Stuart McNair

Almost Perfect Picks Department at Alabama gets much-needed help

SEC schedule seems to have a lot of slam dunks this week

To say that we saw some strange looking people lurking about the Situation Room in the offices of early this week doesn’t really clarify things. There are always strange looking people where the Geek Gang gathers to make its weekly Almost Perfect Picks on Southeastern Conference games.
This week, though, it seemed there were a couple of extras hanging around.

We moseyed over to the pencil sharpener to get close to one of the nerds and asked about the new guys.

 “It’s okay,” he said, looking around. “We checked with the NCAA.”

It seems that some long-ago members of the Almost Perfect Picks Department who had gone on to consulting on professional football fantasy teams had been coaxed back to Tuscaloosa to give a hand in preparation for this weeks APP selections.

The predictions staffs at places like Ohio State and Notre Dame were furious, as were some in the SEC, before realizing they had been out-maneuvered. We can’t help but think that Alabama Coach Nick Saban would approve.

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We’ll see if the returning professionals help our Gang of Geeks. The yearly record is 72-19 on picking the correct winner, but 33-47 against the line, and 43-38 on the over-under.

Here are this week’s selections with the point spread and over-under taken from the morning newspaper:

Texas-San Antonio (5-5) at Texas A&M (7-3 overall, 4-3 Southeastern Conference), 11 a.m. CST on ESPNU (first meeting) – Texas A&M favored by 27 1/2, over-under 57 1/2 – There is one University of Texas team willing to play Texas A&M, and they catch Texas A&M struggling to get over back-to-back losses that dropped the Aggies from No. 4 in the nation in the College Football Playoff ranking. A&M is also without quarterback Trevor Knight, lost for the year. UTSA has a good running game (can any Aggie tackle?) and a decent defense, but A&M gets back on track. Texas A&M 35, USTA 17.

Louisiana-Lafayette (4-5) at Georgia (6-4, 4-4), Noon EST (11 a.m. central) on SEC Network-Alternate (Series: Georgia leads 1-0) – Georgia favored by 23, o-u 45 1/2 – Anyone looking ahead at this time last week would have thought that Georgia would have needed this win to get bowl eligible, but the Bulldogs took care of that hurdle with its win over Auburn. This week UGA faces a better-than-expected ULL team, but one that may have some depth problems owing to injuries. Louisiana-Lafayette does have former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings, but that won’t be enough. Georgia 31, ULL 7.

Florida (7-2, 5-2) at LSU (6-3, 4-2), Noon CST on SEC Network (Series: Florida leads 31-28-3) – LSU favored by 13 1/2, o-u 37 1/2 – Hurricane Matthew did Florida no favors insofar as this game is concerned. Originally scheduled on Oct. 8 in Gainesville when LSU’s Leonard Fournette was struggling and the Tigers were still adjusting to the mid-season coaching change, the game is now in Baton Rouge, Fournette is healthy, and it is the Gators who are injury-plagued. Florida has the incentive: win the game and represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. LSU is now playing like one of the nation’s best teams and the defense should be able to control the anemic Gators offense. LSU 27, Florida 10.

Missouri (3-7, 1-5) at Tennessee (7-3, 3-3), 3:30 p.m. EST (2:30 central) on CBS (Series: Missouri leads 3-1) – Tennessee favored by 15, o-u 67 – This looks like a shootout. Missouri has had a terrible season, its only conference win over Vanderbilt, but the Tigers have the potential on offense with a strong running game and Drew Lock at quarterback. Tennessee is not the same team it was early in the year when hopes were as high as Rocky Top, but the Vols can still make the SEC Championship Game and a rematch with Alabama if Florida loses to LSU and UT can take care of Missouri and Vanderbilt. Tennessee 44, Missouri 27.

Western Carolina (2-8) at South Carolina (5-5, 3-5), 4 p.m. EST (3 central) on SEC Network-Alternate (Series: South Carolina leads 4-0) – No line on this game – With Clemson on the road coming up the following week, the Gamecocks are going to get bowl eligible against Western Carolina. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who as we all know should be a high school senior this season, should feel at ease against the Catamounts, who are weak on defense. South Carolina 27, Western Carolina 7.

Austin Peay (0-10) at Kentucky (5-5, 4-4), 4:30 p.m. EST (3:30 central) on SEC Network (first meeting) – No line – Give Kentucky the award for having the game that gets the Wildcats into a bowl game the week before UK finishes regular season play at Louisville. Kentucky hasn’t been bowling since the 2011 Birmingham Bowl. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Cats had hopes of being the SEC East champion, but at least they’ll make it to a bowl game. Kentucky 49, Austin Peay 10.

Arkansas (6-4, 2-4) at Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4), 6 p.m. CST on ESPNU (Series: Arkansas leads 15-10-1) – Mississippi State favored by 1, o-u 60 1/2 – Last year in Fayetteville the Bulldogs came out with a 51-50 win, but last year’s Mississippi State team had Dak Prescott at quarterback. State has to win its last two games (finishing against Ole Miss in Oxford) to be bowl eligible. Which team shows up is the question for both, who have had good games and bad games. Both are coming off beatdowns. Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 27.

Alabama A&M (4-6) at Auburn (7-3, 5-2), 6:30 p.m. CST on SEC Network-Alternate (Series: Auburn leads 1-0) – No line – Don’t expect to see Auburn tailback Kamryn Pettway, the leading rusher in the SEC, who is recovering from injury, and probably not quarterback Sean White, who played last week with an injured shoulder. Auburn will want to have everyone healthy for Alabama the following week. The Tigers won’t need any starters to have an easy time of it. The Auburn faithful will enjoy this one, particularly if they are also able to sell their tickets to the next week’s game at Alabama. Auburn 49, Alabama A&M 0.

Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4) at Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5), 7 p.m. CST on SEC Network (Series: Ole Miss leads 50-39-2) – Mississippi favored by 10, o-u 50 1/2 – Just when it seemed nothing could go right for Ole Miss – the NCAA hammer about to come down, losing quarterback Chad Kelly – the Rebels discovered a star in true freshman Shea Patterson, who lost his redshirt last week as Mississippi upset Texas A&M. Vanderbilt has probably blown its bowl chance with a final regular season game against Tennessee. (Okay, if there aren’t enough 6-win teams to fill the 80 bowl slots, Vandy might get in with its high APR rating.) The Rebels can get bowl eligible only with six wins, and this is a good chance. It may be a better game than most expect. Ole Miss 24, Vanderbilt 21.

UT-Chattanooga (8-2) at Alabama (10-0, 7-0), 6 p.m. CST on ESPN2 (Series: Alabama leads 12-0) – No line – Chattanooga is a very good team at its level and can make things tough with its defense, but the real issue in this game is keeping everyone healthy. In a recent meeting against the Mocs, who were going to be playing in the FCS playoffs, they held their quarterback out of the game. Expect UTC to play everyone against the Tide, but it won’t matter. Alabama 45, Chattanooga 0.

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