Champions Classic Best Bets: Ride the Dukies and Rock Chalk to Victory

Arguably the best preseason college basketball event returns this evening, albeit in a slightly different setting than we’re accustomed to seeing thanks to the pandemic, when the Champions Classic tips off with a pair of matchups between Michigan State and Duke, and Kansas and Kentucky.

Typically, we’ve seen this showcase be the informal start of the new college basketball season with these four bluebloods meeting on a neutral court to test out their early preseason rankings.  This season, only Kansas and Kentucky will be playing on a neutral floor in Indianapolis with Michigan State meeting Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium with no fans or media in attendance.  That will make tonight’s matchups all the more interesting.

Speaking of those matchups, let’s dive right into tonight’s action and kick off the month of December with a pair of Best Bets for tonight’s Champions Classic. 

(8) Michigan State at (6) Duke

Game to be played without fans in attendance

Spread: Duke -3.5
Total: O/U 149.5
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET, ESPN

In the first matchup of the evening, 8th ranked Michigan State (2-0) travels to a Cameron Indoor Stadium to meet 6th ranked Duke (1-0).

The Spartans are coming off of an impressive 80-70 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday in a game that was not as close as the final score would indicate, as they at one point in the second half would lead by 22 points thanks to a 26-0 run that closed out the first half and spilled into the second half.  

The Spartans defense would lock down the Fighting Irish, keeping them scoreless for over nine minutes of game action.  They looked noticeably sharper in their second game of the season, following their season-opening victory over Eastern Michigan.

The same could not be said for the new-look Blue Devils in their season-opening tune-up against Coppin State.  While Duke did open the season with a 10-point victory, they were favored by 39.5-points and seemed to struggle on the defensive end of the floor, particularly in defending the perimeter where Coppin State would hit 10 three-point shots on the night. 

After leading by 17 at the break, the Devils would be outscored in the second half 43-36.  Not exactly what you’d like to see against a team that went 11-20 playing out of the MEAC a season ago.

Considering the very unorthodox offseason college basketball has experienced, however, a rusty start out of the gates in the season opener is not the worst thing in the world, nor was it a shock to see.  It goes without saying though that Duke will need to play significantly better this evening to avoid a rare home loss.

That unorthodox offseason will spill into the regular season, however, and we get our first real taste of that this evening when this game is played without any fans or media in attendance.  In a non-pandemic setting, this game would be on a neutral floor with two rowdy fan bases trading cheers and jeers, and if Michigan State ever came to Cameron Indoor for a basketball game, the energy from the crowd would be at a different level.

We’re not going to get that tonight, and we will see for the first time this season how well Duke can adjust to not having a boisterous crowd behind them to fuel their momentum. 

Fortunately for Duke, Coach K will once again have a loaded stable of freshmen to lean on not only tonight but throughout the season.  Five-star recruit Jalen Johnson appears to be the best of the bunch and may begin to emerge as the leader of the team, and DJ Steward could become the best sixth man in the country (24 points, 9 boards against Coppin State).  Sophomores Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt are the elder statesmen of the starting five and will be counted on tonight to help the young freshmen in the scoring column.

Michigan State, on the other hand, boasts a very experienced group and looks to resume their standing as a Top 10 defensive unit, and their recent matchup against Notre Dame reiterated this even further. 

The Spartans starting five is equal parts talented and experienced.  Three juniors and one senior make up Izzo’s starting unit, with Marquette transfer Joey Hauser already off to a fast start with a pair of double-doubles to start his Michigan State career.  Joshua Langford and Aaron Henry give the Spartans a pair of dynamic scoring threats, and sophomore Rocket Watts looks to be the next great Tom Izzo point guard in the making.

This will be a phenomenal matchup and one where we will certainly miss the atmosphere from the Cameron Crazies.  Michigan State will once again be a strong contender in the Big Ten, but I believe Duke bounces back tonight and plays with a much sharper focus.  We’ve seen how teams start slow out of the gates across every sport making its return from the pandemic and I think Duke is not much different. 

Oddsmakers have this line sitting anywhere between 3 and 3.5 points tonight and I think that prediction is dead on.  I’m taking the Dukies to cover narrowly and to pass their first true test of the season.  I also like the over a lot tonight as well.

Prediction: Duke 78, Michigan State 74
Best Bet: Duke -3.5; OVER 149.5

(7) Kansas vs. (20) Kentucky

Game to be played at neutral court (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN)

Spread: Kansas -4.5
Total: O/U 143.5
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, ESPN

There probably isn’t a tougher team to play to open the season, especially a season with the dark clouds of a pandemic hanging above it, than #1 Gonzaga, but that’s exactly the fate that Kansas endured when they suffered a 102-90 loss at the hands of the top-ranked team in the country on Thanksgiving Day.

Kansas did rebound nicely the following day with a 94-72 blowout victory over St. Joseph’s with sophomore Christian Braun chipping in a 30-point, eight-rebound day for Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Now the Jayhawks prepare for a date with 20th ranked Kentucky, coming off of their first loss of the season when they fell 76-64 to a dangerous Richmond team full of experience.

This isn’t a different script than we are accustomed to seeing from Kentucky, however.  Once again, John Calipari has a roster stacked to the brim with freshmen talent, and once again that young team is going through some early growing pains in the beginning stages of the season.  Remember, this is a Kentucky team that lost by 3 at home to Evansville early last season, so it does take a bit of time for Calipari’s teams to get their footing and for their young talent to gel as a cohesive unit.

That steep learning curve the young ‘Cats are on presently is not likely to remedy itself tonight.  Against the Spiders, Cal’s ‘Cats didn’t make a single three-point shot (0 for 10) and are back to struggling at the free-throw line, shooting just 62% from the charity stripe to begin the year.

While Kentucky does boast one of the best freshmen in college basketball, and a possible #1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in BJ Boston (17.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg), the Wildcats roster is still extremely young and trying to figure out who they are right now.

Kansas, on the other hand, already has a better idea of the type of team they can be thanks in large part to that brutal season opener.  Gonzaga is every bit as good as advertised and Kansas, to their credit, played very hard and erased an early double-digit deficit before simply tiring out down the stretch.  Kentucky is not Gonzaga, and Kansas should reap the benefits of a young team still growing on the fly.

Look for the Jayhawks to win, and to win a little comfortably tonight.  They defend better, they shoot better and are just overall the better team at this point in the season.

Don’t fret too much about Kentucky if they do lose tonight, however, as they will be their usual dangerous self as the season goes on.

Prediction: Kansas 81, Kentucky 70
Best Bet: Kansas -4.5

Kentucky Wildcats at No. 6 Florida Gators Betting Preview

Saturday, November 28, 2020, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida, noon ET

Wildcats at Gators Betting Preview: Wildcats (+24), Gators (-24)

Kentucky Wildcats Betting Preview

The Wildcats (3-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) suffered through a soul-searching loss last week in Tuscaloosa, falling 63-3 to top-ranked Alabama. That was the third-worst defeat in school history since 1950. Three of the top four shellackings suffered by the Wildcats have come in the Sunshine State against the Gators.

With Steve Spurrier at the helm, Florida drubbed the Wildcats in 1994 and 1996 — 73-7 and 65-0, respectively — and Urban Meyer’s Florida team walloped them 63-5 in 2008.

But despite their struggles against Florida over the last three decades, the Wildcats lately have fought fiercely in the series.

In the past six meetings, all but one game was close – Florida’s 45-7 rout in 2016 – and four were decided by eight points or less.

In the loss to the Crimson Tide, eighth-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was without many key contributors, including top rusher Chris Rodriguez. Rodriguez has amassed 562 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.

Kentucky started strong with 121 yards in the first quarter, but the offense generated just 27 yards in the second half and tried desperately to get something going with quarterbacks Terry Wilson, Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen. The three were a combined 10 of 25 passing for just 120 yards against the Tide.

While Stoops said there were good points to take from the big loss, junior defensive end Joshua Paschal worried about the long-term effect on younger teammates.

“This is not acceptable for us,” Paschal said. “We know that as players, as a whole football team, as a whole organization.

“As leaders, we are going to put it on the young guys, so the young guys know that this isn’t acceptable, this is not who we are, this won’t happen again.”

No. 6 Florida Gators Betting Preview

The No. 6 Gators (6-1, 6-1 SEC) will look to create another winning streak against SEC East foe Kentucky in Gainesville, Fla. The two teams have met 70 times with the Gators holding a 52-18 advantage over the Wildcats.

In the driver’s seat in the SEC East after defeating rival Georgia 44-28 on Nov. 7, Florida has to defeat just two of its last three opponents — Kentucky, at Tennessee (2-5) on Dec. 5, and at home against LSU (3-3) on Dec. 12 – to clinch the division and advance to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19.

The Gators appeared to go through the motions for a half at winless Vanderbilt last week before pulling away for a 38-17 victory. They received 383 passing yards and three touchdown passes from standout quarterback Kyle Trask, who leads the nation in touchdown passes with 28.

Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday Trask would get back his top target this weekend with star tight end Kyle Pitts (24 catches, 414 yards, eight TDs) returning from a concussion and nose surgery.

“He’s such a playmaker, he’s such a leader,” Mullen said. “The matchup problem he causes defenses is great to have him back with us.”

Linebacker James Houston (13 tackles and a sack in four games) also is expected to return.

Wildcats at Gators Betting Prediction

The Gators have won 28 of 33 meetings with the Wildcats in Gainesville, though the Wildcats won the last one 27-16 in 2018 on Florida’s turf, snapping a 31-year losing streak to the Gators.

Florida bounced back with a 29-21 win in Lexington last year with Trask taking over from an injured Feleipe Franks and rallying the Gators from a 21-10 deficit by passing for 126 yards and rushing for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Wildcats at Gators Betting Pick:

Gators 52, Wildcats 14

Wildcats at No. 6 Gators Best Bet

The Gators have scored at least 35 points in a school-record nine consecutive games with seven in a row against SEC competition, also a school record. After holding Georgia to just 14 points, the Wildcats have surrendered 35 in a win over Vanderbilt and 63 in a big loss at Alabama.

Wildcats at Gators Best Bet: OVER 59.5

–Field Level Media

SEC College Basketball 2020/21 Preview

The premier college football conference in the country is also quite the formidable conference when it comes to college basketball, but last season the SEC was in a down year that would eventually be wiped away from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The SEC was likely looking at a max of four bids in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, a far cry from the previous season that saw the conference send seven teams to the dance.  The 2020-21 season figures to be just as top-heavy as the conference was a season ago, but the contenders in this conference are amongst the best teams in all of college basketball, giving the SEC a very realistic shot of seeing one of their schools land in the 2021 Final Four.

How does the conference as a whole shake out?  Let’s take a look at the SEC.

The Contenders

#10 Kentucky (+120 to Win SEC)

This will surprise absolutely nobody who follows the sport of college basketball, but guess what?  John Calipari landed the #1 recruiting class in the country again! 

Once again Coach Cal’s ‘Cats are poised for a roster reboot as his next class of phenom freshmen finds their way to Lexington.  Seven freshmen in all will decorate the Kentucky roster, most notably of the combo of BJ Boston (7th overall ranked recruit) and Terrence Clarke (10th overall ranked recruit).

The freshmen wing tandem is, naturally, extremely athletic and talented and will give SEC defenses fits in their likely lone season playing for Big Blue Nation.  The tandem is already projected to be drafted in the lottery of next season’s NBA Draft, with Boston being in the mix to potentially go #1 overall. 

This season, however, Calipari adds a new wrinkle by adding two key senior transfers in former Wake Forest big Olivier Sarr (13.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and former Creighton shooting threat Davion Mintz (9.7 ppg in 2018/19).

Kentucky is once again absolutely loaded with talent, and once again it’s a roster that will get better as the season goes on.  The Wildcats are considered the odds-on favorite to win the SEC for a reason, they should be considered the team to beat in this conference and have a very real shot to play at Lucas Oil Stadium in early April.

#12 Tennessee (+350 to Win SEC)

If there’s a team capable of ruining Kentucky’s jaunt to the top of the SEC standings, look no further than Rick Barnes’ Tennessee Volunteers.  The Vols enter the new season as the preseason #1 team in the conference, yet a lot of people are not aware of how good this team can be.

The Vols in fact could be one of the biggest sleepers in the country. 

This is a team that does not have any apparent weaknesses.  It returns four of the top scorers from a season ago, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year in senior Yves Pons (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg), and the 3rd best-recruiting class in the nation led by potential NBA lottery pick Jaden Springer.

That doesn’t even mention the addition of Sacred Heart grad-transfer E.J. Anosike (15.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg) or the return of senior forward John Fulkerson (13.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

The 2019/20 season was a rebuilding season of sorts for the Vols after they watched as Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone, and Kyle Alexander all departed the program either through graduation or going pro.  The season was made even more challenging when Barnes lost star Lamonte Turner for the season just 11-games into the year.

This season should see the Vols bouncing back in a big way, however, and Tennessee is not only a viable contender to unseat Kentucky at the top, but they’re also a dark horse for a deep run in March.  This team has it all and will be worth your attention all season.  

The Dangerous Dark Horses

LSU (+500 to Win SEC)

While a lot of attention this season will be on Kentucky and Tennessee, don’t forget about Will Wade’s LSU Tigers as a potentially dangerous sleeper in the conference.

The Tigers boast one of the deeper rosters in the country and return sophomore standout Trendon Watford (13.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) along with the junior tandem of Ja’vonte Smart (12.5 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Darius Days (11.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg).  Mix in a top-10 recruiting class headlined by sharpshooting guard Cameron Thomas, sprinkle in a couple of transfers like Shareef O’Neal (UCLA), Bryan Penn-Johnson (Washington), and Josh LeBlanc (Georgetown) and LSU has a potentially lethal offensive group once again.

LSU’s bugaboo a season ago came on the defensive side of the floor, however, as the Tigers were social distancing before it was cool.  Time and time again the Tigers would see big leads evaporate as LSU just could not clamp down on the defensive end of the floor.  Wade should get a boost from his two big transfers in O’Neal and Penn-Johnson, but ultimately how well they defend will determine how far they go this season.

One thing’s for certain, however, and that is the fact that LSU will be one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch again.  Look for the Tigers to be involved in a lot of high-scoring thrillers throughout the season.

Florida (+900 to Win SEC)

The Florida Gators enter the 2020/21 season hoping to erase a disappointing 2019/20 campaign that saw the Gators vastly underperform to their preseason expectations.

Mike White’s Gators were tabbed as the #6 overall team when the first rankings came out a season ago, but the Gators played anything like the sixth-best team in the nation on their way to a 19-12 season with an 11-7 record in the SEC.

While that’s certainly not the worst season in the world, it still fell far short of Florida’s aspirations for the season to contend for a conference title and make a deep run in the tournament.

The Gators may not be down for too long, however, as they return the bulk of last season’s team including All-SEC wing player Keyontae Johnson (14.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and rising-star sophomore Scottie Lewis (8.5 ppg), and bolster their bench by adding two key transfers in former Cleveland State guard Tyree Appleby (17.2 ppg, 5.6 apg) and former Louisiana Tech forward Anthony Duruji (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

Florida did lose Virginia Tech grad-transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. to graduation and standout point guard Andrew Nembhard (11.2 ppg, 5.6 apg) transferred to Gonzaga, but there should be enough talent on the roster to mitigate those losses.

Once again, the Gators look like a dangerous team on paper but it remains to be seen how that will translate to the floor.  If they can play closer to their potential this season, the Gators are a legitimate threat to make a lot of noise in the SEC.

Arkansas (+1200 to Win SEC)

Rarely can a team stomach the loss of six of your top seven scorers and come back and be projected to be even better in the following season, but that’s what’s on tap for Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks in year two of his coaching tenure.

The Hogs do not return a single starter from a season ago as free-shooting Isaiah Joe (16.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and first-team All-SEC guard Mason Jones each departed for the NBA, but they do add six impactful transfers and inked the 7th best-recruiting class in the land to quickly reload the roster, leaving Musselman’s team loaded with talent at every position.

Notable transfers to keep an eye on for the Hogs include Northern Kentucky grad-transfer Jalen Tate (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and New Mexico grad-transfer Vance Jackson (11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg). They will likely join Indiana transfer Justin Smith (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) in the Razorbacks’ starting five and should immediately contribute in Musselman’s free-flowing offense.

The biggest question circling this team entering the season is whether or not Musselman may actually have too much talent.  Hammering out the rotations and getting the right chemistry will ultimately determine the fate of a team that’s so dependent on the influx of new talent.  If the talent comes together as expected and the team gels, this is a dark horse to make a run in March.  But if the chemistry just never comes together, we’ve seen many teams that have unraveled with the heavy transfer approach.

The Middle of the Pack

Alabama (+1600 to Win SEC)

While Alabama’s basketball season doesn’t officially start for many Tide boosters until Nick Saban’s playoff run concludes, Bama faithful may have a lot to look forward to from their basketball team this season.

Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats enters his second season in Tuscaloosa with an arsenal of offensive weapons, most notably the backcourt combination of Jaden Shackelford (15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and John Petty (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg).  Oats will also have the services of Villanova point guard Jahvon Quinerly and Yale grad-transfer Jordan Bruner (10.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg), and the Crimson Tide’s starting five looks as good as any in the conference.

Alabama will miss star guard Kira Lewis, who was drafted 13th overall by the Pelicans, but they get back four-star talent Juwan Gary and top-five JUCO product James Rojas who were both lost for the season a year ago with ACL tears suffered in practice.

That potentially gives Oats a roster deep in talent, but if the Tide are to contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament this season and a possible top-four standing in the conference they will need to tighten up a defense that gave up nearly 80 points a contest a season ago.

South Carolina (+1600 to Win SEC)

Frank Martin’s Gamecocks overachieved a season ago as they finished above .500 in conference play at 10-8 and went 18-13 overall on the season after being projected to finish 10th in the SEC before the season began.

South Carolina enters the new season with heightened expectations as they return all but two players from a season ago and have one of the more experienced teams in the entire conference.

Unlike LSU and Alabama, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks defend the hell out of opponents and this has been his calling card since his Kansas State days.  Last season South Carolina had the 16th best scoring defense and 19th best three-point shooting defense according to KenPom and this season should not be much different.  Martin’s group has been incredibly consistent dating all the way back to South Carolina’s random run to the Final Four and have ranked in the Top 50 for defensive efficiency in four of the past five seasons.

Offensively is where South Carolina tends to sputter, however.  Per KenPom rankings, South Carolina’s best offensive team came back in 2017 when they were the 91st overall ranked unit, and a season ago they were ranked 122nd in the country.  Essentially they are a bit of a mess in the half-court and generate a lot of their best offense from their tenacious 2-3 matchup defense.  The Gamecocks will lock teams down, but will also endure long scoring droughts of their own.  It’s just a stable of Frank Martin’s team.

The best scoring threats on the roster come in the Carolina backcourt with leading scorer A.J. Lawson (13.4 ppg) returning for his junior season and redshirt sophomore Jermaine Couisnard (12.1 ppg) playing alongside him at point guard. 

Ultimately, the fate of South Carolina’s season lies in improving an offense that can flat out disappear for long periods.  If they can match their strong defensive play with a consistent scoring attack, the Gamecocks have sleeper potential to crack the top-six of the conference.  In all likelihood, though they will be very similar to last season’s team and trade upsets with losses to teams they shouldn’t lose to.

The Long Shots

Auburn (+4000 to Win SEC)
Missouri (+5000 to Win SEC)
Ole Miss (+6000 to Win SEC)
Georgia (+10000 to Win SEC)
Mississippi State (+10000 to Win SEC)
Texas A&M (+10000 to Win SEC)
Vanderbilt (+10000 to Win SEC)

Out of all the power conferences in the country, the SEC is by far the most top-heavy.  The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are very easy to spot in the SEC this season.  Here’s a quick look at the long shots to win the conference.

Auburn lost all five starters from a season ago, including NBA lottery pick Issac Okoro, leaving Bruce Pearl to have a 2020/21 transitional season of sorts.  Pearl did land one of the biggest recruits in the country in Sharife Cooper (20th overall recruit), but Cooper’s eligibility still remains in question and as of this writing he is not cleared to play.  Couple that with Auburn self-imposing a postseason ban for the 2020/21 season, and we do not expect much from Pearl’s Tigers this season.

Missouri returns eight players that started a game for the Tigers a season ago but are still expected to finish towards the bottom of the conference as the eight players returning aren’t exactly the 2014/15 Kentucky Wildcats.  Cuanzo Martin does get back the guard tandem of Xavier Pinson (11.1 ppg) and Mark Smith (10.0 ppg), however, after injury-riddled seasons plagued each of Martin’s two best players. 

Ole Miss enters season three under former Mid Tennessee State head coach Kermit Davis and is coming off of a disappointing 15-17 season that saw the Rebels go a miserable 1-10 when they went on the road.  Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic shrunken crowds will help Ole Miss cure their road woes?  The team does add three key grad transfers in former CS-Bakersfield guard Jarkell Joiner (15.6 ppg), former Rider wing Dimencio Vaughn (14.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg), and former Arizona State rim protector Romello White (10.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg).  The Rebels are unlikely to contend for an SEC crown, but if everything comes together they could very well be in the mix for a postseason bid.

Georgia loses #1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards and four of the team’s top six scorers from a season ago, leaving Tom Crean faced with the task of retooling a roster on the fly.  Georgia will have eight new players in all, with Sahvir Wheeler (9.0 ppg, 4.5 apg) being the best returning Bulldog.  Crean also welcomes in three transfers including that of former Stony Brook product Andrew Garcia (13.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and former Virginia Tech forward P.J. Horne (7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), but the cupboard will need another season to restock.

Mississippi State is down three starters from a season ago, including the 2020 co-SEC player of the year Reggie Perry.  Ben Howland has also watched four other players leave the program via the transfer portal, leaving the Bulldogs in a full-blown rebuilding season for 2020/21.  Howland should turn it around and get the Bulldogs back to the middle of the conference in the coming seasons, but this year will be one where they figure to take several lumps from their conference foes.  Four-star freshman Deivon Smith will be a fun player to pay attention to for Howland’s ‘Dogs, however.

Texas A&M enters season two under coach Buzz Williams and while the Aggies program is slowly turning back around, it’s not quite there yet.  Seniors Savion Flagg (10.4 ppg), Quenton Jackson (8.8 ppg), and Quinnipiac grad-transfer Kevin Marfo (10.2 ppg, 13.3 rpg) will be the catalyst’s for Williams team this season, but TAMU figures to still be at least a year or two away from seriously contending in the conference. 

Vanderbilt is just bad.  They will be the SEC’s whipping boy for the third-consecutive season. 

SEC Projected Order of Finish:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Kentucky
  3. LSU
  4. Arkansas
  5. Florida
  6. Alabama
  7. South Carolina
  8. Ole Miss
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Mississippi State
  11. Auburn
  12. Missouri
  13. Georgia
  14. Vanderbilt

Kentucky Wildcats at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 4 p.m. ET

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Preview: Wildcats (+30.5), Crimson Tide (-30.5)

Kentucky Wildcats Betting Preview

The Wildcats (3-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a 38-35 win over Vanderbilt last weekend. Chris Rodriguez rushed for a career high 149 yards on 13 carries, including two scores, but the Wildcats struggled to put away the Commodores.

Vandy rallied from two second-half deficits of 17 points to make it a tight game. The defensive effort didn’t sit well with Wildcats coach Mark Stoops.

“Defensively, terribly inconsistent,” Stoops said. “We have a lot of work to do. There’s no excuse. They want somebody else to make the play, they want some miraculous call to stop the play.”

Stoops is still waiting to see a good effort on both sides of the ball in the same game.

“We’re terribly inconsistent on one side or the other. We’ve not put it all together. It’s frustrating. I can promise you this, it’s not for lack of effort,” he said. “The sense of urgency needs to be greater, the attention to detail throughout an entire game needs to be greater.”

Rodriguez and his 568 rushing yards lead the Wildcats, and Josh Ali’s 34 catches and 343 yard lead the receivers. Senior quarterback Terry Wilson averages 119 passing yards and 56 rushing yards per game.

Crimson Tide Betting Preview

No. 1 Alabama hasn’t played since Halloween after last week’s scheduled meeting with LSU was postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Tigers. The Crimson Tide (6-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) had a scheduled open date on Nov. 7.

The Tide’s high-powered offense is averaging 46.5 points per game at home, with an average of 555 yards per game over six contests. On defense, Alabama shut out Mississippi State 41-0 in Tuscaloosa the last time out.

“We fully intend to be able to play this game and we certainly have enough players that are healthy enough to do that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Physically we’ve been able to take care of our players, psychologically is the real challenge for them to be able to stay focused on the things that they need to do continue to improve and play at a high level, especially when we’re halfway through the season.”

Next week, Alabama is planning its usual holiday fare: the Iron Bowl, Nov. 28 against Auburn.

Running back Najee Harris has 718 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, and senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith is the leading receiver with 56 catches for 759 yards and eight touchdowns.

Smith caught all four of quarterback Mac Jones’ touchdown passes against the Bulldogs. Jones has thrown for 2,196 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. His passing yards are the most by any Alabama quarterback through the first six games of a season in program history.

The Tide have scored 35 or more points in 19 straight games, the longest streak in major college football history, and have 29 straight wins over SEC East opponents.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Pick

The Tide lead the series 37-2-1 and have won all 11 meetings in Tuscaloosa and six in a row overall. The two teams have played five common opponents this year with Alabama owning wins over Missouri 38-19, Ole Miss 63-48, Georgia 41-24, Tennessee 48-17, and Mississippi State 41-8 and Kentucky losing to Missouri 20-10, Ole Miss 42-41 in overtime, and Georgia 14-3, and beating Mississippi State 24-2 and Tennessee 34-7.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Betting Pick:

Crimson Tide 45, Wildcats 17

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Best Bet

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones needs one more 400-yard passing game to tie the SEC record currently shared by LSU’s Joe Burrow (2019), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (213), and Kentucky’s Tim Couch (1998). The Wildcats have allowed only one foe (Ole Miss with 325) to top the 300-yard mark this season.

Wildcats at Crimson Tide Best Bet: OVER 57.5

–Field Level Media