‘Lubbock lunatics’ take aim at green Texas quarterback

Texas sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert, one of the nation’s most ballyhooed recruits out of high school, experienced the bright lights of the national championship stage in January in Pasadena, Calif.

When former star Colt McCoy went down on the Longhorns’ fifth offensive play against Alabama, Gilbert was summoned into action.

After a shaky start that contributed to Texas digging itself a 24-6 halftime hole, Gilbert settled down in the second half to get the Longhorns within three points before Alabama shut the door en route to a 37-21 victory.

Just two starts into his reign as Texas’ quarterback, Gilbert gets a taste of life on the Big 12 Conference road tonight when he leads the Longhorns into Lubbock to face Texas Tech.

Although perhaps underappreciated by some fans, Jones AT&T Stadium ranks among college football’s most hostile settings for visitors, especially when big brother Texas is on the opposite sideline.

Longhorns coach Mack Brown downplayed how the “Lubbock lunatics” might affect Gilbert, saying, “It’s just not his personality. I don’t think that stuff will bother him.”

Gilbert also pronounced himself ready for the trip.

But Texas Tech should win the turnover battle, Texas’ offense still lacks a running game, and the 100-plus receptions of Jordan Shipley are not easily replaced.

The Red Raiders are 27-17 against the spread (ATS) at home since the start of the 2002 season. Take Texas Tech as a 3-point underdog.

Six more plays for today (home team in CAPS):

■ Kansas State (-3½) over Iowa State — Iowa racked up 275 yards rushing in last week’s easy victory over the Cyclones. Now Iowa State, which is somewhat green in the defensive front seven, faces one of the nation’s top running backs, the Wildcats’ Daniel Thomas.

■ OKLAHOMA STATE (-6½) over Tulsa — Tulsa is a trendy pick to make noise this season in Conference USA but lacks the pedigree to match points with Oklahoma State, which appears to be transitioning nicely to a new spread offense.

Tulsa has been a lukewarm traveler under coach Todd Graham, covering just six of 19 on the road.

■ OKLAHOMA (-17) over Air Force — In recent years, Air Force has had trouble competing with the Mountain West Conference’s big three of Texas Christian, Utah and Brigham Young.

The Falcons knocked off BYU last week but will come back to earth this weekend as they step up in class against the Sooners, who are 18-7 ATS as home favorites since late 2005.

■ BOWLING GREEN (+3) over Marshall — Bowling Green lost outright to Marshall last year as a 3-point road favorite in Huntington, W.Va., but now reverses roles as a home underdog.

The Falcons have thrived as underdogs in recent years, going 14-6 ATS in their past 20, and catch Marshall in a likely emotional funk off last week’s overtime loss to West Virginia.

■ Notre Dame (+3½) over MICHIGAN STATE — With the game being played in East Lansing, the number suggests these teams are essentially even. To this point, however, Notre Dame has shown itself to be the better club.

At Cincinnati and Central Michigan, coach Brian Kelly’s teams thrived off a straight-up loss (11-3 ATS in his past 14 spots in the role), and the Irish should rebound after falling to Michigan in the final minutes.

■ STANFORD (-17½) over Wake Forest — The Cardinal led Wake Forest by 14 points at halftime of last year’s 24-17 loss on Tobacco Road. Now Wake Forest makes the return trip west with a freshman quarterback making his first road start.

Expect quarterback Andrew Luck to put up big numbers against a Demon Deacons defense that has allowed an average of 36.2 points per game against its past five Bowl Championship Series opponents.

Last week: 5-2 against the spread

Season: 5-6-1

Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone of Vegassportsauthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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