The college football season rolls on into Week 5 with some very important games in the SEC. Some teams are playing for national championships, some are playing for division championships and some are playing to maintain a realistic path to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
And then some teams are simply playing for survival. There’s a lot to look at in the three feature games we have chosen for this week’s SEC slate:
Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks
Odds: Alabama -17
This is a very urgent moment for both teams, but Arkansas in particular. Arkansas got off to a 13-0 lead over Texas A&M last week. The Hogs had a 13-7 lead and were near the A&M goal line, but quarterback K.J. Jefferson got stripped of the ball. A&M recovered the fumble and ran it back over 90 yards for a touchdown, a 14-point swing on one play. Texas A&M used that one mammoth play to completely turn the game around and win 23-21 when Arkansas missed a game-winning field goal attempt in the final two minutes. That was a huge blown lead for Arkansas and a devastating loss, precisely because Alabama now arrives on the schedule. Arkansas could have been undefeated heading into this game.
Now the Razorbacks have to avoid a two-game losing streak. Alabama is the gold standard in college football. Head coach Nick Saban has a defense which is built to handle Arkansas’ limited offense. However, Alabama’s offensive line has struggled this season, and Arkansas will enter this game believing that it can stand up to that Bama O-line. If Arkansas’ cornerbacks can play on even terms with the Alabama receivers, the Razorbacks can keep this game close into the fourth quarter and ultimately cover the spread.
Pick: Arkansas +17
Kentucky Wildcats at Ole Miss Rebels
Odds: Ole Miss -7
Kentucky did not look very good last week in a narrow and unconvincing win over Northern Illinois. However, Ole Miss did not look very good last week in a narrow and unconvincing win over Tulsa. Both teams won by eight points at home against inferior opponents they figured to beat by much larger margins. Maybe both teams were looking ahead to this critically important game. The winner will improve its odds of making a New Year’s Six bowl game this year.
The loser loses leverage in its division championship race. Ole Miss has decided that Jaxson Dart will start at quarterback in this game over Luke Altmyer, who played in the Sugar Bowl loss for the Rebels to Baylor this past January. Kentucky knows how to handle a dual-threat quarterback such as Dart. Kentucky was excellent on defense against Florida and quarterback Anthony Richardson earlier this season. The Wildcats’ defense will keep this game close and enable UK to cover the spread.
Pick: Kentucky +7
LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers
Odds: LSU -8.5
This is a game which could get Auburn coach Bryan Harsin fired. Auburn should have lost to Missouri last week, but Mizzou missed a 25-yard field goal at the end of regulation and then fumbled at the Auburn 1-yard line in overtime. Auburn is unlikely get breaks of that nature against LSU and head coach Brian Kelly.