Two top 25 teams, but Bama's a 27-point favorite; Auburn rebounds easily

Friday, September 21, 2018

Two top 25 teams, but Bama's a 27-point favorite; Auburn rebounds easily

Alabama fans are turning Tua Tagovailoa into the greatest thing since the smartphone, or Amazon Prime.

The left-handed sophomore quarterback has been a gun slinging phenomenon with ball distribution instincts that, so far, have been unlike anything we've seen this side of Aaron Rodgers, who seems to have that knack in the NFL.

It's really not that complicated why Tagovailoa is flourishing. He's gifted and unflappable, but he's surrounded by a lot of moving parts. There's Jerry Jeudy,  DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III at receiver, with an occasional big catch from tight end Irv Smith and freshman Jaylen Waddle. Then he has a stable of runners, Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs.

The line is a good one, maybe the best Alabama's had since the 2012 team had Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, Cyrus Kouandjio, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Anthony Steen.

Steen was the only player that went undrafted. 

Offense is a big part why No. 1 Alabama goes into Saturday afternoon's SEC contest against No. 22 Texas A&M as a 27-point favorite.

Playing the game in Bryant-Denny probably doesn't hurt, of course.

As productive as the Aggies were a couple weeks ago in their 28-26 loss to No. 2 Clemson, the Las Vegas sports books must believe that if the game turns into a shootout, the Tide will shoot down A&M by a bunch. 

They also must think, for now anyway, Alabama is a better overall team than Clemson, which was a 14-point road favorite against the Aggies. Alabama is favored to beat A&M by almost twice that. Not since 2013 have two top 25 teams met with a point spread as uneven as this year's game. That year, Florida State was favored by 30 over Duke.

Clemson went into College Station with an NFL-talent defensive front seven, and was expected to dominate Jimbo Fisher's first Aggie team. What happened wasn't expected: A&M 25 first downs, Clemson 14; A&M 501 yards passing, Clemson 413; A&M time of possession 33:52, Clemson 26:08.

Unless you watched a game I didn't, I saw the Aggies were just as explosive as Clemson and Clemson had a tough time navigating third down, converting just 4 of 13 chances to A&M's 6 of 16.

How did A&M lose the game? It committed two turnovers, Clemson had none.

This week's picks:

Texas A&M vs. Alabama
We can't speak for oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, who is really good with his betting algorithms, but this weekend is his kind of danger for a big favorite like Alabama. He loves underdogs, and A&M the big dog it is, has a quarterback in Kellen Mond who might end up as dangerous as any of the nine quarterbacks Jimbo Fisher has sent to the NFL. 

That's a mouthful for now, but Fisher is known for his quarterback whispering, and he's turned the 6-2 Mond into a lethal weapon with his accuracy, decision-making and scrambling. Alabama's defense is going to face  perhaps the most explosive offense it will see this year. Maybe Mississippi State is better. Maybe Missouri and Drew Lock. LSU is not. Auburn is not. LSU and Auburn do not have a running back the likes of the Aggies' Trayveon Williams or a tight end like  6-4, 250 Jace Sternberger.
Alabama 45, Texas A&M 21

Arkansas vs. Auburn
Just when we were ready to buy in, Auburn goes into a funk. At home. To an LSU team that was a double digit underdog and isn't likely to win more than eight or nine games this year. For goodness sakes, Gus Malzahn, the $49 Million Dollar Man, was outcoached by Ed Orgeron for the second straight year. Ed Orgeron! Malzahn has now lost three of his last four Division I games.

With the schedule Auburn has this season, it's doubtful the Tigers will win more than eight unless a running game appears, unless the secondary and linebackers support what is supposed to be a formidable defensive front. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow seemed to have his way against Auburn in the final minutes.

There is good news though. Arkansas, a 30-point underdog, is visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night and the Razorbacks are reeling from a 44-17 beatdown at home to North Texas.
Auburn 38, Arkansas 7

South Alabama vs. Memphis
This is not a road game the 1-2 Jaguars are going to enjoy. Memphis is a 30 1/2-point favorite and has won 11 of its last 14 home games. Unlike South, which is struggling to get the program on track under first-year coach Steve Campbell, the Tigers are rolling along at 2-1 with an offense that has leaned heavily on the run, averaging 366 yards a game.

Memphis running back Darrell Henderson leads the nation in rushing (521 yards), yards per carry (14.5) and yards per game (173.7).  Playing this one close would be quite the achievement for the Jags.
Memphis 40, South Alabama 21

Georgia 37, Missouri 24
Ole Miss 40, Kent State 27
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 23
LSU 24, Louisiana Tech 17
Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 17
Florida 27, Tennessee 24

Spoiler alert
6 1/2-point underdog Purdue 31, No. 23 Boston College 27
4 1/2-point underdog Louisville 37, Virginia 30
3-point underdog Minnesota 23, Maryland 21

Other games
Central Florida 35, Florida Atlantic 31 (Friday)
Michigan 30, Nebraska 14
Ohio State 48, Tulane 9
Miami 35, Florida International 20
Stanford 28, Oregon 27
Wisconsin 27, Iowa 24
Washington 31, Arizona State 21
TCU 35, Texas 28

Last week: 14-6
Season: 54-16

Charles Hollis has covered college football since 1983.

from Auburn Sports Impact

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