Week 9 saw The Model go 4-1 ATS (against the spread). For the season, The Model is 234-204 ATS (53.4 percent) in all games and 33-29 (54 percent) ATS in SEC games. Apologies for not previewing the Auburn (-39.5) vs. Chattanooga and Kentucky (-45) vs. Charleston Southern games, but I don’t incorporate FCS teams into my model.
Tennessee gave South Carolina a scare, as been the case all year, the Vols eventually gave things away in the 4th quarter. Tennessee falls to an abysmal 2-6 for the season, but moves to a slightly less abysmal 3-5 against the spread.
Florida ended a three-game losing streak in Jacksonville thanks to kicker Chas Henry, the scapegoat in Florida’s 10-7 home loss to Mississippi State two weeks earlier.
Auburn avoided a big letdown game, scoring 51 points and allowing 189 yards through the air, as the Tigers moved to 9-0.
Mississippi State managed to intercept the normally hyper-efficient Mike Hartline three times and hold the Wildcats to 17 points. The Bulldogs lost the time of possession battle 35:45 to 24:15 but were able to cover as 6.5-point home favorites.
I warned (despite what The Model predicted) that Vanderbilt would have a hard time covering a generous 19.5-point line. I was wrong for the first quarter as Vandy jumped out to a 14-6 lead. However, my instincts proved right as Arkansas subsequently rattled off 43 unanswered points.
Florida @ Vanderbilt (+14, 46) — 11:20 a.m. CDT
Florida needs a win at Vanderbilt this weekend to setup an SEC East play-in game next week against South Carolina. Florida has struggled on the road this year, losing to Alabama, pulling away late against Tennessee and needing an overtime victory last weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. Fortunately for the Gators, their SEC opponent this week, Vanderbilt, plays more like a team from the Sun Belt most weeks. Against SEC opponents this year, Vanderbilt is averaging 10 points per game, so The Model’s prediction of 15 looks pretty optimistic. That said, Florida has had its own concerns on offense at times, but only against Alabama and Mississippi State, arguably two of the league’s top defenses. Against Vanderbilt, Florida’s typically mediocre offense (344 yards total offense per game) will excel. Look for the Gators to put up uncharacteristically big numbers this weekend against a Commodore team looking a couple of weeks ahead to the next game they can possibly win: Tennessee at home. This is my first of two “Locks of the Week.” Prediction: Florida 31 – Vanderbilt 15.
Alabama @ LSU (+6.5, 44) — 2:30 p.m. CDT
These two teams combine to allow 28 points per game, while scoring 60 per game. If my four-month-old son were going to set the over/under for this game, he would use a simple average. Apparently he could be a bookie, because that is just what the Vegas oddsmakers appear to be using. This game is a must win for Alabama, which could see its hopes of an SEC title game appearance all but vanish with a loss. Fortunately for the Tide, they match up very well against LSU’s sole strength: running the ball. The Tigers are averaging 179 yards per game on the ground behind Steven Ridley (90 yards/game) and “dual threat” quarterback Jordan Jefferson (35 yards/game). Jefferson is a threat to the defense with his ability break long runs whenever he has the ball. Unfortunately, he is also a threat to his own offense, having thrown 8 interceptions this year, with one out of every 15 pass attempts being picked. The Tide has the SEC’s No. 2 rushing defense, allowing just 113 yards/game and should be able to stop Les Mile’s predictably boring offensive game plan. LSU showed that it could not contain the three-headed monster of Newton-Dyer-McCalebb two weeks ago, allowing 400+ yards on the ground. This newly exposed LSU weakness won’t benefit Alabama too much because of the more downhill running style of their backs. That said, look for Alabama to keep things pretty basic against LSU and not test the Tiger’s tremendous secondary. LSU is the SEC leader is passing defense (150 yards/game) and No. 2 in pass efficiency defense (106.5), behind Alabama. Look for LSU’s offense to struggle again this week and fail to cover at home. Prediction: Alabama 26 – LSU 17.
UL-Lafayette @ Mississippi (-28, 63.5) — 6:00 p.m. CDT
Ole Miss gets a reprieve from a grueling three weeks in which the Rebels lost to three nationally ranked SEC opponents. This week’s opponent, UL-Lafayette, is far less menacing on paper. Even the school’s Runnin’ Rebels seems inferior to Ole Miss’ newly selected Black Bear mascot. Ole Miss should have no problems moving the ball through the air against the nation’s No. 111-ranked passing defense (allowing 269 yards/game). Even the Runnin’ Rebels rushing defense, ranked No. 2 in the Sunbelt allowing 147 yards/game, should be no match for Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott who lead SEC’s No. 18 nationally rushing attack at 212 yards/game. On the other side of the ball, look for Ole Miss’ pass defense to be tested early and often by a UL-Lafayette passing game averaging 261 yards/game. If the Runnin’ Rebels can force a few turnovers as they have been able to do all season long, look for UL-Lafayette to cover as four-touchdown road underdogs. Prediction: Mississippi 43 – UL-Lafayette 17.
Arkansas @ South Carolina (-4, 59) — 6:00 p.m. CDT
Ryan Mallett and Arkansas bring the nation’s No. 2 passing attack (360 yards/game) to Williams-Brice Stadium this weekend, looking to exploit the SEC’s worst passing defense (allowing 260 yards/game). Arkansas will be without leading receiver Greg Childs for the rest of the season, but gets back WR Joe Adams this week. South Carolina will need to rely on its SEC-leading rushing defense and force Mallett to spend some time in the pocket where South Carolina’s No. 2 nationally ranked pass rush (3.75 sacks/game) can get to him. Arkansas has a solid defense of its own this year, allowing 16 points/game if you exclude the 65 points the Razorbacks allowed to Auburn. Arkansas should be able to force some Garcia mistakes but will have problems containing RB Marcus Lattimore. Both teams rank near the bottom of the SEC in turnover margins, and in a game predicted to be as close as this one, look for the team who wins the turnover battle to win the game. Arkansas covers in my second “Lock of the Week.” Prediction: South Carolina 31 – Arkansas 29.
Tennessee @ Memphis (+20, 52.5) — 7:00 p.m. CDT
Memphis is by far the worst team in Conference USA. The Tigers are 0-5 in CUSA play and have one 24-17 win over the Sun Belt’s Middle Tennessee. Memphis is ranked at or near the bottom of the conference in every meaningful offensive and defensive category. Any other year, the Tigers would just forfeit the game before Tennessee comes to town. But this year, they have a chance … perhaps even a great chance … at covering the spread. Looking at the graphic suggests that Memphis’ sole advantage comes in playing an unranked opponent, something Tennessee won’t be for another five years. This game basically comes down to who will screw up the most. Memphis manages to lose the turnover margin just about every time they take the field (No. 112 nationally, a -1 turnover margin/game). In fact, they needed four take-aways just to beat Middle Tennessee State. Tennessee has had its own problems in the turnover department and is currently ranked last in the SEC. Memphis’ sole strength is its punting game, which it will need to rely on heavily to win the field position battle. Look for Tennessee to get its second win over a CUSA opponent this year, while Memphis covers at home. Prediction: Tennessee 34 – Memphis 16.
All Week 10 Games
Again this week, I am including The Model’s predicted outcome for all games between FBS opponents. I’ve highlighted games if either team is currently ranked in the Top 25. The Model is predicting that six Top 25 teams will lose this week: NC State, LSU, Baylor, Arkansas, Stanford and TCU.
Mac Mirabile is a 2002 graduate of Auburn’s economics and journalism departments. During his time at Auburn, he was a copy and photo editor with The Auburn Plainsman. He has a master’s degree in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill and has written numerous academic publications on college football, the NFL and gambling markets. Last week’s Model can be found here. He can be reached at [email protected]