Week 3 in the SEC brings us one of the most critical conference matchups of the season. No. 12 LSU will visit No. 7 Auburn in a game that will separate a contender from a pretender not only in the SEC West, but the race for the College Football Playoff. It's not the only big game on the docket, though. No. 1 Alabama heads to Oxford to take on the potent Ole Miss offense in a game that will challenge the new-look Crimson Tide secondary.

Outside of those, there are only two other Power Five vs. Power Five matchups on the slate. 

What will go down this weekend in the SEC? Let's break it down with predictions, odds and picks.

Record straight up: 19-3 (10-2 last week)
Record against the spread: 6-9 (1-7 last week)
*Games without lines are not counted in the ATS record

Main courses

No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn (-9.5)

  • Is Burrow for real?
  • Is Auburn's OL fixed?
  • Better QB wins it

Three weeks into the season, both breeds of SEC West Tigers have lingering questions that need to be answered. Luckily for us, all of them will be answered this weekend on The Plains. Auburn's offensive line will square up against a fast and physical LSU defense two weeks after it struggled to get going against Washington in a win over the Huskies. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has been more of a game manager through two games, and now he's going up against an Auburn defensive front that makes a living in the opponent's backfield. Both running games will struggle to get going, which makes this a battle of the signal-callers. Give me Auburn's Jarrett Stidham over Burrow in a game that gets sideways in the fourth quarter. Pick: Auburn (-9.5)

No. 1 Alabama at Ole Miss (+21)

  • Big test for Tide secondary
  • Can Ole Miss stop anybody?
  • Upset alert

The luster got wiped off this matchup a little bit last week when Ole Miss' defense gave up 41 points and 627 yards against Southern Illinois. Because of that, it's only logical to assume that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of the Crimson Tide offense will have their way with the porous Rebels defense. While that is probably true, the Tide defense will have its hands full with quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, running back Scottie Phillips and wide receivers A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. Considering, outside of Deionte Thompson, the entire Tide secondary is new, shutting that group down is a big-time challenge. Ole Miss will put some points on the board early, hang on late, and not only cover -- but spring the outright upset. Pick Ole Miss (+21)

Strong cocktails

Vanderbilt at No. 8 Notre Dame (-14.5)

  • Is Notre Dame for real?
  • Vandy defense has been solid
  • 'Dore defense stand tall?

It isn't often that Vanderbilt plays in a relatively big game, but an SEC team going on the road to play in front of Touchdown Jesus is always a cool sight -- even if that team is Vanderbilt. Don't sleep on the Commodores. They rank second in the SEC in yards per play allowed (3.97) and scoring defense (8.5). What they lack in athleticism and top end talent, they make up for with discipline instilled by coach Derek Mason. Plus, what is Notre Dame, exactly? One week after controlling Michigan, the Fighting Irish had to scratch and claw against Ball State. Brandon Wimbush has been average at best under center and will have his hands full against the 'Dores. The Fighting Irish will find a way to cover late, but it won't be easy. Pick: Notre Dame (-14.5)

Missouri at Purdue (+7)

  • Luster taken off
  • Drew Lock dealing
  • Stop Rondale Moore

Before the season, this game looked like it would be an explosion of yards and points, with an over/under approaching triple digits. Since then, Purdue started 0-2 -- including last week to Eastern Michigan -- and the Boilermakers have lost their luster. Tigers quarterback Drew Lock will light up the box score, force Purdue to go score-for-score and the Tigers will slow down Boilermakers star Rondale Moore to easily cover. Pick: Missouri (-7)


Middle Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia (-32.5)

  • Line too high?
  • Slow down Stockstill
  • Stay healthy

Let's get one thing out of the way very early: Georgia is in no danger of losing to the Blue Raiders. The SEC slate isn't exactly strong this week, so focusing on the good teams in this section seems like the best approach. What is interesting in this is that Georgia is a 32.5-point favorite over a Middle Tennessee team that is led by veteran quarterback Brent Stockstill. He has completed 70 percent of his passes this year, tossed six touchdowns, only one interception and isn't going to be shocked by what he sees Saturday. Will that be enough to stay within the number? I think so -- especially since Georgia will likely pull its starters relatively early to rest up for next week's road trip to Missouri. Pick: Middle Tennessee (+32.5)

Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 16 Mississippi State (-33)

  • Bulldogs have momentum
  • Ragin' Cajuns won't score much
  • Statement made?

Kylin Hill was a monster at running back for the Bulldogs last week, scoring three touchdowns in a win over Kansas State. Expect first-year coach Joe Moorhead to feed him early and often this week against a Ragin' Cajuns team that isn't equipped to go score-for-score. After an impressive showing last week, expect Mississippi State to put up a very crooked number on the scoreboard to keep momentum going as it heads into SEC play next week. Pick: Mississippi State (-33)

UTEP at Tennessee (-30)

  • Can the Vols block?
  • O gets going
  • Late cover

The Volunteers struggled up front on offense last week against East Tennessee State, but consider that a learning experience as they feast on another cupcake this week. The running game and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will get going with some wrinkles in the first half, crank it down in the second with the starters still in and clear that 30-point number late in the fourth quarter. After all, the Vols need to further establish their identity heading into the Florida game next week. Pick: Tennessee (-30)

Colorado State at Florida (-20)

  • Rams 2-for-2 against SEC?
  • Feleipe Franks rebound?
  • It's all about defense

After topping Arkansas in Fort Collins last week, Colorado State will head to The Swamp to play its second SEC team in as many weeks. When the Rams get there, they'll find an angry Florida team that lost to Kentucky for the first time since 1986 last weekend. This one is all about Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks. He's clearly first-year coach Dan Mullen's guy, and he has to be more consistent in the passing game to keep the Gators somewhat competitive. Florida will keep its foot on the gas enough to post a late -- and close -- cover. Pick: Florida (-20)

North Texas at Arkansas (-7)

  • Rebound?
  • Vegas sees it close
  • Pick a QB

Arkansas coach Chad Morris has consistently said that he wants to pick one quarterback, but neither Ty Storey nor Cole Kelley have taken control of the job. Will that happen against the Mean Green? The oddsmakers seem to think that this will be much closer than anticipated, and a defense that's giving up a Conference USA-best 276 yards per game is a big reason why. That stat is deceiving since they've played SMU and Incarnate Word, and the Razorbacks will light them up ... at least enough to cover one touchdown. Pick: Arkansas (-7)

UL-Monroe vs. Texas A&M (-26.5)

  • Mond stays hot
  • Defense shines
  • Aggies cover late

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond looked cool, poised and in control in last week's barn burner against No. 2 Clemson. He'll stay hot this weekend against a Warhawks defense that's giving up 6.02 yards per play. Mond will go north of 300 yards passing, Trayveon Williams will break the century mark on the ground and the Aggies will roll. Pick: Texas A&M (-26.5)

Side dish

  • Kentucky over Murray State

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