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2020 SEC Football Opening Weekend ATS Picks

Jake Mitchell

by Jake Mitchell in College Football

Sep 24, 2020 · 10:20 AM PDT

Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers take to the field for the first time since their championship win on Saturday. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
  • The 2020 SEC football season finally kicks off this Saturday, September 26th
  • The SEC’s opening weekend features several intriguing underdogs
  • Read below for ATS picks for the first weekend of SEC action

After an offseason of doubt, and now a month into the college football season, the SEC will finally see game action this weekend.

While the slate may not feature any marquee matchups with blatant playoff implications, there are plenty of tricky games for good teams, and of course, some interesting point spreads.

Kentucky Wildcats vs Auburn Tigers Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Kentucky Wildcats +7.5 (-120) +245 O 49.5 (-112)
Auburn Tigers -7.5 (+100) -320 U 49.5 (-108)

All odds taken Sep. 24 at DraftKings

Pick #1: Wildcats Give Auburn a Scare

The fact that this game, the only ranked-vs-ranked SEC matchup of the weekend, is a 12:00 EST kickoff, is completely ridiculous. This is the best game of the weekend in the conference, and not just because of the fact that both teams are ranked in the Top 25, but also the way these teams match up.

Both run games are likely to have big days, but especially Kentucky. The Tigers enter 2020 having lost the heart of their defense in Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and Nick Coe up front. They’ll face a Kentucky line that features four upperclassmen, including three redshirt seniors. Tight end Justin Riggs, who is involved in run blocking often, is a redshirt senior as well.

That’s most of a front that paved the way for 3,624 yards in 2020. Making things even tougher for the Auburn defense will be the return of UK quarterback Terry Wilson. While Lynn Bowden ran the ball well for Kentucky a year ago at quarterback, having a true passing threat back at the position will force Auburn to pick their poison.

The Wildcat defense gave up 4.6 yards per carry a season ago, so with a strong run game and SEC Freshman of the Year Bo Nix, Auburn will have offensive success. That’s why I’m avoiding the straight-up upset pick here. However, Kentucky is going to have a big day on the ground, and they’ll keep it tight with the Tigers.

The Pick: Kentucky +7.5 (-120) @ Auburn

LSU Tigers vs Mississippi State Bulldogs Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Mississippi State Bulldogs +16.5 (-110) +540 O 57.5 (-108)
LSU Tigers -16.5 (-110) -850 U 57.5 (-112)

Pick #2: Tigers Come Out Flat

The defending national champions are that in name alone. The 2020 LSU Tigers will look absolutely nothing like the 2019 team, and it feels like things are going to come back down to Earth in Baton Rouge this season.

At this point it has been well-documented, but here’s a quick refresher. Both coordinators are gone, and so is the Heisman-winning quarterback from a season ago and every significant weapon he had.

It’s the same story on defense, where most of the leaders and playmakers except for Derek Stingley Jr. are off to the NFL as well.

Ed Orgeron’s pre-title track record is not a good one, and neither is LSU’s. A look at both will reveal the epitome of average and mediocre when it comes to on-field production before 2019. After a 2020 in which a couple of rentals, Joe Brady and Joe Burrow, drove the team to its success, this year should be a return to what we typically see from Orgeron teams, and LSU teams.

Mississippi State will be in a transition year, but they’ve got the pieces to keep it close with an LSU team that won’t be nearly as good as the 2019 squad. KJ Costello transfers into Starkville from Stanford ton run Mike Leach’s air raid, and Kylin Hill is one of the conference’s best playmakers. With 16.5 points, I’ll take an energized State team on opening weekend.

The Pick: Mississippi State +16.5 (-110) @ LSU

South Carolina Gamecocks vs Tennessee Volunteers Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Tennessee Volunteers -3.5 (+100) -178 O 43.5 (-110)
South Carolina Gamecocks +3.5 (-120) +144 U 43.5 (-110)

Pick #3: USC Will Put the Brakes on Tennessee’s Hype Train

There’s reason to be encouraged in Knoxville. The Volunteers won their last six games of the year, finishing 8-5 with a 5-3 mark in the SEC. However, that doesn’t mean the rebuild is complete for Jeremy Pruitt.

The 2019 finish was great, but the next step is putting together a full season together at a place that hasn’t had one in a long time.

This is mostly the same team that opened the year with a loss to Georgia State, and went on to lose five of their first seven. The quarterback position is shaky, with multiple experienced players, but not one standout.

Whether it’s Jarrett Guarantano, JT Shrout, or Harrison Bailey, the Tennessee passing game doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence yet.

On the Gamecock side, Will Muschamp’s track record against Tennessee is a good sign. Since taking the job, Muschamp has gone 3-1 against the Volunteers, including the 2016 matchup in which South Carolina pulled the upset at home against the Josh Dobbs-led #18 Volunteers.

The public is all over Tennessee here, but the Vol hype is premature. South Carolina played one of the nation’s toughest schedules a year ago, and they’re much better than the 4-8 record indicates. They’ll give Tennessee more than they can handle on the season’s opening weekend.

The Pick: South Carolina +3.5 (-120) vs Tennessee

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