takes Exposed if Georgia dismantles them so bad that Arkansas pulls the plug on their football program.
#2 Alabama at Missouri (ALA -27.5, O/U 56.0)
Death, taxes, and a well-coached Alabama football team under Nick Saban. On the other end we are looking at a Missouri team with a good amount of turnover and a TON of uncertainty, hosting an Alabama team that we know is going to be geared to play.
Rountree is definitely the best skill player on Missouri and will be relied on heavily, but we know what happens when the opposing team’s best player is a running back against Alabama (see Leonard Fournette vs. Bama 2016). I’m confident we see Alabama dominate all aspects here through two and a half quarters. But we just can’t imagine their second and third strings players will outperform and outscore Mizzou late game.
My theory: Alabama pulls starters up 35-0 or 35-3 late third quarter, at which case we see the fourth quarter played in about 20 minutes real time. The only chance we lose this one is a backdoor couple of touchdowns over which Saban will melt down and cut all the backups for the remainder of the season. Side note: Saban is 11-1 ATS in season openers as a HC. Just wanted to throw that statistic out there even though it doesn’t particularly advance my pick here. Under 56 in this one.
#16 Tennessee at South Carolina (TEN -3.5, O/U 43.5)
Fair is fair: I’m a lifelong Tennessee fan. However, I’m not one of the “Tennessee is back” fans (though it does feel like ‘98 this year). That said, I’ve probably hit 75% of my Tennessee football bets over the past three years - I almost always know how they’re going to respond to different situations and circumstances. All that considered, let’s dive in.
First, I believe in South Carolina’s front seven. BUT, if you believe in Hilinski to lead this team to a great season, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. Conversely, defensively for UT, Henry To’o To’o is destined for great things. He is smart, agile, and strong, and will be a lead and anchor of a defense that looks to improve upon its consistency from last season.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s offensive line should prove themselves to be more than capable this year at protecting whichever quarterback they have, as well as providing lanes for Eric Gray to get to work. That said, if you believe in Jarrett Guarantano, then you’re also a fool. Do not trust him until he proves himself and even then, don’t fully trust what you see (because I GUARANTee it was a fluke). I’m picturing a field goal contest between these two teams, but I don’t trust myself just yet to pick the correct winner. I’m taking the under 43.5 with a final score of 17-14. Easy money for all of us here.
Vanderbilt at #10 Texas A&M (A&M -30.5, O/U 46.0)
Better quarterback? TAMU. Better defensive front 7 and offensive line? TAMU. Better everything else aside from the backfield? Vandy. Listen, TAMU is the better team here in many different aspects, but they’re better in the aspects that will elongate the game. I’m personally a fan of Mond and I believe he will progress this season, but their playstyle is not to go for explosive plays over and over - they’re going to beat teams fundamentally and soundly.
However, their strength over Vandy is their pass rush and defensive secondary, which does not translate incredibly well against a Vanderbilt team who is going to try and run it down TAMU’s throat and eat away at the clock. 46 is too soft of a number to bet the under, but I’m extremely confident betting Vandy +30.5 here.
Not convinced? Here’s more. Vanderbilt never lost by more than 28 last year, and that includes games against Georgia, LSU, and Florida. Do you really think Texas A&M is on the level of those teams? My final argument for Vanderbilt is the undeniable fact that they are already accustomed to playing in almost empty stadiums (sorry Vanderbilt fans, if you people actually exist). Meanwhile, Texas A&M is used to a rocking crowd in College Station whom they can’t rely on this time. Texas A&M will not win by more than 3 touchdowns.
One unit, 3 units, 10 units, doesn’t matter. Play this for however much money you want to double (minus the vig) and thank me later.
Written by Nick Swatson and Alex Hill