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Florida and Alabama have already locked up positions in the SEC title game scheduled for three weeks from today. Yet, both teams have bigger goals, namely the national championship. Even though both teams could realistically still afford a loss and reach



2009-11-13

Florida and Alabama have already locked up positions in the SEC title game scheduled for three weeks from today. Yet, both teams have bigger goals, namely the national championship. Even though both teams could realistically still afford a loss and reach that goal, it's not a theory they want to test. Florida is on the road Saturday at South Carolina, while Alabama visits Mississippi State, each trying to avoid a misstep. Here's a look at each game. Be sure to visit the LIVE ODDS, BETTING TRENDS, and GAME MATCHUPS pages on Sportsbook.com for more on these key contests as well as the rest of the college betting board.

Florida at South Carolina
This is Florida's last SEC game already, having a peculiar schedule that ends with two non-conference tilts. Scheduling Florida International next is a wise move before the annual confrontation with Florida State. The Gators (9-0, 4-4 ATS) haven't always looked like the best team in the country, but have shown signs of putting everything together in the last two wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt. The red zone issues are being answered and Tim Tebow has been more in sync with his receivers, like Riley Cooper. The defense is as good as there is ranked second in the country (232.4 YPG), led by team leader and linebacker Brandon Spikes. Wide receiver Brandon James and TE Aaron Hernandez have dropped more passes than necessary this season and a game might be coming in which that could haunt Florida. The Gators are 8-1 ATS as SEC road chalk.

This is also South Carolina's last conference clash with just in-state rival Clemson left. Since scoring 28 points against Kentucky, the offense has not been able to turn digits on the scoreboard, averaging 12.2 points per game. Facing a hungry Gators defense is not the easiest way to find a way to manufacture points. Quarterback Stephen Garcia has to keep his wits about him in the passing game with the pressure he will face and be on target when the Gamecocks (6-4, 5-5 ATS) are in position to put up points. This will be a touchdown game, not a field goal fest. Senior linebacker Eric Norwood and defensive mates have to throw off the timing of Florida offense and force turnovers that can lead to points. They haven't lately and are 3-12 ATS in home games after two consecutive games where they forced one or less turnovers.

South Carolina is 4-7-1 ATS as home underdogs under coach Steve Spurrier. The former Gators' head man is 1-3 and 2-2 ATS vs. his alma mater.

Alabama at Mississippi State
Alabama (9-0, 6-3 ATS) has won six of last eight against Mississippi State; however that doesn't tell the whole story. From 1996 to 2000, the Crimson Tide lost four of five to the Bulldogs, with a matching spread record. In the last two decades, Mississippi State has covered the spread 14 of 20 times and been a real nuisance to Bama. Other than Ole Miss, Alabama is the next biggest rival on the Bulldogs menu and for the most part aren't even given consideration by Alabama, which irks the folks from Starksville to no end.

Part of the Crimson Tide's lack of focus comes from having LSU just after or before the Bulldogs. No team can be emotionally ready week after week and this is a plausible explanation for Alabama's problems with Mississippi State. Alabama has had to make adjustments offensively. In the first part of the 2009 campaign, opponents made a concerted effort to take away WR Julio Jones. This took a player out of the box and running back Mark Ingram has had big year. More recently, Ingram has been the focus of attention and QB Greg McElroy's inability to complete passes has prevented the Tide from taking advantage until last week. Bama is 13-7-1 ATS since 1999 as SEC road faves and is perfect 6-0 ATS as visiting team the last two seasons.

The Bulldogs (4-5, 5-3 ATS) have played every ranked team they have faced tough, losing by 10 or less points. New coach Dan Mullen is seeking a first year signature win to help attract better recruits and an upset of Alabama will have them on the front page of every sports news outlet. Mississippi State has one of the premier running games in the country (12th) at 219.2 yards per game, with Anthony Dixon toting the pigskin. The Bulldogs are 6-6 ATS as home dogs vs Top 10 teams in last dozen tries. Seven of last 11 conflicts have been UNDER the total.

The StatFox Power Lines show Florida by 19 and Alabama by 13, indicating that we could see a ATS split by the teams on Saturday. Get the latest lines on the Sportsbook.com LIVE ODDS page.


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