Mr. CFB Pick Six: Week 3

New Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach will make his SEC debut at LSU, the defending national champions.Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

The first three weeks of the 2020 college football season were a gift that, in the heat of summer, we didn't know if we were going to receive. There were good games and bad games. The crowd noise, most of it artificial, was eerie. But you know what? We didn't care.

 It was FOOTBALL!

Now, as a friend of mine said Monday, "the season is finally going to start."

The SEC, which has won 10 of the last 14 national championships , including last seasons 15-0 masterpiece by LSU,  has finally arrived at the party. And let's be honest: This Saturday is going to feel different than the previous three because the SEC will be playing.

The SEC decided in late July that it would not begin its season until Sept. 26. The thinking was that the late starting date could give the conference its best chance of finishing a 10-game regular season.

We'll see.

And with the SEC involved, the weekly picks get tougher. But that's okay. Bring it on.

Last week we went 3-3 as Georgia Tech, Duke, and Appalachian State let us down and Notre Dame, N.C. State, and Miami came through. That puts us at 7-5 against the spread.

Here we go.

The game: Florida at Ole Miss (plus 13.5), Noon, ESPN.

The pick: Ole Miss.

The score: Florida 34, Ole Miss 21.

The skinny: Lane Kiffin makes his debut as the new head coach at Ole Miss. He has a couple of different options at quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee, who led the SEC in rushing last season, and strong-armed Matt Corral, who should thrive under Kiffin. Florida will win the game but Ole Miss will make it competitive with some big plays against Gators’ defense. Florida wins but doesn’t cover the 13.5.

The game: Kentucky (plus 7.5) at Auburn, Noon, SEC Network.

The pick: Kentucky.

The score: Auburn 27, Kentucky 20.

The skinny: Keep your eyes on Auburn’s offense, which has a new play caller in Chad Morris, against a defense that returns seven of its top nine tacklers from a unit that finished No. 14 nationally in scoring defense (19.3 ppg). Quarterback Terry Wilson returns after missing the bulk of the 2019 season with a knee injury. The Wildcats return a deep set of running backs and four starters on the offensive line. Auburn wins but the Tigers don’t cover.

The game: Mississippi State (plus 16.5) at LSU, 3:30 p.m., CBS.

The pick: LSU.

The score: LSU 38, Mississippi State 20.

The skinny: Mike Leach begins his new job as the Mississippi State head coach with a trip to Baton Rouge to face the defending national champion. LSU has lost a ton of coaching and playing talent and may struggle early against Leach’s air raid attack featuring K.J. Costello, the transfer quarterback from Stanford. The thing you have to remember about Leach is that it doesn’t matter if he is way ahead or way behind. He’s going to keep throwing. That means a high number of three-and-outs.

That will eventually wear out the Mississippi State defense and LSU pulls away at the end.

The game: Georgia at Arkansas (plus 26.5), 4 p.m., SEC Network.

The pick: Georgia

The score: Georgia 42, Arkansas 14.

The skinny: Arkansas starts over under new coach Sam Pittman, who recruited just about every offensive lineman who will play for Georgia on Saturday. The Razorbacks hit rock bottom as a program last season, going 0-8 in conference play for the second straight year. Dating back to the 2017 season, Arkansas has lost 19 straight SEC games. Arkansas will have a chance in some games this season because of Florida transfer Feleipe Franks at quarterback. This will not be one of them. Georgia covers easily and gets ready to play Auburn next week.

The game: Alabama at Missouri (plus 27), 7 p.m., ESPN

The pick: Alabama.

The score: Alabama 42, Missouri 7.

The skinny: Eli Drinkwitz, all of 37 years old, makes his SEC debut against the greatest coach in the history of the game. Gee. What could go wrong? I’ll be watching to see how Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian handles freshman quarterback Bryce Young. Mac Jones will start the game at quarterback and Alabama can win a lot of games with him pulling the trigger. But with Texas A&M coming to Tuscaloosa next week, does Young get an early look in this game?

The game: Tennessee at South Carolina (plus 3.5), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network.

The pick: South Carolina.

The score: South Carolina 24, Tennessee 20.

The skinny: Here’s one of those quirky football stats that defies explanation. Will Muschamp has been a head coach for eight seasons (4 at Florida, 4 at South Carolina). He is 7-1 against the Tennessee Volunteers, who come to Williams-Brice Stadium as a 3.5-point favorite. In fact, Muschamp was 7-0 against Tennessee until South Carolina’s 41-21 loss at Neyland Stadium last season. Logically, Tennessee should win this game. The Vols have more talent. But after going 4-8 last season this is Muschamp’s last stand. He brought in Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator who in turn brought in his quarterback from Colorado State, Collin Hill. Let’s just put it this way. If South Carolina doesn’t win this game, with a trip to Florida coming up next week, there is going to be some EARLY grumbling in Columbia.

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Tony Barnhart

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