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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Point Spread - Pick

Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: CBS

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: ALA -18.5/VAN +18.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5

The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, as both teams open their SEC schedules in this week four matchup. Alabama went to 3-0 with a 41-23 win over Colorado State in their last game. It wasn't a vintage 'Bama performance and they haven't covered the spread in their last two games, but they'll still be a handful for a home Vanderbilt bunch. At the same time, the Commodores added some credence to their cause on Saturday with a 14-7 win over 18th-ranked Kansas State. They are also 3-0 and look for a program-boosting win this week in what is an awfully difficult spot.

Vandy is on a stretch run of tough matchups, but got off to a good start on Saturday. After beating ranked Kansas State, they now face Alabama, Florida, and Georgia in consecutive weeks. They get three of these four games at home, which is a break. After beating Middle Tennessee and Alabama A&M, it was hard to pinpoint where the Commodores stood so far in 2017. The win over Kansas State paints them in a different light. The defense was tremendous for the entire game. And when the offense needed a positive development, they were able to find it against a tough defense that had them in knots for much of the game. All in all, it was a very capable and clutch performance for a Vanderbilt team that was in the need of a boost. It was the first time they have beaten a ranked non-conference opponent in 71 years.

The Commodores offense relies on an experienced QB/RB battery with quarterback Kyle Shurmur and back Ralph Webb. Shurmur was clutch, throwing for a TD and running one in after he fumbled the snap for what turned out to be the capper. Webb and the entire ground-game weren't all that impressive on Saturday, but Shurmur made nice connections with CJ Duncan, who caught a TD pass, along with Trent Sherfield and TE Jared Pinkney. The O-line wasn't always tip-top against KSU, but when you're Vandy and you beat a ranked team, you don't get too picky.

Vanderbilt's defense looked to be really good on Saturday. The secondary was key, holding Kansas State QB Jesse Ertz to just 78 yards. Defensive backs like Ladarius Wiley, Ryan White, Tre Herndon, and Joejuan Williams look like a sterling group. Picks by White and Wiley were big in the win. Linebackers Owen Burks, Charles Wright, and Emmanuel Smith were also productive on Saturday, as well as defensive ends Jonathan Wynn and Dare Odeyingbo, who played nicely.

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Alabama is the top-ranked team in the country, but they seem to be a work-in-progress. They're working on some different things on offense, namely with their running-game, while working on some different things on defense. They haven't hit their ceiling yet, which is a scary proposition, but if a team were to shock them, now might be the ideal time. After all, they've missed covering the last two spreads by double-digits each time and it's unusual to see the Tide give up nearly 400 yards of offense to a Mountain West team, as they did with Colorado State on Saturday.

Still, the Alabama run-game is tremendous. Between quarterback Jalen Hurts and backs Bo Scarborough, Najee Harris, Damien Harris, and Josh Jacobs, they have a wealth of options. But with all the Alabama backs who have won Heisman Trophies lately, it's strange to not see a go-to guy. Scarborough and D. Harris each scored on the ground. Hurts led the way with 103 yards rushing, while also throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns. In their longest play, Hurts hit Calvin Ridley for a 78-yard touchdown, also connecting with Robert Foster on a 52-yard scoring strike.

The Tide defense wasn't really that great on Saturday. And that's the dicey part of betting huge favorites like Alabama. With so many big games coming up, they often don't play that hard when they have a big lead against a foe that is as overmatched as Colorado State. The defense is a little thin at linebacker after some injuries. The pass-rush isn't really clicking, with it requiring them to send a lot of guys to make an effective dent on the comfort of the opposing quarterback. The secondary has been good, making a lot of plays and being pretty stout, led by Anthony Averett, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Ronnie Harrison. Shaun Dion Hamilton and Keith Holcombe are still a handful in the middle, with Da'Ron Payne a big presence up-front.

It seems like Alabama is in a spot where they're not ready to unleash their full-wrath yet. They are pulling starters pretty early, which has put the cover in jeopardy the last few weeks. The beginning of conference play usually accompanies the Tide hitting another gear and that could happen this week. Vandy is competent, but it's hard to envision them putting up a bunch of points or getting through this game without a major special teams gaffe or two. Still, I see them being competitive in spots and hanging on for the cover.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Vanderbilt Commodores plus 18.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Alabama vs. Vanderbilt game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!

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