SEC Defenses Cash ‘Unders,’ Best Bets in Week 2

Arkansas Razorbacks

Jay Pryce

Friday, September 8, 2017 7:11 PM GMT

Friday, Sep. 8, 2017 7:11 PM GMT

Picking the 'under' in SEC contests has proven a profitable venture over the last few seasons. The conference fields many of the nation's top defenses year after year. Which games stay south of the total in Week 2? Here's our predictions.

SEC defenses are ‘under’ machines in recent years. In 2016, four teams finished with top-10 scoring defenses nationally: Alabama (1), LSU (5), Florida (6) and Auburn (8). Combined, they held opponents to 15.5 points per game, generating an abundance of ‘unders’ with a 36-16-1 record. The units stopped 38 of 53 foes from reaching their expected team total.

As a conference, the ‘under’ went 95-78-8 in 2016 overall. The year before, the record finished 106-64-8. In fact, the SEC totals market averaged over 50 percent just once in the last five seasons. What’s the point? With a little homework, one can uncover rich value handicapping the ‘under’ in this volatile college football odds market from week to week.

 

Week 2 Best Bets

SEC teams went 8-6 in ‘under’ betting to open the season, staying a combined 1.6 points south of a combined 55.6 average total. What’s the best ‘under’ bets for Week 2? Here’s our NCAAF picks:

 

South Carolina at Missouri

Pick: ‘Under’ 72

Missouri and Missouri State racked up a combined 115 points in last week’s opener. How can anyone in their right mind lean the ‘under’ on the Tigers this week? Because South Carolina head coach and defensive guru Will Muschamp will control the game. Missouri’s offense is its strength, and Muschamp will plan to keep it off the field at all costs.

The Tigers defense, which allowed 31.5 points per game last season, is young and inexperienced, regressing from 2016. The Gamecocks’ offense is improving rapidly under quarterback Jake Bentley, but let’s not forget this is a unit that failed to score more than 14 points on the road in any contest last season. South Carolina, in fact, has not scored 30 points in an SEC road tilt since a 42-35 loss at Auburn in October 2014. They likely flirt with the number here, but this game will struggle to reach 60 rather than 70 points.

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TCU (-3) at Arkansas

Pick: ‘Under’ 58

Arkansas’ defense allowed 31.1 points per game in 2016, 10th in the SEC; a big fall from 19 per game two seasons prior. Fixing the unit was coach Bret Bielema’s primary focus the entire offseason. Bielema promoted Paul Rhoads as the new coordinator and the two adopted a 3-4 system to better combat hurry-up, spread offenses like TCU. Consider this weekend the litmus test.

The idea is that a 3-4 scheme will keep more athletic players on the turf and hinder big play potential down the field. TCU, under head coach Gary Patterson, is adept at picking up big gains and running up scores offensively. It accrued 572 total yards in a 41-38 overtime home loss to the Hogs last season.  The unit’s speed and depth in 2017 rival that of any FBS team nationally. Nonetheless, a true road game in SEC territory can intimidate and slow any productive offense down.

Patterson’s Horned Frogs have squared off against SEC foes five times in his 17-year tenure. They’ve scored more than 30 points in regulation time once, a 42-3 blowout over Ole Miss in the 2014 Peach Bowl. All were either at home or on neutral soil. Since 2004, eight Big 12 schools have tested SEC teams in true road games, six stayed ‘under’ the total. TCU are slight favorites to win, but don’t expect it to run away on offense. The Razorbacks defense stays energized and influential throughout. 

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