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SEC Football Picks: #9 Florida at Kentucky & 5 more

Profile Picture: Nick Roush

September 12th, 2019

-8 (-110)
O 48.5 (-110)
+8 (-110)
U 48.5 (-110)
For the first time in a long time, a streak does not hang over this SEC East matchup. Last year in Gainesville, Kentucky dominated the trenches, paving the way for 303 rushing yards and a 27-16 victory. It was Kentucky’s first win over Florida in 31 years.

The lengthy streak does not accurately reflect how close this contest has been in recent years. If you throw out a 2016 blowout, four of the last five games have been decided by an average of 5.75 points.

Two coordinators are familiar foes. Eddie Gran’s offense has faced a Todd Grantham defense in three straight seasons entering Saturday’s showdown. In their first matchup, Kentucky scored 41 points and recorded 581 total yards against Grantham’s aggressive group to win at Louisville as 27-point underdogs. The blitz-happy defense propelled Mississippi State to a 45-7 victory the following year. Like last year, the outcome of this game will be decided in the trenches.
To accompany Grantham’s aggressive scheme, the Florida Gators have two future pros on their defensive line, Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. Their pass rushing attack leads the nation in sacks (15) and is second in tackles for loss (26) through two games. Aided by an inept Miami offensive line in week one, they'll have one of their toughest tests all season vs. Kentucky. Stocked with potentially four future pros, they're led by a former five-star recruit and the reigning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, left tackle Landon Young.

Kentucky's offensive line has protected their quarterback well this season, allowing just three sacks so far, but this week they'll be protecting a different quarterback. A torn patellar tendon vs. Eastern Michigan sidelined Terry Wilson for the season. Starting in his place is grad transfer Sawyer Smith, a dual-threat option who led Troy to a 5-2 record and a victory in the Dollar General Bowl a season ago.

If Smith can remain composed against Florida's pressure, Kentucky's rushing attack and home field advantage should keep this game close. If you aren't feeling froggy enough to bet the UK money line, consider this: When ranked and playing an unranked SEC foe, Dan Mullen is 6-8 ATS (1-3 last year) with five upset losses. On the other hand, Mark Stoops has played seven top 25 teams not named Georgia since 2016. UK is 7-0 ATS in those matchups with four outright wins.

Pick: Kentucky +8

#2 Alabama at South Carolina (+25.5), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Kentucky isn’t the only SEC East team breaking in a new quarterback. A year ago Ryan Hlinski was the second-ranked pocket passer in the country. He put up impressive numbers (24-30, 282 yards, 2 touchdowns) in his debut against Charleston Southern, but that was an FCS team. This is Alabama. The Crimson Tide roll in Columbia.

Pick: Alabama -25.5

Northwestern State vs #4 LSU, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

New offensive coordinator Joe Brady has transformed Joe Burrow into a Heisman contender. Even if there’s a slight hangover from the big road win at Texas, the Tigers might score 60 points.

Pick: LSU

Kent State at #8 Auburn (-35), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Kent State is not a good football team. The Golden Flashes needed a 43-yard field goal in overtime to upend FCS Kennesaw State last Saturday. “Personally, I wish it was at noon. We'd have more time to prepare for our next opponent,” said Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.

Pick: Auburn -35

Arkansas State vs #3 Georgia (-33.5), Saturday, Noon, ESPN2

Georgia is sitting comfortable in the driver’s seat of the SEC East. Arkansas State cannot match the Bulldogs’ physicality in the trenches, but they can put up points, averaging 36.5 through the first two games. They’ll score just enough to cover.

Pick: Arkansas State +33.5

Lamar at #16 Texas A&M (-43), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Clemson controlled the game in Death Valley, but Jimbo Fisher found a way to get the backdoor cover down the stretch. He’ll make sure he puts up enough points Saturday night at Kyle Field to secure the cover for the third straight week.

Pick: A&M -43

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