With two months remaining in the regular season, Texas junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger is putting up numbers worthy of a Heisman candidate. The next two games will determine if he stays in the race.
Ehlinger has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,237 yards and 15 touchdowns with one interception. Sammy “The Bull” also has 191 rushing yards.
A bye followed the Longhorns’ shootout victory over Oklahoma State, but coach Tom Herman has concerns with a banged-up and depleted defensive backfield. West Virginia’s Austin Kendall, a transfer from Oklahoma, where he backed up Heisman winners Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, is improving in a new offense and passed for a total of 474 yards in the past two victories over North Carolina State and Kansas.
Neal Brown was a smart coaching hire. The Mountaineers are on firmer footing after a shaky start that included a 31-point loss at Missouri. Kendall is following Will Grier, who led West Virginia to a dramatic 42-41 win at Texas a year ago.
The Longhorns have a much bigger game with the Sooners on deck, so this is a tricky lookahead spot in Morgantown. Ehlinger will find a way to win, but I’ll take the 10½-point underdog.
More plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):
356-MICHIGAN (-3.5) over Iowa:
Jim Harbaugh cannot win big games — it has been said countless times the past two weeks after the Wolverines were embarrassed at Wisconsin. The truth is the Michigan coach is not winning any big games on the road. Harbaugh did whip the Badgers (38-13) and Penn State (42-7) in home games last year. This is another enormous game for Harbaugh, who has the more talented team and is on his home turf. The price is cheap on the Wolverines, who opened as 7-point favorites at Circa Sports.
385-Auburn-FLORIDA (Under 48.5): When the SEC’s elite teams meet, defenses usually dominate the spotlight. When Auburn and Florida meet in “The Swamp” it could get ugly for the offenses and two inexperienced quarterbacks.
After a mediocre first four starts, freshman quarterback Bo Nix is finally flashing his potential. Nix was not spectacular in the Tigers’ win at Texas A&M two weeks ago, but the experience he gained in that environment will help this week in Gainesville. Nix is coming off his best game yet, passing for 335 yards, rushing for 56 and totaling three touchdowns in a rout of Mississippi State. Auburn’s defense has been outstanding while allowing 17.2 points per game.
Nix is about to face his toughest test yet in the Florida defense. The Gators are 5-0, outscoring Tennessee and Towson by a combined 72-3 the past two weeks. Dan Mullen is an excellent coach of quarterbacks, so it’s not a surprise to see Kyle Trask play well as the replacement for injured starter Feleipe Franks. Trask has completed 77.3 percent of his passes with five touchdowns. The Auburn defense is a different animal. The Gators will try to run the ball to help Trask, but it will be an uphill task.
This opened as a pick’em game, and the Tigers are now 2½-point favorites. Instead of calling a side in what appears to be a coin-flip game, look at the total and bet on the defenses.
321-Ball State (plus-5) over NORTHERN ILLINOIS
328-KANSAS STATE (-1.5) over Baylor
349-California (plus-20) over OREGON
374-IOWA STATE (-3) over Texas Christian
398-UNLV (plus-24) over Boise State
Last week: 2-4 against the spread