The effects of a COVID-19-shortened offseason have been apparent through the first seven weeks of the college football season and magnified through Week 3 of the SEC’s 10-game, conference-only schedule. For a league that typically trades blows in weekly pound-for-pound heavyweight bouts, the results have been high-scoring and unpredictable. Thus, college football picks offer great opportunity for value on the best online sportsbooks as every team, except for Vanderbilt, could win on any given Saturday.
With the fourth week of SEC play scheduled to take place this weekend, Vanderbilt and Florida have been hit hard by Coronavirus and forced to postpone their respective games against Missouri and LSU. Even without two of its seven games being played, the conference is continuing on as scheduled with one of the biggest matchups of the entire year on the docket. With a forecast of chaos in the air, these two games provide the best opportunities for value and could see an upset on Saturday:
No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, October 17, 2020 – 8:00 p.m. EDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium
What might be the biggest storyline in sports this week came out of Tuscaloosa. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and immediately left the team’s facilities upon receiving his results. Steve Sarkisian, the team’s offensive coordinator and former Washington University head coach, will handle the responsibilities in the interim while Saban coaches in all ways possible from home.
It is unknown as to whether Saban will be able to coach from Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, but his absence from what could be the game that determines the outlook of the SEC would be a huge blow for No. 2 Alabama as No. 3 Georgia comes to town. Atypical to the normal standard, it is the Crimson Tide that boasts the nation’s top offense, while the Bulldogs carry a suffocating defense that is paired with a conservative, run-heavy offense that caters to time of possession.
What is the Latest From Title Town?
Alabama’s offense has the highest-rated passer in the country and is averaging 8.66 yards per play, more than a yard better than the rest of Power 5 offenses, and 12.69 yards per pass. The Tide put away the Missouri Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies early in their games and against the Ole Miss Rebels last week, the offense had a few empty drives early in the first quarter, but went on to put up 63 points and 723 yards.
Mac Jones has completed 80 percent of his passes for 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns and running back Najee Harris has rushed for 347 yards and ten touchdowns. Both pieces of the backfield are playing like Heisman Trophy candidates and DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle might be the top two wide receivers in the nation. This game, as usual, will be largely won or lost in the trenches and Alabama’s offensive line is built to deal with a big Georgia defensive front.
The defense in Tuscaloosa has not quite been up to the precedent set in previous years. The Tide have allowed at least 19 points in each of its first three games and let the Rebels hang in the ballgame until late in the fourth quarter last weekend. Time is of the essence for turning things around, but Georgia’s offense is not nearly as fast nor as explosive as Ole Miss’ and Alabama will be just fine.
What is the Latest From Athens?
Georgia’s offense is catered to holding the ball and letting the defense do its job. Quarterback Stetson Bennett seems to have something clicking under center and has completed 63.1 percent of his 84 pass attempts. The Bulldogs rely on the push from its offensive line and running back Zamir White has 209 yards and four touchdowns through the first three games of the year.
While the offense is doing enough to win, the defense is where the prowess lies in Athens and Georgia leads the nation with only 3.7 yards per play allowed. 6-foot-5, 330-pound Jordan Davis is an enormous, strong presence at defensive tackle, but head coach Kirby Smart likes to rotate the defensive front in waves. Jalen Carter finds reps in the middle and seniors Malik Herring and Devonte Wyatt lead the charge at defensive end. The team executes the two-gap responsibilities very well.
At linebacker, the Bulldogs are loaded. Azeez Onjulari, Quay Walker, and Nakobe Dean are physical in pass rush, but fast and agile enough to cover a tight end or receiver over the middle. Defending Alabama’s receivers will be a tall task, but if there is a group able to lock them down, it would be the Georgia secondary. Nobody yet has been able to cover Smith, Waddle, or John Metchie, but this will be the greatest test they face all season.
Who is Going to Win?
If there is an offensive line unit that can run the ball on the dominant Georgia defensive front, it would be Alabama’s offensive line and Harris. If the Tide is able to win the battle in the trenches and force the Bulldogs to commit to the run, it would be difficult to imagine that Georgia has the offensive weapons to keep up with the points that Alabama will score through the air.
However, Georgia is well set-up to stifle the run game. If the Bulldogs can keep the safeties back and pressure Jones with only four rushers, they will turn the game into a lower-scoring slugfest that favors their side. In addition, with the status of Saban's ability to coach, and knowing that he likely will not be on the sideline. With the value currently presented on sports betting sites, the uncertainty leans the needle in favor of Georgia pulling the upset.
No. 14 Auburn Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Saturday, October 17, 2020 – 12:00 p.m. EDT at Williams-Brice Stadium
Auburn may not be lighting up the scoreboard, it may not be grinding out long drives and it may be the worst offense in the SEC thus far. However, the Tigers have only lost one turnover and quarterback Bo Nix has shown moments of his potential, despite his accuracy issues.
Defensively, the Tigers send pass rush in droves and will continue to do so on Saturday against a Gamecocks offensive line that has been struggling to protect the quarterback.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s offense has done a great job of controlling games and has dominated the time of possession battle, holding the ball for at least 34 minutes per game. The group has had some turnover issues, losing four in three games, but quarterback Collin Hill has only thrown one interception. He will have to continue that consistency on Saturday and control the tempo for an offense that does enough to hang into the game late and grind out a win.
The defense has allowed at least 31 points in each of its three games, but it got the ball rolling against an abysmal Vanderbilt team last week and has done a good job of getting off the field when it counts.
South Carolina and Auburn have played only twelve times in all and last played in 2014. The Tigers are 10-1-1 in the series, but the Gamecocks have an opportunity to get one back on Saturday. Time of possession and third down stops will be the key to the game and South Carolina is better at both, which makes it a great value pick on sports betting sites.
Free NCAAF Pick: South Carolina +3.5 at -120 with Bovada