Who’s the second-best team in the SEC East?
South Carolina, throttled by division favorite Georgia on its home field? Florida, which lost to Kentucky for the first time since “Top Gun” was the No. 1 movie in America? The Wildcats, who sleepwalk past lower-tier opponents? Missouri, which hammers outmanned foes but struggles against everyone else?
Vanderbilt, which — OK, let’s not get crazy.
You get the point. The East below the Bulldogs is kind of a mess. Several of those East teams face games this weekend that don’t exactly grab headlines, but remain intriguing matchups that could help clarify where they stand. With that in mind, here are the six best bets in the SEC for Week 3 for NCAA football betting fans.
The line: Notre Dame -14
Give Vandy some credit: They’ve taken care of business against a pair of lower-tier opponents, which isn’t always the case. Saturday, that comes to a halt.
The hangover from Michigan was evident last weekend for the Fighting Irish, who needed a pair of turnover-fueled touchdowns to hold off Ball State. It only ensured the Commodores won’t be overlooked.
Vanderbilt is averaging 38 points per game, but it’s hard to see those results against Middle Tennessee and Nevada as being indicative of how they’ll fare against the heavy hitters on their schedule.
Expect Notre Dame’s stout defense to clamp down on Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur.
The line: Alabama -21
Credit to Matt Luke, who guided Mississippi to a .500 season despite the shadows of scandal and probation, and has the Rebels off to a 2-0 start in his first campaign as full-time head coach.
But it’s hard to see this team staying competitive with Alabama, which last year destroyed an Ole Miss team that was better on paper due to the presence of quarterback Shea Patterson.
The Rebels’ skill position players are easy to like, and a season-opening blowout at Texas Tech offered further evidence that this program is on the right track. But Alabama’s dynamic offense should have plenty of opportunities against a Mississippi defense allowing 34 points a game.
The line: Missouri -7
Quarterback Drew Lock and the Tigers like the pour on the points against outclassed opponents, a category that now includes the woebegone Boilermakers.
Purdue is 0-2 after a home loss to Eastern Michigan, while Mizzou has won eight straight regular-season games. The Tigers are a far different team from the one drilled 35-3 by Purdue last year.
Whether Missouri is for real will be determined over its next three games, which includes Georgia and Alabama sandwiched around a trip to South Carolina. Purdue is hardly at that level. Missouri is positioned to add another confidence-building victory before things get real.
The line: Florida -20.5
Boston’s “Amanda” was the No. 1 song the last time the Gators lost to Kentucky — before last week, in a clumsy effort that proved the presence of new coach Dan Mullen alone won’t revamp Florida’s offense. The Gators’ offense looked slow, soft, and perhaps more of a rebuilding job than anyone realized.
Colorado State is no juggernaut, even though the Rams scored 34 points in defeating Arkansas last week. Colorado State averages 369 passing yards, and can generate enough offense to put pressure on the Gators.
Yeah, it’s the Swamp, against an opponent from outside the Power 5. But after what we saw last week, can Florida beat anyone by 21?
We don’t think so, and will take Colorado State +20.5 at 888Sport.
The line: Arkansas -7
Speaking of Arkansas, first-year coach Chad Morris has his own issues to deal with, as evidenced in last week’s stumble in Fort Collins. But Devwah Whaley has emerged as a workhorse back, and the Razorbacks have proven adept at generating takeaways and turning them into points.
North Texas is unbeaten, but hasn’t really played anybody — is Incarnate Word a high school? — and faces an imposing environment in Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas’ defense leaves ample room for improvement, allowing an average of 417 yards, but running the football and capitalizing on turnovers should prove good enough.