The fourth Saturday in October seems like as good a time as any review the amazing decline of Tennessee football.
The Tennessee-Alabama game’s nickname is The Third Saturday in October, because that’s always when it was played, until the SEC split to divisional play in 1992. Now, it bounces around the back end of the month. Pick a Saturday, though, any Saturday, and the Volunteers would be big underdogs against the Crimson Tide.
This year, Alabama is a 15-point favorite in Tuscaloosa. If the Crimson Tide win, it will be their ninth straight in the series. Pair that with the futility of the Volunteers against Florida, and Tennessee is 0-19 against its two main rivals since 2006.
It’s no wonder the Vols are on their third coach since canning Phillip Fulmer in 2008. If Butch Jones doesn’t get one of these series turned around at some point, it may be four soon enough.
Against the spread: Tennessee
Auburn at Arkansas (minus-5.5)
I expected both teams to finish in the top half of the SEC West, and they are a combined 2-4 in the conference, so take this pick with a grain of salt. The Tigers seem to have settled on Sean White at quarterback, and he’s getting better each week, but the Razorbacks are too physical for a still-small Auburn defense.
Clemson (minus-7.5) at Miami
You can almost hear the line from Star Wars, “It’s a trap.” The Tigers dusted off Georgia Tech last week in what has traditionally been one of their trickiest games. Now, it’s a noon game against a Miami team with athletes and nothing to lose in a stadium that might be half full. Clemson can see the road from here to the College Football Playoff, but the Tigers can’t fall asleep at the wheel.
Northwestern at Nebraska (minus-7)
The Wildcats started the season 5-0, but have lost their last two games (against Michigan and Iowa) by a combined score of 78-10. Mike Riley is 3-4 in his first season at Nebraska and has yet to win back-to-back games, although that could change this week.
Duke at Virginia Tech (minus-3)
It hasn’t been pretty, but Duke is 5-1, which makes it a surprise that the Hokies are a favorite this week, even if the game is being played in Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech is 3-4 after season-ending injuries to its starting quarterback and best cornerback.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma (minus-14.5)
Kliff Kingsbury’s experience at Texas Tech is a good illustration of why more and more assistant coaches are being more and more selective in the head coaching jobs they are willing to take. Kingsbury was one of the hottest young names in coaching a couple years ago. Now he’s slogging along with a Red Raiders team that is decent, but not doing enough to keep him on the hiring front burner.
Indiana at Michigan State (minus-16.5)
Last week’s wacky win against Michigan has made us forget that the Spartans seem to be scuffling this season despite remaining undefeated. The Hoosiers can score enough points to keep this one within the spread.
Straight: Michigan State
Texas A&M at Ole Miss (minus-5)
Is it possible that the Rebels are this year’s Aggies? Texas A&M started off as the media darling early last year, only to fall off the map. The Rebels were the hot SEC West team this year after beating Alabama in Week 3, but have lost two of their last three, including last week against Memphis.
Straight: Texas A&M
ATS: Texas A&M
Florida State (minus-7) at Georgia Tech
The Seminoles are undefeated and have one of the five best players in college football in running back Dalvin Cook, so why aren’t we talking about them more? The wheels are falling off so badly at Georgia Tech, it’s worth keeping an eye on that situation.
Straight: Florida State
ATS: Florida State
Kentucky at Mississippi State (minus-12)
These teams are having the quietest seasons in the SEC. Honestly, when’s the last time you thought about either of these teams this year. At a combined 9-4, neither is terrible. Neither is great, either.
Straight: Mississippi State
Utah at Southern Cal (minus-3.5)
Checked this line twice to make sure it’s actually the Trojans that are favored. Southern Cal has lost two straight and fired its coach in the last two weeks. Why are we having such a hard time believing Utah’s pretty good?
Ohio State (minus-21) at Rutgers
The Buckeyes are going back to J.T. Barrett at quarterback this week, as if it matters against Rutgers. Ohio State will score 50.
Straight: Ohio State
ATS: Ohio State