We’ve reached the most important part of the college football season now, as teams are fighting for bowl berths, conference championships, and in some cases a spot in the 4-team playoff. We’ve got a great slate of games this week, headlined by a clash of SEC West giants as LSU visits Alabama. The Bayou Bengals are undefeated but nearly a touchdown underdog, proving again that Nick Saban always has oddsmakers’ attention.
Here’s a few thoughts on that game and a couple others:
Florida St. @ Clemson Saturday 20:30 GMT
Line: Clemson -10.5 (PaddyPower)
When will Clemson “go Clemson”?? Their coach Dabo Swinney got pretty fired up when a reporter asked him about “Clemsoning” last week, and it’s understandable. After all, would you want your program to be known throughout the college football world as underachievers, chokers, and a team that can’t win big games? Reputations become reputations for a reason, though, and there’s no doubt that Clemson has had loads of big-time talent over the past couple of decades but a scarcity of championship banners. Most people have identified this Saturday, with the 7-1 Florida St. Seminoles coming to town as a double-digit ‘dog, as the day that we’ll see “Clemsoning” in action. Well… color me unconvinced. The Noles have been overrated and overvalued all season, and this week the man who makes their offense go– running back Dalvin Cook– will be hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out last week’s game (I know FSU is calling it an ankle, but that’s pure BS meant to hide the fact that this is a long-term, lingering issue, as hamstrings always are. Anyone who saw Cook the last time he was on the field– in a loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago– knows it’s a hamstring. He was grabbing for it, moving gingerly…). If Cook can’t be the dynamic player that he was early in the season the Florida St. offense is in real trouble, because the passing game has been mostly nonexistent anytime the Noles have faced quality opposition. As a matter of fact, after last week’s performance by backup Sean Maguire it isn’t even clear that Everett Golson is the team’s best quarterback. Contrast that to the Clemson offense, a unit that is averaging 47.7 points per game over their last 4 contests and has an undisputed leader at quarterback in Deshaun Watson. I mean, the two offenses aren’t even comparable. All things considered, it’s just difficult for me to see how Florida St. stays close in this game. Laying a double-digit number in a situation like this is never fun, but I’m on Clemson nonetheless.
Arkansas @ Ole Miss Saturday 20:30 GMT
Line: Ole Miss -11 (Unibet)
Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks have stopped the bleeding a bit after dropping three of their first four games, but at 4-4 and with three ranked teams remaining on the schedule, the Hogs have plenty of work to do if they want to make a bowl game. It starts this week in Oxford, where a 7-2 Ole Miss team awaits. The Rebs have won two straight since their disappointing loss to Memphis, but if you look a little closer you’ll notice that things are a little amiss with them, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve now been held to 27 points or fewer in three straight games after averaging over 40 per game in their first six contests. Quarterback Chad Kelly has thrown a staggering 7 interceptions over the past three weeks, so you have to wonder if his confidence is a little shaken. Arkansas proved decisively last season that they have no trouble with the Rebels’ offensive scheme in a 30-0 beatdown, so I don’t feel too good about the prospect of Ole Miss lighting up the scoreboard this week. And if they’re going to cover an 11-point number against an Arkansas team that has scored 117 combined points over the last two weeks, lighting up the scoreboard is exactly what they’ll have to do. I’m on the Hogs here.
LSU @ Alabama Sunday 01:00 GMT
Line: Alabama -6 (Coral)
When this line was first released at Alabama -7, nearly everyone I knew was screaming “too many points!!” Indeed, spotting an undefeated LSU team a touchdown seems a bit dangerous, which is why the betting public has been all over the Tigers this week. The number has now crept down to 6 some places, and I think the time is right to jump on the Tide. Look, as good as LSU’s Leonard Fournette has been this season, the passing game has been practically nonexistent, with quarterback Brandon Harris racking up just 1,098 yards in seven games. And what’s the strength of this Alabama team? Their defensive front seven. The Tide rank 3rd in the nation in rushing defense, surrendering just 78.5 yards per game on the ground. Linebacker Reggie Ragland is one of the SEC’s best players, and you can bet that he’ll have number 7 in his sights all day. Now, I’m sure the great Fournette will get his, but don’t forget that Alabama has a pretty good back in their own right in Derrick Henry. Plus, the Tide can actually pass the ball, giving them a dimension that LSU simply doesn’t have. Nick Saban’s crew has won four straight games in this rivalry, and they’re playing at home with the SEC West on the line… I think Alabama gets the job done, and I don’t expect a nail-biter.
Recommended Bets (1-3 unit scale)
1 unit Clemson -10.5 at 1.91 (PaddyPower)
1 unit Arkansas +11 at 1.9 (Unibet)
1 unit Alabama -6 at 1.91 (Coral)