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As heard on Out of Bounds, Qualk's best over/unders in the SEC.

We are less than a week from the start of the college football season, so we’re getting to the point where I’m (finally) ready to make some proclamations about the upcoming campaign. This week, I will be releasing my favorite over and under play in each of the Power 5 leagues, with some bonus plays included as necessary.

Today, we begin with the SEC…

Mississippi State OVER 6.5 (-130)

Maybe returning starters don’t mean what they used to before the transfer portal became a thing. In the past, it was a meaningful sign of stability and maturity that could lead a team to take a step or two forward from one season to the next.

Many of the brands at the top of the SEC West have gone heavily into the portal this offseason. Ole Miss has, LSU has, Texas A&M did at quarterback, Arkansas has…lots of schools are relying quite a bit on older players from other schools making an impact.

With that in mind, it does seem important that Mississippi State returns 16 starters from 2021, eight on either side of the football. That group includes incumbent QB Will Rogers, every relevant rusher, and four of the top five receivers from a year ago. Defensively, lots of production returns from a group that took some lumps due to injury last season and is now poised to reap the benefits of so many youngsters getting snaps a year ago.

Last season, the Bulldogs went 7-5. This year, the schedule is tough once again, with trips to LSU, Kentucky, Bama, and Ole Miss on the docket. However, I wouldn’t bet against the Bulldogs at home, especially with that much experience back. We might be a year early on Mike Leach, but we’re willing to take that risk, especially with a number this low. I see Mississippi State as an 8-9 win squad, so we’ve got some cushion here.

South Carolina UNDER 6.5 (-130)

This is a tricky team to figure out heading into the season. On one hand, the Gamecocks bring in Spencer Rattler to revive an absolutely putrid 2021 passing attack and get another season of seasoning on that talented defensive line. On the other hand, the schedule gets considerably more difficult amid some upgrades elsewhere in the SEC East.

There are lots of returners in Columbia to go along with the portal upgrades. This will undoubtedly be a better football team than it was a year ago. That 6-6 record in Shane Beamer’s first season surpassed expectations, but it also featured nail-biting wins against East Carolina and Vandy, a win over a Florida team that quit midseason, and a comeback victory over an Auburn team that was the worst game management operation I believe I’ve ever seen.

This is not to take anything away from what South Carolina did. Beamer’s first campaign was a success and the foundation has been laid. It’s just that the hurdles appear higher this time around. The Gamecocks trade Auburn for a road trip to Arkansas, a critically important mile marker for both programs. They never beat Kentucky and will have to travel to Florida. They aren’t as talented as teams like Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee that they get at home.

I don’t think this is a sure-fire bowl team. I do think a bowl is within reach if it wins a couple of games as an underdog. A successful season, in my view, would be to duplicate last year’s result of a 6-6 record without the element of surprise and with a tougher group of tests on the schedule.

*Win totals and payouts are consensus numbers from Action Network