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The Game of the Century. It’s upon us. Sure, we say that about one game—sometimes more than one game—each season. It’s more like the Game of the Century of the Year. Whatever it is to you, the title feels appropriate here. This is a doozy.
Alabama and Georgia will play the most interesting and important football game of the 2020 season. And the game will come with a twist as Nick Saban will not be coaching due to a positive COVID-19 test.
First and most importantly, we wish nothing but good vibes and good health to Saban moving forward. Second, moving back to the football field, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will now be at the helm.
This move has indeed had an impact on the point spread, and we’ll get to that momentarily. Alabama-Georgia is indeed featured in this latest installment of Locks of the Week.
Before we explore that pick and this week’s other picks against the spread, let’s first look back on the good and the not-so-good from the week before.
The Good, Texas A&M: This one felt lovely. Not just because I had Texas A&M (+6.5) against Florida. But because I nudged you to take that money line as well. For a while, it didn’t feel like such prognostication would be realized. But the end result worked out masterfully.
The Bad, Auburn: Oh, the Arkansas fans have let me have it, and I can’t blame them. I liked the Tigers (-14), and it looked good for about 12 minutes. Then the Hogs battled back, Auburn’s offense unraveled and the pick fell apart. Side note: I’m really sorry about that loss, Arkansas. You got absolutely jobbed.
Overall, Locks of the Week finished 3-2 in Week 6. (Solid.) Total picks finished 4-5. (Not solid.)
We have room to grow, and grow we shall. Here are the Week 7 selections, using point spreads provided by DraftKings. We’re underdog heavy, which is the way we like it.
Week 7 Locks of the Week
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Alabama (-4) vs. Georgia
I liked Alabama as a six-point favorite with Saban. I like the Crimson Tide as a four-point favorite without him on the sideline.
That’s not to say his loss won’t be felt. (And again, I cannot reiterate my support for Saban enough as we navigate his absence and its impact on a point spread.)
He’s the greatest coach of all time. Of course not having him on the sideline will have an impact.
But this offense is Sarkisian’s. That’s what makes this team really go, and this particular offense might be historic. Alabama’s defense? Maybe historic in the other direction. It’s been bad, and Ole Miss was able to move the ball in a way we’re not used to seeing against Alabama.
Here’s the other thing, though. As gifted as Georgia’s offensive players are, this won’t be the same kind of constant, overwhelming attack that Ole Miss delivered in Week 6. It’ll still be difficult, and Alabama will still give up points and yardage. Just not at the same pace.
I think we’ll see a much cleaner, crisper Crimson Tide on defense this time out. And I think the offense, even without Saban there, will stay hot. Alabama by a touchdown.
Tulsa (+3.5) vs. Cincinnati
Did you know that Cincinnati is ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll? That’s important as we dive into my favorite contrarian game of the week. As you look closer, however, you realize that picking Tulsa isn’t all that contrarian.
Don’t let the 1-1 record fool you. Tulsa’s loss was a hard-fought 16-7 defeat to unbeaten Oklahoma State. The win, which came on the road Oct. 3 against Central Florida, snapped UCF’s 21-game home winning streak.
Cincinnati is 3-0. The Bearcats’ victories came against Austin Peay, Army and South Florida. It’s worth noting that Cincinnati will be playing its first road game of the season.
Tulsa will be up for it. Not just to cover but also to win outright. (As a bonus bit of gambling advice, I also like the under. These defenses can play.)
Houston vs. BYU (Over 62.5)
Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press
Our one and only total in Locks of the Week features Cougars playing Cougars. One team has played four games. The other, because of postponements, just played its first.
Yes, 2020 is weird.
First and foremost, I like points. While BYU struggled against UTSA as more than a 30-point favorite last week, quarterback Zach Wilson should still be able to guide this offense to the end zone. Houston allowed 31 points to Tulane in its opening game of 2020 last week, and it’ll likely allow plenty more here.
Houston on offense, however, should be able to do the same. A 49-point output after such a bizarre month of lost games is an encouraging sign for head coach Dana Holgorsen, and I expect that to continue.
This just has the makeup of a 38-31 game—the kind of game that will cash the over. Which team do I expect to win? We’re not done with this one just yet. Answer to come below.
East Carolina (+2) vs. Navy
Unless you’re an alum or have gambling interest, I’m going to assume you likely won’t give East Carolina-Navy much screen time. I get it, which is why I am here to provide a boost to a game that could use some support.
Navy has had a weird season. Two blowout losses to BYU and Air Force by a combined score of 95-10. Two decent wins against Tulane and Temple.
It’s been a mixed bag, which is why I’m backing 1-2 East Carolina. The last few years have not been kind to the Pirates, although the team looks much improved. They put up points against Central Florida and Georgia State—the two losses on their schedule.
Am I trying to establish a case for why I’ll be backing a not-so-great team? Absolutely. But I’m also not sold on Navy, and this point spread speaks volumes. Don’t fall into the trap.
The Pirates are likely to cover and win outright.
Arkansas (+2) vs. Ole Miss
This is the heartbreak bowl. Arkansas lost on a bizarre and brutal call by the officials—an Auburn spike that looked like a fumble. The officials said otherwise. Arkansas fans, I imagine you let the expletives fly.
Ole Miss scored roughly 4,578 points against mighty Alabama. The problem? The defense allowed 4,579 points.
Both teams come into this game reeling in unique ways. Both seem dramatically improved under new coaching staffs. Both have to shake off different kind of disappointments.
Here’s why I think Arkansas has a better chance to do so. For starters, this team is so much better on both sides of the ball. The play-calling is creative, and the execution has been there. Even at 1-2, the Hogs have been impressive against teams with superior talent.
More than that, however, is Ole Miss’ emotions coming into this game. The Rebels gave Alabama a tremendous scare and now have to head on the road in a game that will feature far less coverage and far less stakes. It feels like a letdown spot. And if the Hogs are up for it, I think they can cover the three and continue an impressive start to the season.
Other Plays That Will Be on the Card
Sam Craft/Associated Press
These picks will still count toward the overall record. They just missed the top five, although we don’t want to limit the action and fun to five selections. Here’s what else is on the card in Week 7.
Houston (+5.5) vs. BYU: I told you we weren’t done with this game. Oh, no. We’re on the over, and we like Houston to derail BYU’s perfect season. I’ll take the points, sure. But I’m also calling the upset. As for the over/under on total Red Bulls consumed by Holgorsen on Saturday, I’ll set that line at 7.5.
Liberty (-3.5) at Syracuse: A fun, funky point spread that speaks volumes about Syracuse’s struggles and Liberty’s potential. Flames head coach Hugh Freeze has his team going—to the point where they are a small favorite on the road against an ACC team. This is the second week in a row we’re picking against the Orange, and we feel good about doing so.
UCF at Memphis (Over 73.5): This has break-the-scoreboard vibes to it. I’m not sure we’ll top the 2018 thriller between these two that gave us 97 points, but it wouldn’t shock me if we eclipsed 80. It also wouldn’t shock me if this was the weekend’s most watchable game.
Mississippi State (+6.5) vs. Texas A&M: The full Mike Leach experience is not throwing for 1,578 in one game and then losing woefully the next two weeks. No, the full Mike Leach experience is capping it off with thrilling performance against a superior opponent. (Then the following week probably losing again.)
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.