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Swimming against the Tide, go with underdog Bulldogs

Alabama football coach Nick Saban had good luck on his side last week, and most bettors seem to be on his side this week.

Saban’s team is coming off a close game in Baton Rouge, barely escaping to beat Louisiana State in overtime. In 2012, when the Crimson Tide were fortunate to win at LSU in come-from-behind fashion, they returned home the following week and lost to Texas A&M.

This time around, Alabama faces a similar challenge with unbeaten Mississippi State coming to Tuscaloosa today for a heavyweight fight in the Southeastern Conference.

The Bulldogs are fresh after cruising to a 45-16 victory over Tennessee-Martin, and coach Dan Mullen gave his starters a lot of rest, as workhorse running back Josh Robinson had only six carries.

Dak Prescott, who has 18 touchdown passes and 11 rushing scores, is going to be the catalyst at quarterback. I’ll go against the line move and side with Mississippi State as a 9½-point underdog.

I also will play this over the total of 54, the second-lowest of the season for the Bulldogs, who had 61 combined points or more in five of their past six games.

Mississippi State ranks seventh in the nation in total offense, averaging 522.1 yards per game. If Mullen’s defense has a weakness, it’s the secondary, so we can expect Alabama star wide receiver Amari Cooper to make some big plays.

Five more plays for today (home team in CAPS):

■ Temple (+11) over PENN STATE — Penn State has lost three in a row and has a quarterback mired in a miserable sophomore slump. The Nittany Lions are averaging just 20.3 points per game. Christian Hackenberg has a 7-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Temple is ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 18.1 points.

■ ARKANSAS (-1) over Louisiana State — I’ve been saying all season that Arkansas is going to clip one of the SEC West’s heavy hitters, and this appears to be the spot. The Razorbacks have lost one-possession games to Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State, so they have been extremely close to breaking through for coach Bret Bielema’s first conference win. Arkansas had two weeks to prepare for LSU, which is coming off a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Alabama.

■ GEORGIA (-2½) over Auburn — The coaching advantage goes to Auburn, but every other indicator points to Georgia. The Bulldogs have the huge revenge angle after getting beat on a fourth-and-18 Hail Mary last season. Todd Gurley, who was averaging 8.2 yards per carry and considered the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy before being issued a four-game suspension, returns.

The Auburn defense has been horrible, allowing 38 points to Mississippi State, 35 to South Carolina, 31 to Mississippi and 41 to Texas A&M. The Tigers will be hurt by the loss of wide receiver Duke Williams, who injured his leg in a 41-38 home loss to the Aggies.

■ South Carolina (+7) over FLORIDA — The Gamecocks are better than their 4-5 record indicates. Four of their five defeats have come by seven points or fewer. As a road underdog during coach Steve Spurrier’s 10-year tenure, South Carolina has a 16-10-1 spread record. On the flip side, Florida has limped to a 7-13 ATS mark as a home favorite on coach Will Muschamp’s watch.

■ Missouri-TEXAS A&M (Over 55½) — This is the lowest total of the year for Texas A&M. The previous low was 60½. In fact, this is the Aggies’ first total in the 50s since the 2012 finale. Their games are averaging a combined 64.0 points.

Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk went through a three-game slump in which he was intercepted five times without throwing a touchdown pass. Since then, he has four touchdown passes without an interception in two games. It does not hurt that Missouri defensive back Braylon Webb, who has a team-high four interceptions, is suspended for the first half.

Last week: 2-2 against the spread

Season: 20-30-1

Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal

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