Neal's Picks, presented by The College Corner, Week 3
NEAL'S PICKS PALATIAL HEADQUARTERS -- We've picked the Sun Belt. We've dipped into Conference USA. We mixed in some Big 12, some ACC, even some NFL.
And we'll come back to those leagues, conferences and organizations brave enough to play football during this worldwide pandemic/unprecedented times/whatever hyperbolic label needs to be applied in this space.
However, it's time for us at Neal's Picks to dive into the league in which we've forged our reputation of championship excellence -- the Southeastern Conference.
The boys are back. It's as simple as that. We like to joke and have fun in this space, but seriously, all of us at Neal's Picks are just happy to have SEC football back on our screens Saturday.
We'll get back to making fun of any and everyone next week, but this week, here's wishing the best of luck and health to everyone in Auburn, Oxford, Baton Rouge, Fayetteville, both Columbias and College Station. Football is back, and that's a beautiful thing.
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Neal McCready: 6-2 overall, 4-4 ATS
Chase Parham: 5-3 overall, 5-3 ATS
Jeffrey Wright: 6-2 overall, 4-4 ATS
Zach Berry: 4-4 overall, 4-4 ATS
Neal McCready: 11-4 overall, 8-7 ATS
Chase Parham: 9-6 overall, 9-6 ATS
Jeffrey Wright: 11-4 overall, 9-6 ATS
Zach Berry: 9-6 overall, 6-9 ATS
All games Saturday; all times Central Daylight Time
No. 23 Kentucky (+8) at No. 8 Auburn, 11 a.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: I liked this line better when it was in the teens. I was perfectly prepared to take the Wildcats and 12 or 13 points, but at just eight points, I'm not feeling the mojo. Auburn's going to be nasty on defense and it returns an experienced quarterback. I like UK this year, but I think winning on the Plains is going to be too much to ask. Neal's Pick: Auburn 27, Kentucky 17
Chase Parham: I've been on Kentucky all preseason here, but that's when I thought the line was going to be 10-12 and as it gets closer I'm getting buyer's remorse about the Wildcats. Mark Stoops has done a phenomenal job, but Auburn has more talent and Bo Nix flashed enough for me to expect improvement in year two. Parham's Pick: Auburn 34, Kentucky 24
Jeffrey Wright: Trendy dogs have fleas. That’s just science. Too many people are on Kentucky, so I’m going to let them have BBN. I’ll be holding my breath every time Bo Nix lets it rip down the field and loving life. Wright’s pick: Auburn 30, Kentucky 17
Zach Berry: People forget true freshman Bo Nix led Auburn to nine wins a year ago. And last I checked, Kevin Steele and Co. are still there so I like the Plainsmen here. Zach's Pick: Auburn 30, Kentucky 21
No snark. No sarcasm. Whoever did these should be commended. As a uniform snob, I'm a big fan of these threads.
No. 5 Florida (-13) at Ole Miss, 11 a.m., ESPN
Neal McCready: It would be a really cool story if Ole Miss knocked off Dan Mullen and the Gators in Lane Kiffin's debut in Oxford. I just don't see it. Florida's defensive line is going to create problems and the Gators' balance on offense should be able to exploit Ole Miss' weaknesses on defense. Neal's Pick: Florida 34, Ole Miss 17
Chase Parham: I think the first-year coaches are at a huge disadvantage in the early part of the season, as they have had to implement new systems and cultures without spring practice and amid COVID protocol that has kept players out of practices and out of the buildings. Meanwhile, Florida has a system in place and is a trendy pick to upend Georgia in the SEC East. Lane Kiffin is going to get one he's not supposed to this season. It just won't be the opener. A late touchdown will grab the cover though. Parham's Pick: Florida 37, Ole Miss 27
Jeffrey Wright: The metrics like the Rebels here. Bettors like the Rebels here. However, bettor like the Rebels WAY TOO MUCH here. According to The Action Network, 98-percent of the money is on the Rebels. No thank you. I’m good. Wright’s pick: Florida 34, Ole Miss 17
Zach Berry: We all know how Dan Mullen likes to play with his food, but I don't see it happening for Ole Miss in week one. Kyle Trask could be the best quarterback in the SEC and the Gators have returning pass-catchers who can expose the Rebels' secondary. Ole Miss does win the uniform matchup in a landslide though. Zach's Pick: Florida 35, Ole Miss 20
Mississippi State (+17) at No. 6 LSU, 2:30 p.m., CBS
Neal McCready: Oh, hell, I don't know. LSU lost a ton from last year but that's still a very talented roster. I mean, damn, Ed Orgeron was on 60 Minutes Sunday. Meanwhile, there's so much unknown in Starkville -- new coach, new quarterback, an awful summer on social media, etc. The more I hear, the less I'm willing to sleep on the Tigahs. Neal's Pick: LSU 37, Mississippi State 17
Chase Parham: LSU lost half the roster, but it's still immensely talented and State has all the same problems as Ole Miss with the first-year staff as well as a roster that doesn't fit the offensive philosophy. I do think KJ Costello is going to have a nice season. Parham's Pick: LSU 40, State 20
Jeffrey Wright: In 10 years at Texas Tech, Mike Leach had a top-10 scoring offense in seven seasons. Only once did he have an offense that was ranked outside of the top-25 in scoring, year one (61st). Only once in his career has Mike Leach had an offense rank outside the top-100 in scoring, his first year at Washington State. My only hesitation in this game is that LSU is replacing pretty much every contributor on both sides of the ball. However, if you’re going to fade Mike Leach, year one is the time to do it. Wright’s pick: LSU 34, Mississippi State 14
Zach Berry: I do think the Bulldogs struggle mightily in year one of the Mike Leach era. Installing a brand new offense AND defense in an abbreviated season with no spring practice is a tall task. With that said, LSU lost just about everyone and Kyle Costello isn't bad. I like MSU to cover here. Zach's Pick: LSU 38, Mississippi State 23
No. 4 Georgia (-24.5) at Arkansas, 3 p.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: In the middle of the summer, when it felt like we were just fighting for football, I told my daughter, Campbell, if the Razorbacks played this fall, she was going. Months later, getting tickets is inconvenient (meaning they weren't hand-delivered to her) and she's planning to go to a socially-distanced, off-campus party instead. I can't really say I blame her. Neal's Pick: Georgia 42, Arkansas 10
Chase Parham: I do want to see the quarterback situation at Georgia, but that's more for information against teams with a pulse. Arkansas has been flatlined for years. Parham's Pick: Georgia 45, Arkansas 17
Jeffrey Wright: Kirby Smart is 3-2 in SEC games as a 24-or-more-point favorite. I find it unlikely that Feleipe Franks will make a difference for the Hogs. Also, I cannot really envision a scenario that is likely in which Georgia doesn’t cover. Wright’s pick: Georgia 41, Arkansas 13
Zach Berry: It won't matter who is under center, Arkansas is terrible and Georgia is not. I'd be surprised if the Bulldogs let them cross midfield. Zach's Pick: Georgia 40, Arkansas 6
No. 2 Alabama (-28.5) at Missouri, 6 p.m., ESPN
Neal McCready: Eliah Drinkwitz is canceling long-standing agreements to do radio shows in Missouri. Eli, this isn't Appy State, my man. Not everyone in the media here is going to kiss your ass. I mean, like 90 percent will, but there will be a few that will get after you if your team sucks. Oh, and Eli, your team is going to suck. You might should make nice some. Neal's Pick: Alabama 49, Missouri 13
Chase Parham: Eli Drinkwitz has already started the preachy message of how Mizzou does things a different way, implying the Tigers don't recruit the way the rest of the league does. Well, yeah, Eli that's the point, and the high horse won't protect you from the Tide on Saturday. This line is huge, but it feels like a trap. Parham's Pick: Alabama 45, Missouri 13
Jeffrey Wright: Nick Saban has covered the number in every season opener except one since arriving at Alabama. However, all of those games have either been at a favorable neutral site or at home. Also, Eli Drinkwitz seems like the guy that will play for the cover and claim a moral victory in year one. Wright’s pick: Alabama 42, Missouri 21
Zach Berry: That's a big number for week one in 2020. Alabama is probably going 10-0, but Missouri is serviceable to very good on defense year in, year out so I think Eli Drinkwitz and Co. can keep it close, force a turnover, and score one late to cover. Zach's Pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 17
No. 16 Tennessee (-3) at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Neal McCready: I do this every damn year. I know it's likely over for my man Boom, but I just can't give him up. I know he's bad for me. I know he costs me games. I know I'll likely go to bed late Saturday angry at him, unfulfilled and hurt. Still, with a fresh season upon us, I find myself easing Boom's way. Dammit. Neal's Pick: South Carolina 23, Tennessee 21
Chase Parham: This is actually a pretty fun night game in week one. I think Tennessee will be better -- not back but better. And I've been down on South Carolina for a while, so I'll stick with that. Parham's Pick: Tennessee 20, South Carolina 16
Jeffrey Wright: This line stinks. I mean it reeks. On the one hand, this does feel like the perfect way for Tennessee to get kicked in the nuts to start the season, but on the other, if they can’t cover this number, I’ll gladly pay the price of a L in Neal’s Picks because the meltdown will be worth it. Tennessee 24, South Carolina 16
Zach Berry: This one will be gross. The Vols aren't back and Coach Boom is still trying to find an offense. The Gamecocks have no one back with 500 receiving yards or 200 rushing yards and the Vols, all jokes aside, are going to be very talented on defense. Give me the moron who doesn't know his vegetables. Zach's Pick: Tennessee 26, South Carolina 16
Vanderbilt (+29.5) at No. 10 Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network Alternate Channel
Neal McCready: Yes, it's a lot of points, and yes, I think the Aggies are overrated again, but I think Vanderbilt has a real chance to truly, historically, suck. Neal's Pick: Texas A&M 45, Vanderbilt 10
Chase Parham: This says more about Vanderbilt than it does about Texas A&M. Parham's Pick: TAMU 41, Vanderbilt 6
Jeffrey Wright: Vanderbilt might set a record for the worst offense in SEC history this season, so that’s something to monitor. Wright’s pick: Texas A&M 41, Vanderbilt 9
Zach Berry: I legitimately don't think the Commodores have an experienced returner on the roster. They're going to be BAD. The Aggies aren't anything to ride home about and this seems like a trap, but I just can't get past how bad Derek Mason's bunch has been the last few years. Zach's Pick: Texas A&M 41, Vanderbilt 7