It’s Week 10 in the SEC, and the division title races are taking shape. All eyes will be on Jacksonville as No. 8 Florida and No. 5 Georgia square off in a game that has massive division ramifications.
What are the biggest storylines in the SEC this week? Let’s break them down and make picks against the spread in this week’s edition of SEC Smothered and Covered.
Appetizer: Desperate times call for desperate measures
The Volunteers are on a three-game losing streak and had last weekend off to stew over their struggles. There’s no time like the present to shake up the depth chart and plan for the future. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has continued his Jekyll & Hyde routine, which has Vols fans fuming. Why? Four-star Class of 2020 pro-style signal-caller Harrison Bailey is waiting in the wings as the quarterback of the future in Knoxville. Will we see him this weekend as the Vols look to prepare for the future?
For Arkansas, this game serves as a chance to get back on track. Think about that for a second. The Hogs have “fallen” to 2-3 after not winning a single conference game over the last two seasons. This is a litmus test for coach Sam Pittman’s crew. There’s an expectation of success in Fayetteville. If they defeat a beleaguered Volunteers team, it will signal that these Razorbacks are not only on the way up, but have the ability to bounce back after crushing losses.
That’s a big part of the maturation process.
Main course: What to watch in the Florida vs. Georgia
Let’s be real about what this game really is — the de facto SEC East title game. Since so much is on the line, it’s appropriate to break down the matchups that will determine which team is the unquestioned front-runner.
Georgia’s defense vs. Florida’s passing attack: Florida couldn’t have picked a better time go up against the Bulldogs defense. The notion that it is “light’s out” is a narrative of the past. There’s concern that the Bulldogs might be too beat up to play up to the level that they were at earlier in the season. All-American safety Richard LeCounte and All-American nose guard Jordan Davis are out, as is fellow defensive lineman Julian Rochester. Several other Bulldogs players are nursing injuries that might prevent them from suiting up in Jacksonville.
Is this version of Georgia’s defense even capable of slowing down the “Super Swamp Brothers” of quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts? How much stress does the emergence of Kadarius Toney put on the injury-riddled Bulldogs?
This is the biggest matchup of the game by far.
Georgia’s quarterback situation: It’s clear that coach Kirby Smart and the rest of the staff is coaching around quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, not “for” him. After all, the Bulldogs did run 12 straight running plays to open last week’s game vs. Kentucky — a game in which Bennett only threw 14 passes, two of which were interceptions.
It has Bulldog Nation calling for USC transfer J.T. Daniels. Is that really the direction Smart should go, though?
Offensive coordinator Tood Monken has weaved Bennett into the running game as a willing runner over the last three weeks. If the staff doesn’t trust him as a passer and hasn’t given Daniels a chance, why not go with opening-day starter D’Wan Mathis? Passing issues got him benched in the first game of the season — a game in which he had 10 carries. A running quarterback was part of the plan anyway, so why not put in the quarterback who was the part of that plan back in?
Gators on third down: Florida’s defense was flat-out awful on third downs through its first three games (58.7%), but it might have turned a corner during the COVID-19 shutdown. Missouri only converted three of its 15 third down attempts last week in the Gators’ 41-17 home win.
On the other side, Georgia only converted four of its 13 attempts last week against Kentucky — its worst third-down performance of the season.
What is the anomaly and what is the start of the trend? We’ll find out on Saturday.
- Texas A&M is a College Football Playoff contender. Say it. Shout it. Write it down in ink. This is not like previous years. Quarterback Kellen Mond is confident, running back Isaiah Spiller is one of the best in the country, tight end Jalen Wydermyer is pretty much unstoppable and the offensive line is playing lights out.
- Vanderbilt and Mississippi State will square off this weekend in Starkville, meaning SOMEBODY IS GOING TO GET A WIN. That’s it. That’s the only reason to watch.
- Prayers up to Ole Miss tight end DaMarcus Thomas, who was hospitalized and then released on Monday after a scary practice injury.
- Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is finally getting some of the Heisman Trophy love he deserves. Jones is among the new betting favorites to win the award with Clemson‘s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State‘s Justin Fields.
SEC picks for Week 10
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia (-3.5) (in Jacksonville): Georgia is a shell of itself, and it’ll get exposed along the First Coast in Jacksonville on Saturday in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. Its defense has way too many injuries to play the way that it needs to in order to shut down the high-octane Gators offense. The Gators will put up at least 450 yards while the Bulldogs’ quarterback(s) will continue to struggle. I’m taking Florida to win by double digits as it deals Georgia a significant setback. Pick: Florida (+3.5)
No. 7 Texas A&M at South Carolina (+10): You saw what the Aggies were capable of last week against a solid Arkansas team. If a defense focuses too much on Spiller, Mond will just hit up Wydermyer. The biggest problem is that South Carolina won’t be able to stop Spiller or Wydermyer. Sure, defensive back Jaycee Horn is a stud. But Will Muschamp and the staff can’t put him on Wydermyer. The size discrepancy would do more harm that good. The Aggies will roll in Williams-Brice Stadium. Pick: Texas A&M (-10)
Tennessee at Arkansas (+1.5): The wrong team is favored here. Quarterback Feleipe Franks, and running backs Trelon Smith and Rakeem Boyd have set the tone for a multi-dimensional rushing attack that Tennessee’s defense will struggle to keep in check. Throw that in with the quarterback woes in Knoxville, and you’ll get a sloppy, old-school win for the Razorbacks. Pick: Arkansas (+1.5)
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State (-19.5): Does somebody have to win? Yes? Fine then. Give me the Bulldogs … I guess. Soft zone kills the air raid, but I’m not sure that the Commodores have what it takes from a personnel standpoint to slow it down even if the coaches scheme it up correctly. But 19.5 points? I’m not confident in either team scoring 20 points, so I’ll take Vandy to cover in a sad and depressing battle for the basement. Pick: Vanderbilt (+19.5)
Records — Straight up: 26-10 (5-1 last week) | ATS: 16-20 (2-4 last week)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 10, and which Pac-12 team will pull off a shocking upset? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned over $4,100 in profit over the past four-plus seasons — and find out.