Week 3 college football capsules

By VSiN Staff  () 

(103) LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE at (104) GEORGIA STATE

 

Ooh-La-La, indeed! The Ragin’ Cajuns made some rare national noise Saturday, burying bowl-caliber Big 12 rep Iowa State 31-14 in Ames, perhaps the most notable of several strong efforts by Sun Belt entries. Such success, though, has become expected in Lafayette under third-year coach Billy Napier, whose 2019 squad won 11 games, including the Lending Tree Bowl over Miami (Ohio). That increased speculation that Napier, a disciple of Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, might not be long for the Cajuns, though he did reportedly pull out of consideration for the Mississippi State job last winter. The 2020 ULL edition might be even better, returning much of the potent offense that ranked sixth in rushing, eighth overall and 10th in scoring a year ago. The mostly-senior offense features key returnees at most positions, including QB, where Levi Lewis passed for 26 TDs and only four picks and the two-headed monster of RBs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, who entered 2020 with a combined 5,203 rushing yards. Lewis was involved in the play of the game vs. the Cyclones, as his 78-yard TD pass to WR Peter LeBlanc put the Ragin’ Cajuns ahead to stay 17-14 late in the third quarter. But it was the underrated defense, which ranked a very impressive 18th in scoring a year ago, with seven returning starters that really put the clamps on ballyhooed Cyclone QB Brock Purdy. Don’t want to completely underestimate Shawn Elliott’s Panthers, returning 17 starters from last season’s Arizona Bowl team. But Georgia State lost a lot of altitude late last season after an injury to do-everything QB Dan Ellington, who has graduated and now works on the GSU staff. Let’s see how Georgia State, playing its first game of 2020, fares minus Ellington. Keep in mind the good point-spread marks put forth by Napier, now 18-7-2 vs. the number since early 2018.   

 

(105) FLORIDA ATLANTIC at (106) GEORGIA SOUTHERN 

 

Florida Atlantic begins the Willie Taggart era on the road. It has been a busy offseason in Boca Raton as Taggart takes over for Lane Kiffin, who left for Ole Miss. Florida State dismissed Taggart last year after a 9-12 record in less than two seasons. After disappointing short stints at Oregon and Florida State, Taggart seems to be back on the level he should be by running a good non-Power 5 program with a strong possibility of duplicating the success he had in his previous stops at Western Kentucky and South Florida. FAU does not have the easiest of openers, having to play on the road against a triple-option offense with limited preparation time and contact. The Owls also have to go with a QB in his first road start in Nick Tronti. The Indiana transfer is probably a better long-term fit for Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense, which he ran at USF, but it is not easy to replace two-year starter Chris Robison, who was dismissed from the program in early August. Tronti will have some Power 5 program transfers at the skill positions, though. The question is how much talent Georgia Southern will have to work with this week. The Eagles barely made it past FCS Campbell last weekend, stopping a late two-point attempt in a 27-26 victory. GSU was without 33 players and seven starters due to COVID-19 issues, injuries and suspensions. FAU opened as a six-point favorite, but this is also its first game. Plus, former USF head coaches Taggart and FAU DC Jim Leavitt get a crack at their former employers, South Florida, next week.

 

(107) WAKE FOREST at (108) NC STATE 

 

Despite going on the road, the next opponent for Wake Forest, NC State, is near the same level as the Demon Deacons, who had to host No. 1 Clemson in the opener. Wake at least was more competitive this time around after being outscored 115-6 in the previous two years, covering as a 34-point underdog in a 37-13 defeat. Clemson did lead 37-3 heading into the fourth quarter and pulled its starters. Wake returned only two offensive line starters and is having to replace its entire corps of skill-position starters. Like many teams over the weekend, the Demon Deacons’ defense struggled to tackle with the lack of practices. Next week Wake will host Notre Dame to kick off four straight home games in Winston-Salem, but first up is a trip to Raleigh. The Wolfpack have lost three straight (0-3 SU and ATS) to Wake, including a 44-10 embarrassment last season. NC State was originally to open last weekend at Virginia Tech, but the game was postponed until next week due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Blacksburg. NC State brings in a new OC as Tim Beck joins the staff after serving in the same role at Texas last season. Beck and coach Dave Doeren have committed to sophomore quarterback Devin Leary as their starter. Leary is the most talented QB in the program but will have to make improvements after completing only 48% of his passes as a freshman, especially since Beck is allowing for more reads and improvisations versus scripted plays. Leary at least has some help with nine other offensive starters returning. The Wolfpack bring back their entire stable of RBs in addition to seven of their top eight receivers. Doeren’s group took a precipitous drop last season, going 4-8 after two consecutive 9-4 seasons, so there is some howling in Raleigh regarding the program’s direction. Stopping the losing streak to an in-state rival would at least silence some of the howls from the Wolfpack fan base.  

 

(109) UCF at (110) GEORGIA TECH

 

Georgia Tech apparently has a pulse again, as the Yellow Jackets gave everyone in the ACC something to think about Saturday by shocking Florida State in Tallahassee. The result might have had more to do with the Seminoles’ inadequacies, but after rough sledding in his debut last fall, second-year coach Geoff Collins won’t refuse any win. Collins has fundamental reasons for optimism after unveiling true freshman QB Jeff Sims, who passed for 277 yards in his debut and paced the fourth-quarter drives that proved decisive in that 16-13 win. Before getting too carried away with the Ramblin’ Wreck, however, it’s quite likely the test will be a lot more severe this week after facing a team with a new coach, offense and very shaky QB situation last week. None of that applies to potent UCF, which produced plenty of fireworks last season. The Knights ranked second nationally in total offense and fifth in scoring at better than 43 ppg, and they return many key components from that 10-3 squad. That includes exciting sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel, who passed for nearly 3,700 yards as a freshman with 29 TD passes, as well as a versatile, three-deep RB corps. Josh Heupel’s defense features a veteran, ball-hawking secondary that returns four starters and will be eager to capitalize on any mistakes by Sims, who threw two picks last week. Unless wanting to be one of the early passengers on the Jackets bandwagon, might be better off respecting UCF’s well-established recent trends, including its tendency to win outright (22-4 for Heupel since 2018 and 35-4 outright since 2017) and tendency to fare well vs. non-AAC opposition (10-3 vs. spread in last 13). 

 

(111) CHARLOTTE at (112) NORTH CAROLINA 

 

Charlotte gets another in-state road trip to face a name program. Last week the 49ers went to Boone to face Appalachian State and covered (+ 17) but still lost 35-20. Charlotte trailed 21-20 going into the fourth quarter before getting worn down in the final 15 minutes. This week Charlotte will take a short trip to Chapel Hill to face the No. 12 Tar Heels. North Carolina was bet up from a 20.5-point favorite all the way to 24 but eventually covered all numbers in a 31-6 victory over Syracuse. UNC was sloppy early and led only 10-6 heading into the final quarter but pulled away behind junior RB Javonte Williams and his three fourth-quarter TDs. Despite dominating Syracuse 463 yards to 202, North Carolina still has plenty to work on. It committed nine penalties for 91 yards and three turnovers, including two INTs from sophomore QB Sam Howell, who threw only seven picks all last season. The Tar Heels were also sloppy on special teams, with a missed FG and a muffed punt that gave Syracuse a free field goal. UNC dominated defensively and sacked Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito seven times and had 11 TFLs as a unit. North Carolina gets a bye next week before heading to Boston College, but Charlotte will be fired up to face the big in-state school and the Tar Heels will need to be cleaner and sharper on offense and special teams.  

 

(113) BOSTON COLLEGE at (114) DUKE

 

Jeff Hafley is beginning his 20th year in coaching but his first as a head coach as he takes over the Eagles from the fired Steve Addazio, now at Colorado State. Hafley has had stints in college and the NFL but comes to BC from Ohio State, where he was the co-DC. Hafley not only brings experience from a winning culture but has already been well received by his players and the fan base. Addazio was beloved by neither of those factions, and the remaining BC players are raving about having more fun and playing loose. Besides a new head coach and new coordinators on both sides of the ball, BC must replace the starting QB (Anthony Brown, transferred to Oregon) and RB (A.J. Dillon, second-round draft pick by Green Bay). But the Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in the ACC, and it will be in charge of protecting highly touted Notre Dame transfer QB sophomore Phil Jurkovec. Speaking of Notre Dame, that was Duke’s opposition last week in a 27-13 defeat (but cover + 21). Duke was ready to play early as it outgained Notre Dame 246-228 in the first half. But the Blue Devils gained only 82 total yards in the second half. Despite Duke’s second-half offensive struggles, Chase Brice, the Clemson transfer making his first start at QB, already has shown to be a clear upgrade in the passing game over the graduated Quintin Harris, who was a better runner than passer. The Blue Devils will need more support from the running game, as they averaged only 2.4 ypc against a good Fighting Irish defense. Boston College is learning some new defensive schemes but does return nine starters, and Hafley spent seven seasons in the NFL as a secondary coach at Cleveland, Tampa Bay and San Francisco, so the unit should show some immediate improvement.

 

(115) MIAMI at (116) LOUISVILLE

 

Revenge can be a very overrated motivator — but not always. So it might be Saturday in Louisville as the Cardinals look to atone for one of their worst efforts of 2019, when they got smoked 52-27 by the Hurricanes at Hard Rock. Longtime ACC sources say that result has stuck in Louisville’s craw at least as much as the beatdown administered by Kentucky a few weeks later. In his first year, coach Scott Satterfield was allotted a couple of mulligans anyway, considering the dramatic and immediate turnaround he oversaw. Many factors made the Miami lopsided loss especially painful, nothing more than a complete collapse in the secondary that allowed unheralded Canes QB Jarren Williams, who has transferred to Garden City CC in Kansas, to toss a Miami-record six TD passes. In addition, QB Micale Cunningham and star OT Mekhi Becton, a first-round pick by the Jets, were KO’d during the game. Cunningham, however, finished the season by leading the Cards to a Music City Bowl win over the SEC’s Mississippi State, and he picked up where he left off by passing for 343 yards and three TDs in last week’s cruise past Western Kentucky. Meanwhile, the Canes’ new-look offense appears a work in progress for first-year OC Rhett Lashlee. He’s a disciple of Gus Malzahn and Sonny Dykes, but his spread still seems a bit uncomfortable for Houston transfer QB D’Eriq King, who completed just 10 of 24 passes last week vs. outmanned UAB. Louisville certainly isn’t similarly overmatched, and it might be wise to respect Satterfield’s recent spread mark of 17-8-1 since 2018 with Appalachian State and the Cards.

 

(119) SYRACUSE at (120) PITTSBURGH 

 

Syracuse plays its second consecutive conference road game to open the season and is hoping it goes better than the first, a 31-6 loss at North Carolina. The Orange have two new coordinators with Sterlin Gilbert manning the offense and Tony White implementing the 3-3-5 scheme he learned in coaching under Rocky Long for 10 seasons at New Mexico and San Diego State. The defense, which forced two Sam Howell interceptions, showed more potential in the season opener than the offense. The offense picked up right where it left off last season by getting junior QB Tommy DeVito sacked early and often. DeVito was the most-sacked QB in FBS last season and was sacked seven times Saturday in Chapel Hill. DeVito went just 13-for-31 and threw for 112 yards as the Orange mustered only 202 yards of total offense. The Syracuse OL will be tested against Pitt’s front four. Though junior NT and likely 2021 first-rounder Jaylen Twyman opted out, Pitt does return three other starters on its DL. Two of those starters, senior DT Keyshon Camp and senior DE Rashad Weaver did not play in the 55-0 shutout of Austin Peay due to COVID-19 protocols but are expected back for this game. Pitt’s defense held FCS Austin Peay to 139 yards on 55 total plays. The Panthers have ordinarily kept things close to the vest offensively against FCS opposition but did not follow suit in their opener, scoring on each of their first six offensive possessions. Pitt led 42-0 at halftime and the teams agreed to play two 10-minute quarters, which nullified all full-game side and total tickets. Pat Narduzzi and OC Mark Whipple will be more aggressive this season with play-calling, but can senior QB Kenny Pickett finally make the jump and make plays down the field?  

 

(121) APPALACHIAN STATE at (122) MARSHALL

 

This will be the toughest nonconference exam for Sun Belt heavyweight App State, which was originally slated to face Power 5 foes Wake Forest and Wisconsin on the road. But because of the pandemic, the Mountaineers had to scramble and eventually found a partner in Marshall. App State beat North Carolina in its top nonleague challenge a year ago, but the Herd could offer a stiff test, especially as coach Doc Holliday looks to have solved what seemed a dilemma when junior QB Isaiah Green left in the summer. In the Sept. 5 opener vs. Eastern Kentucky, redshirt freshman Grant Wells looked more than capable, tossing for 307 yards and four TDs in a 59-0 romp. Wells could indeed be an improvement over the erratic Green. Wells, though, will have to be ready to trade points with a vet App State offense returning nine starters for new coach Shawn Clark, promoted from his stint coaching the OL. Clark’s debut, a 35-20 win over Charlotte last week, featured more than 500 yards of offense, with established senior QB Zac Thomas (28 TD passes in 2019) getting infantry support from senior Marcus Williams and sophomore Camerun Peoples, who combined for 213 rushing yards last week. Before the narrow non-cover vs. Charlotte, App entered 2020 on a 22-8-1 spread uptick, including 11-2 vs. the number in its last 13 as a visitor. Meanwhile, though bombarding outmanned EKU in the opener, the Herd was just 9-17 against the spread the previous two seasons.

 

(123) LIBERTY at (124) WESTERN KENTUCKY

 

A few more distractions than the pandemic during the offseason at Liberty, where school President Jerry Falwell Jr. was forced out in a scandal that generated national headlines. Not many headlines yet for the football team, though it did score its first bowl win last December, beating Georgia Southern 23-16 in the Cure Bowl. No stranger to controversy himself, coach Hugh Freeze must replace prolific QB Buckshot Calvert, who keyed the nation’s 21st-ranked passing offense. But Freeze is used to going into the weeds to find players, as he did at Arkansas State and Ole Miss. And traditional transfer QB Malik Willis, who came from Auburn and sat out last season as most transfers used to do, is a true dual threat who might prove a better fit for Freeze’s RPO schemes. The problems Freeze might have involve the supporting cast, without much returning skill-position weaponry and relying on a new collection of wideouts. Moreover, Freeze lost last year’s top three tacklers and hopes Charlotte transfer Anthony Butler can immediately fill the gap at MLB. Willis’ presence is an intriguing wild card, but regional sources believe WKU has more to work with in Tyson Helton’s second year in charge. Helton has his own transfer QB, ex-Maryland firecracker Tyrrell Pigrome, who flashed plenty of upside in seven starts for the Terps and should be able to use his mobility much better this week vs. Liberty than a week ago vs. Louisville. Star holdover RB Gaej Walker, who rushed for 1,208 yards in 2019, provides a proper ground diversion for the Hilltoppers, who finished strongly a year ago and won the First Responder Bowl over Westsern Michigan. This is a step down in class for WKU after having to deal with upper-tier ACC foe Louisville in last week’s 35-21 loss.

 

(125) LOUISIANA TECH at (126) SOUTHERN MISS 

 

Louisiana Tech was scheduled to play at Baylor last weekend, but the game was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program. In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, nearly 95% of the town of Ruston lost power for several days, and players were forced to find other places to stay or have some families come to stay with them. According to a report from Yahoo Sports, 38 Louisiana Tech players had tested positive for coronavirus in the wake of Laura and the program would have been without other players as well due to contact-tracing regulations. Meanwhile, Southern Miss is undergoing its own tumult. Jay Hopson stepped down as coach after the Golden Eagles' first game, a 32-21 home loss to South Alabama as 13.5-point favorites. Hopson has had numerous clashes with the Southern Miss administration dating to February 2019, when he attempted to hire Art Briles, who was dismissed as Baylor coach in 2015 due to a lack of oversight in the Baylor sexual assault scandal. Hopson released a statement publicly disagreeing with the university president. Soon after, the Athletic reported that USM recruited a junior college player accused of raping two women at knifepoint without disclosing the allegations to the administration. Now that Hopson is out, co-OC Scotty Walden has taken over as interim coach. Despite being just 30, this is not Walden’s first head-coaching gig. He served in that role for one season at D-III’s East Texas Baptist University, where he produced a 7-3 record (leading D-III in scoring and second in total offense) before departing to join the Southern Miss staff. Walden has a reputation for “all gas and no brakes” on offense and is likely to increase the tempo.  

 

(127) TEXAS STATE at (128) UL MONROE 

 

Texas State put up 472 yards and 48 points Saturday, but it was not enough as the Bobcats fell 51-48 in double overtime to UTSA. Redshirt freshman kicker Alan Orona missed a potential game-winning PAT with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter and then missed a 20-yard FG in the second overtime. Sophomore starting QB Brady McBride was a late scratch due to COVID-19 protocol. So last year’s starter, junior Tyler Vitt, who missed the opener vs. SMU due to the same protocol, started and went 26-for-39 and threw for 346 yards and four TDs with two INTs. Before the fourth-quarter comeback, Texas State trailed twice by 17 and got in a hole early largely due to being unable to stop a UTSA running game that picked up 330 yards (6.5 ypc). UL Monroe also got run over on the ground by giving up 436 yards (6.7 ypc) at Army in its season-opening 37-7 loss. The Warhawks generated only 200 yards of total offense, 163 through the air. Both teams now step into Sun Belt play for the first time and look to get the taste of sour defeats out of their mouths. UL Monroe is 4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS vs. Texas State in the last four seasons.  

 

(129) SMU at (130) NORTH TEXAS 

 

SMU and North Texas had early bye weeks to prepare for this battle of the Metroplex known as the Safeway Bowl. The name is derived from former North Texas coach Matt Simon, who made a challenge in 1994 by saying: “I’d like to play because I think we could beat them, and my players feel the same way. If they’d like to play on a Safeway parking lot ... just give us a date and time.” SMU was supposed to have faced TCU last week, but the Battle for the Iron Skillet was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at TCU. The Mustangs failed to cover as 25-point favorites in their season opener and had to hold on for a 31-24 win at Texas State. Senior QB Shane Buechele threw for 367 yards and a TD but also threw two INTs. SMU’s offense put up big yardage numbers (544) in the opener but scored just 31 points. Meanwhile, North Texas set a school record with 721 yards of total offense in a 57-31 victory over FCS Houston Baptist, which gave Texas Tech a bit of a scare in a 35-33 defeat last weekend. Sophomores Jason Bean and Austin Aune, a 27-year-old who spent six years in the New York Yankees organization, split time at QB, with Bean getting most of the reps. The Mean Green QBs will be working with a new QB coach as well since Tate Wallis, who was hired in January, resigned due to an arrest for allegedly having an improper relationship with an underage student when he was a high school coach. North Texas’ offense put up great numbers, but the defense did not follow suit as it gave up 569 yards, including 480 through the air. Houston Baptist also threw for 572 yards last week at Texas Tech. North Texas is 1-3 SU and ATS vs. SMU the last four seasons.  

 

(133) NAVY at (134) TULANE 

 

Navy had a week off to recover after a season-opening 55-3 loss to BYU that coach Ken Niumatalolo called “the worst Navy football game we ever played.” The Midshipmen mustered only 149 yards of total offense, the second-lowest total in Niumatalolo’s 13 years at the academy. The low offensive numbers plus the poor defense that allowed 580 yards was largely attributed to Navy having contactless practices due to COVID-19. Navy’s path to success is predicated on physicality, and Niumatalolo admitted he did not have his players prepared in that regard and they have since returned to full-contact practices. They will have to be more physical against Tulane, considering that the Green Wave won their first game against South Alabama largely by winning in the trenches. All four Tulane TDs were on the ground (40 carries, 203 yards), and they shut down the USA running game by allowing only 65 yards on 35 carries. Nevertheless, it was not that easy for Tulane, which trailed 24-6 midway through the third quarter and rallied with 21 unanswered points. Senior Dalen Morris beat out sophomore Perry Olsen for the starting QB role at Navy, and now Olsen has entered the transfer portal, so the positional depth has taken a hit. Navy OC Ivin Japser has also been noncommittal regarding reopening competition for the starting job. Morris did not play in the second half vs. BYU. Navy was scheduled to play last weekend at Temple, but that game had to be postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at Temple. The unanticipated bye can do nothing but help Navy get caught up with its usual practice schedule. Both teams should be motivated and play better football here not only because it’s the conference opener, but Navy wants redemption from a putrid performance and Tulane got a scare last week in Mobile, so they figure to come out more focused. Navy has won five of the last six in the series.  

 

(135) TROY at (136) MIDDLE TENNESSEE 

 

Troy was scheduled to open its season with UL Monroe two weeks ago, but the game was postponed until December due to positive COVID-19 tests at Monroe. Troy now opens on the road at Middle Tennessee. Redshirt sophomore Gunnar Watson will make his first start at QB and must try to replace the graduated Kaleb Barker, who led the Sun Belt in passing last season. Troy did get in five spring practices, which is more than most teams. Nevertheless, Troy’s defense must make a large improvement as it allowed 34.8 ppg and 434.2 ypg. Middle Tennessee has had a week off after being crushed 42-0 at Army. The Blue Raiders generated 184 yards of total offense and committed four turnovers, including a pick-six and one in its own territory. Rick Stockstill seemed pleased with the defense, though that got put in jail too often by its offense, which is supposed to be the strength of the team with nine starters back. MTSU junior QB Asher O’Hara is a second-year starter but played his worst game at Middle Tennessee, going 9-for-14 for 46 yards and throwing two INTs. It is reasonable to expect that a proven veteran QB should bounce back the next time out. Middle Tennessee’s week off should help from a preparation standpoint as well as a recovery standpoint, as the Blue Raiders suffered their fair share of injuries in the opener. Fortunately for MTSU, Troy is a more conventional spread team after facing Army’s triple-option unit.

 

(139) SOUTH FLORIDA at (140) NOTRE DAME

 

A slow start is no reason for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to be concerned. If the Fighting Irish had struggled in their season opener against Houston Baptist or Missouri State, panic would be prevalent, but an improved and well-coached Duke team provided a stiff test. The Irish were outgained by 138 yards in the first quarter before taking command in a 27-13 win. Notre Dame’s defense allowed only 82 yards in the second half after surrendering 246 yards in the first half. Senior quarterback Ian Book put up pedestrian numbers (19 of 31 for 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception) and was overshadowed by sophomore running back Kyren Williams, who ran for 112 yards and two TDs. Williams also had 93 yards on two receptions. The Irish returned all five offensive linemen who started last season, so Book and Williams will be tough to stop when the offense finds a groove. Kelly put the game in perspective, saying: “We hadn’t played spring ball, and we didn’t play since December. It’s difficult to duplicate gamelike speed when you haven’t had that for such a long time.” Notre Dame, which has a 19-game home win streak, won its first conference game after 132 years as an independent. The Irish will resume ACC play after hosting South Florida from the AAC this week. The Bulls were dull in their 27-6 victory over the Citadel. South Florida used three quarterbacks who combined for 102 passing yards on 25 attempts. The Notre Dame defense should dominate this matchup, and Book will look better after a week to get up to speed. Public and sharp money showed on the Irish as 21-point favorites last week. It would be no surprise if the line gets bet from 25 to 27 or more this week.

 

(141) TULSA at (142) OKLAHOMA STATE

 

COVID-19 concerns forced a one-week delay in this game, so Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s team scrimmaged last weekend. The Cowboys are known for Gundy’s mullet and high-scoring offenses. Forget about Gundy’s bad hair and focus on an Oklahoma State offense that should put up hair-raising numbers. Running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace are among the most electric playmakers in college football, and Gundy was lucky not to lose either to the NFL. Hubbard rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Pulling the trigger for the Cowboys is Spencer Sanders, who showed promise as a freshman while passing for 2,065 yards, rushing for 628 yards and totaling 18 touchdowns. Oklahoma State brings back eight starters on offense and 10 on defense. Gundy’s team is a Big 12 title contender in the chase with Oklahoma and Texas. The Cowboys were 13-point favorites in a 40-21 win at Tulsa last year. The Golden Hurricane return only four starters from a bad defense, so expect Oklahoma State to light up the scoreboard. The good news for Tulsa is it also has some scoring firepower. Zach Smith, a former transfer from Baylor, passed for 3,279 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior and will quarterback an offense that hung 41 points on Memphis and 34 on Central Florida late last season. This sets up as an entertaining, wide-open shootout that obviously favors the Cowboys (-22). While the Oklahoma State defense looks much improved on paper, the Hurricane can probably do enough in the second half to help this score blow Over the total of 65.

 

(143) HOUSTON at (144) BAYLOR

 

College football schedules are fluid this season, and this surprise matchup is a prime example. Baylor’s game against Louisiana Tech last week was postponed indefinitely after the Bulldogs experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. Memphis-Houston was postponed for similar reasons. So two teams without dance partners found each other, and the Cougars will visit Waco for one of Saturday’s most attractive matchups. Matt Rhule posted an 11-3 record last year before moving up to coach the Carolina Panthers. Baylor is opening a new era under coach Dave Aranda, former LSU defensive coordinator. Aranda brought in Larry Fedora, former North Carolina head coach, to be offensive coordinator. Fedora plans to run a fast-tempo spread attack. The Bears return seven offensive starters, including quarterback Charlie Brewer and wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. Brewer, an NFL prospect, passed for 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions last year. While the offense packs firepower, the defense returns only two starters and needs a rebuild. Houston, which went 4-8 in coach Dana Holgorsen’s first year, has more continuity with 19 returning starters. Holgorsen’s plan when he started redshirting key players early in the 2019 season was to focus on competing at a higher level in 2020. The plan backfired when star quarterback D’Eriq King transferred to Miami, but Clayton Tune returns with experience, and Tune can throw to explosive receivers Keith Corbin and Marquez Stevenson. The Cougars look capable as 6½-point dogs, and the total of 63 will get threatened in what looks like a shootout waiting to happen.

 

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