Unranked Texas should cover as 7-point favorite over ranked Baylor

One team in today’s Baylor-Texas matchup comes in ranked. The other is outside the polls. One has achieved bowl eligibility. The other needs a couple of wins to get there.

The ranked team that is already bowl eligible? It’s Baylor, of course.

In a role reversal in this long-standing series, the Bears (6-2) and dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin own all the momentum. The Longhorns (4-3) are searching for an identity in their first season after the departure of quarterback Colt McCoy.

This season perhaps reached its valley last weekend for the Longhorns as Iowa State, arguably the 11th-best team in the Big 12 Conference, defeated Texas for the first time in school history.

Longhorns coach Mack Brown was livid in the aftermath of the 28-21 home loss to the Cyclones. As of midweek, Brown had yet to cool down.

“I do think there’s some entitlement with this team,” said Brown, whose team has lost three of its past four games. “They sit around and just think it’s going to happen because they’ve seen it happen time and time again. This team is not making it happen week in and week out.”

While Texas has hit some low points, it has had its moments — including road victories over Texas Tech and Nebraska — despite lacking the offensive playmakers of recent seasons.

The Longhorns, trying to avoid losing back-to-back home games in successive weeks for the first time since 1938, are 12-6 against the spread off a straight-up loss since the start of the 2000 season.

Texas should come out swinging and cover as a 7-point favorite.

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

■ SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (-9½) over Alabama-Birmingham — UAB played Mississippi State tough last week but is playing its fourth road game in about a month. Southern Miss wants revenge from last year and is hitting its stride offensively.

■ IOWA (-6½) over Michigan State — Expect a top-shelf effort from the angry Hawkeyes, who lost late to Wisconsin last week. Iowa is 27-12 ATS off a defeat the past 10-plus seasons. Michigan State last won at Kinnick Stadium in 1989.

■ MISSISSIPPI (+7) over Auburn — Mississippi coach Houston Nutt is 8-0 ATS against top-10 teams and has historically thrived as an underdog. Three straight No. 1s (Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma) have fallen by the wayside, and Auburn carries the albatross this week.

■ Auburn-MISSISSIPPI (Over 60½) — Tigers quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Cam Newton will do his part to turn this into a track meet, while the Oxford version of Jeremiah Masoli is now beginning to resemble the Eugene, Ore., version.

■ CENTRAL FLORIDA (-7½) over East Carolina — Ruffin McNeil has done a bang-up job in his first season at East Carolina, but Central Florida has quietly assembled an outstanding defense. East Carolina allowed 39.5 points per game in its first six games before holding pedestrian Marshall to 10 points last week.

■ OKLAHOMA (-23½) over Colorado — Sooners coach Bob Stoops is 15-7 ATS off a straight-up loss. The Buffaloes have been weary travelers, getting blasted at California and Missouri by a combined 71 points.

■ UNR (-25½) over Utah State — After losing to Hawaii, the Wolf Pack had an off week to re-energize for the stretch run. UNR is 20-5 ATS in its past 25 games as a home favorite.

Last week: 2-4-1 against the spread

Season: 24-27-3

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

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