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Texas ready to make CFP run, can name score vs. Texas Tech

This season is Texas’ best chance at making noise nationally since before the College Football Playoff began in 2014.

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a Heisman Trophy contender. The running back room is fully stocked. The defense is much healthier, run by a coordinator in former Rutgers coach Chris Ash who has simplified the scheme and turned his athletes loose.

The Longhorns are 17½-point favorites at Texas Tech, which has lost several key players on defense.

Red Raiders linebacker Jordyn Brooks was the first Texas Tech player drafted in the first round since 1983. He had 20 tackles for loss last season, and he’s gone. So are defensive tackle Broderick Washington (fifth-round pick) and defensive back Douglas Coleman III (eight interceptions last season).

A talent drain and a regression to the mean in terms of luck are hitting the Red Raiders hard. They gave up 600 total yards and 33 points to Houston Baptist, which went 2-6 in the Southland Conference last season.

Texas can name the score in this one. Take the Longhorns.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Georgia Tech-SYRACUSE U52½: I’ll keep finding ways to bet against a horrendous Orange offensive line. About the only way Syracuse can score touchdowns is if Taj Harris gets behind defenses for deep balls. Harris scored a long TD in last week’s 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh. But the Orange gave up seven sacks and mustered only three more points despite starting three drives in Panthers territory.

Alabama (-27½) over MISSOURI: Nick Saban is 12-1 ATS in season openers with the Crimson Tide. That’s more impressive considering that Alabama has covered inflated spreads. Tide quarterback Mac Jones threw two interceptions for touchdowns in the Iron Bowl. But advanced stats point to a top-10 quarterback nationally. He has potential first-round talent at running back (Najee Harris), receiver (DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle) and left tackle (Alex Leatherwood). First-year Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz is dealing with at least 12 players out for the game because of COVID-19. Alabama’s defense is breaking in a new secondary, but the front seven is healthy and ready to make a statement.

Florida State-MIAMI U54: A few explosive plays have propped up the success of Miami’s offense. Here’s a taste of the many stats that support that notion: 24 of Miami’s 28 carries in its 47-34 win over Louisville went for 4 yards or less and 14 went for 1 yard or less. Louisville doesn’t have a player like Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, a likely first-round pick. Miami’s receivers aren’t scary downfield. The Hurricanes defense should be fine against Seminoles QB James Blackman and a shaky offensive line.

Duke-VIRGINIA U45½: Virginia will miss QB Bryce Perkins. The Cavaliers averaged 25.6 points against Power Five teams the last two seasons, often because of Herculean efforts by Perkins. Duke and Virginia might be in a competition for the worst skill players in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Clemson transfer QB Chase Brice has yet to throw a TD pass in 79 attempts. Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall’s teams play tough defense. Duke’s defensive line and secondary should fare well against Virginia.

Last week: 4-1

Season: 7-3

Christopher Smith of AL.com and BetOnline is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @cfblocksmith on Twitter.

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