The return of the SEC injected some life into the college football season on Saturday as the league kicked off its season in unprecedented fashion with all 14 teams in action against conference foes. But things will kick up another notch this week with a pair of critical matchups carrying conference and national title implications.
The SEC on CBS Game of the Week pits No. 2 Alabama against No. 13 Texas A&M, while No. 7 Auburn and No. 4 Georgia will battle it out in an earlier-than-usual rivalry matchup. The games are the only two of the week pitting ranked teams against each other. But there are some other interesting matchups, including TCU at No. 9 Texas, No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State and South Carolina at No. 3 Florida.
Let's take a look at what the oddsmakers think will get money on both sides of the equation, with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Saturday, Oct. 3
No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama (-17)
Neither team covered the spread in their season-opening victories, but the Aggies looked particularly shaky in beating Vanderbilt just 17-12 at home. Alabama only beat Missouri just 38-19 on the road, but the Crimson Tide put it in cruise control after jumping out to a 28-3 lead in the first half. Alabama's average margin of victory over the last five games of this series is 17.2 points, but even in a losing effort each time, the Aggies still averaged 21.4 points during those games. The Texas A&M offense will need to improve a lot this week if it's going to score three touchdowns this time and cover this spread against the Crimson Tide.
No. 7 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia (-7.5)
Don't be fooled by the final score of Georgia's 37-10 win at Arkansas. The Bulldogs struggled offensively and rode their defense to a comfortable margin of victory. Auburn struggled offensively, too, but at least it was playing a respectable opponent in Kentucky. Ultimately, the Tigers showed some life late in beating Kentucky 29-13. Georgia won this game 21-14 last season at Auburn, and it wouldn't surprising if the final score and point total are in the same neighborhood this year.
TCU at No. 9 Texas (-13)
Buckle up because this one could get wild. Texas needed overtime to outlast Texas Tech 63-56 on Saturday, while TCU fell 37-34 to Iowa State. Considering how good Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan looked in limited duty, it's safe to assume this TCU offense will be able to score against an uninspiring Texas defense. It will be interesting to see what the final point total is in this game.
Oklahoma State's two victories against Tulsa and West Virginia have been uninspiring. But with Oklahoma losing to Kansas State and Texas looking vulnerable against Texas Tech, the door is open for the Cowboys to make a run at the Big 12 title. Shellacking Kansas before a bye week will be a good way for Oklahoma State to regroup. Look for the Cowboys to unload against a Jayhawks defense that allowed 47 points to a totally revamped Baylor team on Saturday.
No. 18 Oklahoma at Iowa State (+9)
Speaking of regrouping, Oklahoma faces a must-win at Iowa State following the Sooners' disastrous loss to Kansas State. With Texas awaiting next week, the time is now for the Sooners to correct the issues exposed during a multi-faceted collapse on Saturday. Iowa State's season started in disappointing fashion with a loss to Louisiana, but the Cyclones are a dangerous foe that nearly upset Oklahoma on the road last season.