SEC college football picks, odds in Week 3: Alabama rolls Florida, Auburn upsets Penn State
Week 3 in the SEC brings a full slate of massive games that not only could impact the conference championship race but drastically shift the landscape for the College Football Playoff. No. 1 Alabama will play No. 11 Florida in Gainesville, Florida, in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week, which will be a rematch of the terrific 2020 SEC Championship Game. No. 22 Auburn will square off with No. 10 Penn State in the traditional “white out” game in Happy Valley.
There are other significant games around the league as well. No. 2 Georgia is seeking revenge on South Carolina, which upset the Bulldogs at home two years ago. That marked Georgia’s only loss of the regular season, which proved costly later in the playoff race after it fell to eventual national champion LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
Let’s break down the biggest storylines and make some picks in this week’s edition of SEC Smothered & Covered
Appetizer: Auburn’s dynamic offense
The college football world was introduced to Auburn running back Tank Bigsby last year, but he was really the only known commodity outside of quarterback Bo Nix on the Tigers’ offense. That has changed over the last two weeks. Freshman Jarquez Hunter has emerged as a very solid backup to Bigsby. The freshman, who squats 600 pounds, leads the Tigers with 257 yards rushing and showed his breakaway speed in a 62-0 win over Alabama State with a 94-yard touchdown run.
“I’m excited about his future and how much he can continue to keep developing, and that needs to happen as the season goes on,” coach Bryan Harsin said, via 247Sports. “But he’s got a role on this team, and it’s going to continue to grow and he’ll have opportunities that way.”
Nix has five passing touchdowns — he only had 12 last year — and has developed chemistry with Demetris Robertson and Shedrick Jackson. That has provided much-needed balance and allowed the Tigers to look like a fully functional offense for the first time in several years.
No, Akron and Alabama State weren’t exactly challenging opponents, but Auburn hasn’t been playing down to its competition. That happened a lot under Gus Malzahn, but it doesn’t seem to be the case so far in the Harsin era.
Main course: What is Florida’s offense?
Florida has several problems heading into its showdown with Alabama. The most pressing one is at quarterback where Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson are still vying for the top spot on the depth chart. Jones has tossed four picks — two each vs. FAU and South Florida — while Richardson is nursing a hamstring injury that popped up as he crossed the goal line on an 80-yard touchdown run against the Bulls.
The question facing coach Dan Mullen is whether he should start the guy who will give the ball to the Tide … or start the guy who could be a superstar but isn’t 100%. The answer might depend on what we haven’t seen the Gators do offensively. Wide receiver Jacob Copeland said this week that the Gators’ playbook has been shrouded in secrecy.
“I feel like camp was the thing that showed everything for us. We’ve seen what we had to see during camp. We came in, everybody is saying this and that about us in the first two games,” he said, “but they haven’t seen everything.”
Will it matter, though? The combination of a dicey quarterback competition and a playbook that hasn’t been fully unleashed is a tricky situation heading into the game against Alabama, a team that can turn a game sideways in a hurry.
Dessert: Payback in mind
Georgia fell at home to South Carolina two years ago in a shocking upset that prevented the Bulldogs from having a perfect regular season. Don’t let coach Kirby Smart fool you. That will be in the back of his mind, especially since the coach of that South Carolina team, Will Muschamp, is on Smart’s staff.
Bulldogs QB JT Daniels missed last week’s game vs. UAB, but all backup Stetson Bennett IV did was throw five touchdowns and win SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors. South Carolina’s defense has been solid through two games, but it’s not like UAB’s is a cupcake. Georgia doesn’t need to make a statement, but it probably wants to exact a little bit of revenge in the same building where its dreams of perfection came crashing down.
SEC picks, Week 3
Straight up: 23-4 | Against the spread: 11-9
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
New Mexico at No. 7 Texas A&M
Texas A&M Aggies
Backup quarterback Zach Calzada struggled last week against Colorado, but found a way to get the job done late with a touchdown pass to Isaiah Spiller. Calzada will likely have to start vs. Arkansas next week and Alabama on Oct. 9, which makes this game a perfect opportunity for coach Jimbo Fisher to develop the offense to fit his quarterback’s strengths now that Haynes King is out for an extended period of time. Translation: He’ll keep his foot on the gas for a full four quarters. Pick: Texas A&M (-28.5)
No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida
Alabama Crimson Tide
Are you kidding me? Alabama is only laying 15.5 points? That’s just disrespectful. Florida’s offense is a mess and running up against the Alabama defense at the worst possible time. Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young won’t be fazed by the Gators defense. Expect him to hit big play after big play thanks in part to Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s remarkable ability to call blitzes at the worst possible times. Pick: Alabama (-15.5)
Georgia Southern at No. 20 Arkansas
The Razorbacks rushing attack was unreal against Texas and now’s the time for coach Sam Pittman to figure out how to be more than one-dimensional. The game against Georgia Southern will present that chance. This will be more of a pass-heavy attack against the Eagles in order to get quarterback KJ Jefferson ready for Week 4’s matchup vs. Texas A&M. He’ll make enough mistakes to at least keep Georgia Southern within the number but not get it the outright win. Pick: Georgia Southern (+23)
Mississippi State at Memphis
Mississippi State Bulldogs
I was shocked to see the Bulldogs throttle NC State, but that momentum will come to a screeching halt at the hands of a Tigers team that can light it up offensively. Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett did a great job last weekend, but this is a much different task. Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers won’t be able to keep up in this track meet. Pick: Memphis (+3)
South Carolina at No. 2 Georgia
The Bulldogs found their big-play magic last weekend against UAB but won’t have enough to cover this massive number against the Gamecocks. Shane Beamer’s crew could be getting quarterback Luke Doty back and they rank third nationally on defense at 3.48 yards per play allowed. Don’t get me wrong …. Georgia will cruise to an easy win … but not by 32 or more points. Pick: South Carolina (+31)
No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State
Penn State Nittany Lions
The Tigers are second in the nation in rush defense (23 yards per game), and Colby Wooden and Derick Hall have been awesome up front. The linebackers are experienced and talented, which will limit the impact that Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford and running back Noah Cain have on the ground. Give me Auburn for the straight-up win on the heels of a Heisman-caliber performance from Bigsby. Pick: Auburn (+6)
Central Michigan at LSU
Central Michigan gave Missouri a scare in the season-opener. That should give it some confidence heading into Death Valley to play an LSU team that has been less-than-stellar over its first two games. The Tigers offensive line struggled last week vs. McNeese State and Central Michigan is second in the MAC with 18 tackles for loss. This will be a sluggish performance by the Tigers and the Chippewas will find a way to at least keep it within the number. Pick: Central Michigan (+20)
Tulane at No. 17 Ole Miss
Ole Miss Rebels
The Rebels have been phenomenal in part because its defense isn’t horrendous, which is a massive improvement from last season. The Green Wave gave Oklahoma a scare in the first game of the season, but it’s not like their offense cruised up and down the field (396 total yards). Ole Miss will hang a 50-burger on the Green Wave and snag an easy cover. Pick: Ole Miss (-14)
Stanford at Vanderbilt
The Commodores got past Colorado State last Saturday … but Stanford was busy annihilating USC and putting an end to the Clay Helton era. One of these things is not like the other. Former hot-shot recruit Tanner McKee was awesome through the air, averaging 10.2 yards per completion and tossing two touchdowns. He’ll be even better this week in a blowout win over the ‘Dores. Pick: Stanford (-11)
FCS games: Kentucky over Chattanooga, Missouri over Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee over Tennessee Tech
Which picks can you make with confidence, and which top 25 favorite goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread this week, all from a proven computer model that has returned $3,500 in profit over the past five-plus seasons.