LAS VEGAS -- Sometimes looks can be deceiving in a football team’s season opener. Texas Tech coach Matt Wells surely hopes that’s the case with his team.
In a game that slipped under the radar Sept. 12, the Red Raiders narrowly escaped a major embarrassment. Texas Tech was a 40-point favorite and had to hold on to a nail-biting 35-33 win over Houston Baptist, an FCS team that rolled up 600 yards of total offense.
On the same day two weeks ago, Texas senior Sam Ehlinger passed for five touchdowns in the first half of a 59-3 victory over Texas-El Paso. Ehlinger, a Heisman Trophy candidate, has another opportunity to put up big numbers Saturday when the Longhorns face the Red Raiders in Lubbock for the teams’ Big 12 opener.
Texas Tech returned eight starters from last year’s defense, and its offense has plenty of firepower. Alan Bowman was leading the nation in passing yards before going down to a season-ending injury in the third game last season. Bowman passed for 430 yards against Houston Baptist as the Red Raiders totaled 624 yards.
Wells had a lot of success in his previous coaching job at Utah State. Texas Tech lost four conference games by three points or fewer last season, and Wells’ second season is off to an inauspicious start. Still, the Red Raiders should put up a fight as big home ‘dogs. The point spread is inflated due to disparate results two weeks ago.
The pick: Texas Tech + 18
Louisville (+ 3) over PITTSBURGH: The Panthers had trouble putting away a Syracuse team with a limited offense in a 21-10 win last week. The challenge will be much different against the Cardinals, who have speed to burn. QB Micale Cunningham, with 650 passing yards and six touchdowns in two games, has big-time playmakers in wideout Tutu Atwell and running back Javian Hawkins.
Miami torched the Louisville defense for 47 points last week, so while that’s a concern, the Hurricanes have much more offensive talent than Pittsburgh. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield was 5-0 straight up following a loss last year.
Iowa State (-2.5) over TCU: Sharp money forced the favorite to flip after TCU opened -2. The Cyclones had two weeks to regroup since getting upset by Louisiana-Lafayette in their opener. Not only does Iowa State have the advantage of playing a game already this season, it has a veteran quarterback in Brock Purdy. This is the opener for the Horned Frogs, who are unsettled at QB with returning starter Max Duggan listed as questionable.
Mississippi State (+ 16.5) over LSU: The Tigers are returning only four or five starters from their national title team. Mike Leach is 18-6 ATS in his past 24 games as a double-digit dog. Stanford transfer K.J. Costello, who led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency two years ago, will lead the offense in Leach’s coaching debut with the Bulldogs. Wait to see if this line moves to + 17.
Last week: 2-1