Fresh faces dot SEC landscape

The big boys of the SEC are set to join the college football party this weekend as the conference will take the field for the first time in regular season action.

You have your usual suspects at the top which are expected to compete for the conference crown. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M who appear on paper to be the best teams in the SEC this season.

There are a few head coaches on the hot seat in the SEC entering the new season. Derek Mason is feeling some pressure to get Vanderbilt to improve after a woeful 3-9 campaign last season. Will Muschamp at South Carolina and Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee who just happen to be facing one another in the season opener for both teams on Saturday, are also on thin ice right now making this a very critical season for them and their two programs.

There are also some new head coaches on the block taking over programs with Eli Drinkwitz being the new head coach at Missouri, Sam Pittman at Arkansas, Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and the always entertaining Mike Leach with Mississippi State. All of them are offensive minded coaches looking to bring not only improvement but some excitement to their programs.

Speaking of those new SEC head coaches, it’s important to once again mention the first-year head coaches with new teams betting angle which was 2-8 ATS entering last week’s games and is now 3-12 ATS on the season after last week. New coaches often bring in new coordinators on both sides of the football along with new schemes and systems that players must learn on the fly and with this unique season occurring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many college football teams didn’t go through a normal practice and camp schedule prior to the start of the season.

Put it all together and the case is clear as to why these teams with new head coaches have struggled so much early in the season from a point spread standpoint.

After a 2-1 winning result last week, here are my picks for this week…

Thursday

UAB at South Alabama +6.5: South Alabama is 2-0 ATS to start the season and they should have beaten Tulane in their last game, but the Green Wave rallied to steal the victory. South Alabama has a much improved offense with a dual QB system of Desmond Trotter and Chance Lovertich at the helm that is capable of moving the football and putting up points in bunches, which is something the Jaguars failed to do all of last season.

UAB will be without their No. 1 QB Tyler Johnston due to a shoulder injury. So in steps Bryson Lucero as the new starter for the Blazers. UAB's offensive strength is running the football with their terrific back, Spencer Brown. But South Alabama has been pretty solid against the run so far this season and that could place a bit too much pressure on the new starting QB for UAB.

Too many points here for UAB to be laying on the road against a still undervalued team. SOUTH ALABAMA

Saturday

UCF at East Carolina Total 77: UCF showed last week in their 49-21 win against Georgia Tech that they will have a very explosive, quick strike offense once again led by QB Dillon Gabriel. The Knights had just shy of 700 total yards of offense against the Yellow Jackets.

That’s trouble for ECU which returns only four starters on defense. However, the Pirates bring back eight starters on offense, including QB Holton Ahlers, who should be able to build off a solid season last year and be even more comfortable in this offense under head coach Mike Houston. There is a reason this total is moving on up as we speak. OVER

Louisville +3 at Pittsburgh: I think the wrong team is favored here and I’m willing to back Louisville in this spot after a tough 47-34 loss to Miami last week.

The Cardinals have a great offense led by QB Micale Cunningham and they did their part last week against the Canes but the defense which was so strong against Western Kentucky reverted back into the struggling stop unit they had a season ago surrendering 47 points.

Louisville still has problems on defense matching up with the speed of the opposing team but that isn’t Pittsburgh. The Panthers don’t have anywhere close to a D’Eriq King at QB when it comes to Kenny Pickett. Pitt doesn’t have the level of athlete or speed on offense that the Hurricanes have and I expect the Louisville defense to look a lot more like they did against WKU. 

Pittsburgh’s defense is solid, but they faced a Syracuse team lacking a quality QB and having a horrific offensive line. LOUISVILLE

Last week: 2-1

Season: 4-2