Last week was the odd occurrence were I actually faired better against the spread than I did straight up (5-2 vs 4-3). For the year that brings me to 75-17 straight up and 44-40 against the spread. Onto this weeks picks...
There are a bunch of out of conference games this week where the SEC is taking on below-FBS opponents (Western Carolina/Alabama, Jacksonville St/Florida, Wofford/South Carolina, Georgia Southern/Georgia, Alabama A&M/Auburn, Sam Houston St/Texas A&M and Samford/Kentucky). Samford/Kentucky and Auburn/Alabama A&M could be tighter than the SEC schools want but let's just do an overall pick here and say the SEC goes 7-0 in those games. Since they involve FCS opponents, there are no point spreads involved. Onto the FBS vs FBS games....
Arkansas (4-6, 2-4) at Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3), 12:21 PM, SEC Network
Line: Mississippi State by 6
Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs are in a bit of a tailspin. After starting out 7-0, the Bulldogs have come to the difficult part of their schedule and have promptly lost every game they've played against Top 25 opponents. The good news for the Bulldogs is that the Razorbacks aren't a Top 25 team. The Razorbacks have won just one of their last three and that was a four point win over Tulsa which is probably Arkansas's best win of the season. Mississippi State's best win is Tennessee. Let's face it, neither of these teams have beaten anybody. If you look at trends, the Bulldogs are 5-1 at home and the Hogs are 1-2 on the road (with the win being at Auburn). If you look at "against the spread" trends, Arkansas has under performed by 9.8 points per game against the spread while Mississippi State has beat the spread by an average of 0.3 points per game. I don't feel good about it but I will play the odds and go with the home team in this one.
Mississippi State 31 Arkansas 24
Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4) at LSU (8-2, 4-2), 3:30 PM, CBS
Line: LSU by 18.5
Ole Miss is an improved football team this season but they have not faired well against ranked opponents this season (lost to Texas 66-31, lost to Bama 33-14 and lost to Georgia 37-10). For you math majors out there that's an average of 27 points per loss to Top 25 opponents. 18.5 is a big point spread for a team that has played offense like LSU has this season but I think the game last week vs Mississippi State shows that LSU has turned the corner a bit on offense and is capable of winning this game going away.
LSU 38 Ole Miss 17
Syracuse (5-5) at Missouri (5-5), 7 PM, ESPNU
Line: Missouri by 5
Mizzou is coming off of their biggest win of the season as they came from behind to beat Tennessee and the Orange are doing the same as they beat previously undefeated Louisville. Missouri has had five games this year that have been within one score and the Cuse has also played five games within eight points so the odds say this one is going to be a close one. Taking into consideration that Syracuse has played 3.0 points above the point spread per game and Mizzou has played 2.2 below, it looks like the play is to take Syracuse in this game. But, if you look closer at the trends, Missouri has actually beat the spread in each of their last three games winning outright in two of those games. Take Missouri but I think Syracuse will keep it close.
Missouri 31 Syracuse 24
Tennessee (4-6, 0-6) at Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3), 7 PM, ESPN2
Line: Vanderbilt by 3.5
Tennessee is yet to win a conference game this season. Maybe that's a little harsher than it sounds because in Tennessee's defense all of those losses but one have come to Top 25 opponents and the other one came in overtime. On the other hand, Vanderbilt has also lost every game they've played against Top 25 opponents (0-3) but they have won four games in conference (all against unranked opponents). The interesting thing for Vandy is that they've won a lot of nail biters this season- @Mizzou by four, vs Auburn by four and @Ole Miss by one. That tells me that Vandy is a tough team that knows how to win but it also tells me not to bet the farm on them. If we are just simply lining up talent, Tennessee is the team to take in this game but Vandy is the home team and they've simply played better and more poised than the Vols have this season. History is on Tennessee's side in this one but I just don't think you can trust the Vols to win their first road game of the season in this spot. Look for the Vols to fold late and the Dores to either hang on late or take a late lead to win the game.
Vanderbilt 31 Tennessee 27