Around The SEC

Is Auburn football for real? Gus Malzahn’s past disappointments validate concern

Is Auburn for real?

College football fans (and Auburn backers) taught themselves to stop believing media hype after the Associated Press became “the boys who cried Tiger” too many times.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was a media darling back in 2013 (time flies!) after leading the Tigers past Alabama to the national championship game. Among the many disappointments since then…

2014: Auburn was ranked No. 6 nationally in the preseason poll, but finished with an 8-5 straight up record, 4-9 against the spread.

2015: Auburn was again ranked No. 6 in the preseason, but could only manage records of 7-6 straight up and 4-9 ATS.

2017: Auburn was ranked No. 12 in the preseason, but dropped four games while going 6-6-2 ATS.

2018: Auburn was ranked No. 9 in the preseason, but finished the season 8-5 straight up and 6-7 ATS.

You could understand skepticism this past August when Auburn entered the 2019 season ranked No. 16. What would that mean? Four or five losses? Barely bowl caliber?

So, far, it’s meant Auburn has been one of the most underrated teams in the country! The Tigers are 5-0 straight up and ATS. Only Louisiana Lafayette, Oklahoma State, and SMU are also a perfect 5-0 against the spread. Auburn’s slate includes impressive results vs. then No. 11 Oregon, then No. 17 Texas A&M, and last week against Mississippi State.

You probably watched at least some of last week’s laugher. Auburn (-7.5) beat Mississippi State 59-31, winning total yardage 573-476 on 8.6 to 5.4 yards-per-play. The score was 42-9 at halftime.

This Saturday, now No. 7 Auburn visits No. 10 Florida at the Swamp in Gainesville (CBS, 2:30 p.m.) in another potential statement maker. It’s a sign of increased market respect that Auburn was bet up to a 3-point favorite at that dangerous site.

Has the market over-adjusted to Auburn’s cover string (which goes back to last season’s 63-14 pounding of Purdue in the Liberty Bowl)? Bettors must determine if Auburn really is a threat to Alabama and LSU at the top of the SEC West, or just a short-term fluke exploiting opponents who should have taken them more seriously.

Other Notes

Mississippi State won’t have a chance to bounce back this week from its lost to Auburn because of a bye. The Bulldogs take the field again Saturday October 12 when they visit Tennessee in Knoxville. State is still on track to earn bowl eligibility with a 3-2 straight up record (2-3 ATS), and Arkansas, Abilene Christian, and Ole Miss still on the schedule.

Ole Miss lost last week at Alabama in a game that was stunningly similar to Auburn/Miss. State. Alabama won scoreboard 59-31, total yards 573-476, and yards-per-play 8.6 to 5.4. The Rebels trailed 38-10 at the half. The main difference…Ole Miss was getting 36 points at sports books instead of 7.5! Rebels backers got the money.

This Saturday, Ole Miss hosts disappointing Vanderbilt (SEC Network, 6:30 p.m.). The Rebels (2-3 straight up and ATS) will likely close near a 7-point favorite over the Commodores (1-3 straight up, 0-4 ATS). Recreational bettors without a school affiliation may have trouble backing either team at that price.

Southern Miss opened Conference USA play with a 31-13 win over Texas-El Paso last Saturday. That victory margin didn’t cover the high spread of 25 points. The Golden Eagles did compile impressive stats though, winning total yardage 519-294 and yards-per-play 8.0 to 5.5. USM takes this week off before hosting North Texas the following Saturday.

Football fans were treated to a rare NFL Thursday night thriller last week when the Philadelphia Eagles (+4) upset the Green Bay Packers 34-27. Another great matchup with playoff implications this week when the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams visit the Seattle Seahawks (FOX, 7:20 p.m.).

Seattle will likely close as a short favorite on a historically strong (but recently overrated) home field after the Rams were humbled by Tampa Bay 55-40 last week. Sharps (professional bettors) were worried about quarterback Jared Goff’s inconsistency before that result. Now they’re worried about L.A.’s defense too.

Thursday’s a huge day for sports bettors because Divisional Round play begins in the Major League playoffs. National League divisional champs and the wildcard survivor take the field first. The American League begins its opening round Friday.

A composite of global sports books still shows the Houston Astros as the favorite to win the A.L. (+120 on the money line) and the World Series (+200). The Los Angeles Dodgers are the market choice to win the N.L. (-120 to take the senior circuit, +250 to win the WS). Both will be facing dangerous dogs right off the bat. The Yankees are also a popular betting choice at +200 to win the A.L., +400 to win the World Series.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at VSiN.com/newsletter
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