The SEC opens the 2021 college football season with two blockbuster matchups that should see some serious action.
No. 1 Alabama meets No. 14 Miami in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the teams’ first matchup since the fabled 1993 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide are heavy 18.5-point favorites, and they are a good bet knowing Nick Saban is 10-0 in neutral-site openers.
No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia meet in the other huge matchup in Charlotte, which is getting the prime-time ABC treatment. The Tigers are a 3.5-point favorite in a game that should be the first big piece of the College Football Playoff puzzle.
That’s not all. Josh Heupel will make his Tennessee debut Friday night against Bowling Green, and the Vols are 34.5-point favorites. Michigan transfer Joe Milton will start at quarterback for Tennessee. No. 16 LSU travels to UCLA for a rare Pac-12 matchup, and Labor Day features what should be a shootout between Ole Miss and Louisville. That is a risky over (75.5). Or is it?
Shane Beamer and Clark Lea will be making their debuts against FCS competition. South Carolina opens with Eastern Illinois, and Vanderbilt hosts ETSU.
For more college football predictions, check out Sporting News’ Week 1 picks against the spread:
SEC odds for Week 1
Here are the latest SEC odds, including point spreads, money lines and over-under totals for every game, according to FanDuel.com.
SEC point spreads for Week 1
SEC money lines for Week 1
SEC over/unders for Week 1
SEC best bets for Week 1
No. 16 LSU (-3.5) at UCLA
UCLA looked impressive in the opener against Hawaii, and that might be tempting given LSU’s struggles on defense last season against the big play. New defensive coordinator Daronte Jones was brought on to clean that up, however, and despite the success on the ground for UCLA, Dorian Thompson-Robinsion was just 10 of 20 passing in the opener. LSU forces a few interceptions, and Max Johnson gets enough support from the ground game to make a few big plays deep to Kayshon Boutte. LSU has won 12 straight games against Pac-12 opponents, a streak that dates back to 1979. We like them on the West Coast.
FAU (+24.5) at No. 13 Florida
Big spreads are always tricky, and the Gators make this a tough call knowing they are 7-4 ATS in non-conference games under Dan Mullen. The new-look offense around Emory Jones should find its groove, and the Gators have NFL talent all over with something to prove in an in-state opener. FAU, however, has a team capable of competing for a Conference-USA championship under second-year coach Willie Taggart. Miami transfer N’Kosi Perry is an experienced quarterback, and they must establish a running game with James Charles. The Owls were 3-0 ATS as an underdog last season. Florida wins, but FAU covers.
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson (Over 51.5)
It’s a top-five showdown, and both teams are loaded on the defensive front. We’re still trusting the quarterbacks to turn this into a quasi-shootout after halftime. JT Daniels and DJ Uiagalelei are among the Heisman favorites, and both teams had a winning record with the over last season. If all it takes is a 28-24 score to hit that here, we think that might be a bet you can tease up. Clemson beat Georgia 38-35 in 2013, and Georgia won 45-21 the following season. Look for another shootout where both teams could get into the 30s.
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