Welcome back to our look at college football’s lines. Here, we take one of the most volatile sports in one of the most volatile years and pretend to be able to predict it. It’s kinda fun.
We went 1-2 on a three-game slate last week that saw Georgia Tech run out of gas against UCF’s high-powered offense and Louisville’s defense miss the bus in a critical matchup against Hawai’i—thank goodness Cincinnati did their job. This week, with the Big 12 inter-conference play beginning and SEC returning to football, we’ll take a break from the ACC.
Here are the four lines I like looking at Week 4’s slate. I’ll be around on Twitter if there are any other games you’re looking at. Odds are supplied by our friends over at BetOnline.
Texas State @ Boston College (-18)
Last week, Texas State was a moneymaker after beating up on a terrible Louisiana-Monroe offense, but don’t let that offensive output fool you. This is a bad football team. They were able to hang around with SMU in a messy game but were never really in it, then handed away a win to a middling UTSA program. Last week’s win was more about Louisiana-Monroe than anything else.
Meanwhile, Boston College looked strong against Duke, even with Duke’s mistakes and turnovers in the red zone considered. The Eagles turned over a coaching staff and a starting quarterback in Jeff Hafley and Phil Jurkovec with success in a difficult offseason, and while receiver Koby White is out for the season with a torn ACL, the performance of tight end Hunter Long and electric sophomore Zay Flowers is more than enough to account for explosive plays against a weak Texas State secondary.
Without Duke’s pass-rush breathing down his neck, Jurkovec will take fewer sacks and tuck on fewer scrambles, keeping Boston College’s passing attack active enough to build a hefty lead over the Bobcats.
Texas (-18) @ Texas Tech
I like another heavy favorite here, but this line just doesn’t make any sense to me. Texas Tech barely eked by Houston Baptist while Texas slapped UTEP around the yard 59-3 in their respective season openers. Texas Tech’s defense couldn’t find their cleats on most passing downs, which led to open receivers for the Huskies in multiple key situations—the passing attack for Houston Baptist produced 567 yards passing and four touchdowns without an interception.
Enter Sam Ehlinger, a veteran college passer who looked as comfortable as ever under one of college football’s best aerial designers Mike Yurcich, in his first year as Texas’ offensive coordinator following a long tenure in Oklahoma State. Against a secondary like Tech’s, Ehlinger should repeat a five-touchdown, 429-yard performance that was bolstered by the return of wide receiver Joshua Moore, who missed the 2019 season on a year-long suspension but looked ready as ever to rip off explosive plays for the Longhorns in 2020.
Expect Ehlinger, Yurcich, and the talented wide receiver room in Texas to look for vertical shots through the middle of the field and even on the sideline, where Ehlinger is particularly strong with wide receiver Brennan Eagles, to take advantage of a porous Tech defense. The only concern here is the backdoor cover.
West Virginia (+7) @ Oklahoma State
There is uncertainty on this line, as Oklahoma State sparkplug quarterback Spencer Sanders may not play following the ankle injury he sustained against Tulsa in Week 1—the Mountaineers are preparing as if he will, as neither backup Ethan Bullock nor young gun Shane Illingworth looked particularly impressive in his relief. In the event that either one plays, a touchdown is too much credit to give Oklahoma State—West Virginia is a live dog at +210.
The concern with Oklahoma State goes beyond just the quarterback. They struggled to get the running game rolling behind an offensive line that was expected to be the strength of the team—star running back Chuba Hubbard only averaged 3.4 yards/carry—and do not catch an easier trench battle against a West Virginia front led by brothers Darius and Dante Stills. The only question left for West Virginia concerns which cornerback they’ll have handle Tylan Wallace, who battled through tough Tulsa press coverage last week. JUCO transfer Dreshun Miller, yet untested in Power 5 play, has the biggest job of the week.
The Mountaineers offense led by another transfer—ex-Bowling Green quarterback Jarret Doege—looked explosive and powerful against Eastern Kentucky, and going back to last season, has typically hummed under Doege’s management. I think they have enough to hang within a touchdown of Oklahoma State, especially if the Cowboys offense is once again forced to reconcile with a backup passer.
Mississippi State @ LSU (-16.5)
It’s generally a shaky SEC slate to address, as we have data on none of these teams yet. Every team that debuts after the COVID-affected offseason seems a little off, and we could have some wacky results accordingly. Best to stay betting on the programs we know, in my opinion.
But if you want some SEC action, this to me is the clearest line for an advantage. The overreaction both to LSU’s talent departure and State’s established coach and quarterback in Mike Leach and Stanford transfer K.J. Costello has brought his line below 17, and that’s egregious enough for me to take the favorite. LSU does lose a ton of talent, but still returns far more talent than Mississippi State has, especially in key spots like at wide receiver, defensive line, in the secondary, and perhaps even at quarterback, where Myles Brennan has been waiting in the building for a long time.
Even for an expected hangover year, Ed Orgeron will have his team amped up and well-coached to start the season, while Leach’s system will take time to install successfully with SEC talent. I think LSU wins big.
To bet on these games and more, head over to BetOnline.