LAS VEGAS -- Steve Sarkisian’s coaching debut at Texas was a big hit. He picked a starting quarterback who passed the eye test and, despite warnings that his team was on upset alert, Sarkisian never had to sweat.
Sharp money showed last week against the Longhorns, who closed as single-digit home favorites while facing a Louisiana team that returned 20 starters. Texas appeared fully focused and put a 20-point beating on the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Are the Longhorns legit or could their rave reviews be an overreaction? The betting public is suddenly riding the bandwagon this week and piling on Texas laying a touchdown at Arkansas. Hudson Card, who passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his first career start, will find his first road start to be more challenging.
In coach Sam Pittman’s first year, the Razorbacks upset Mississippi and Mississippi State and played SEC heavyweights Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M to the wire. Arkansas opened Pittman’s second season by pulling off an unlikely cover of a 20.5-point spread, outscoring Rice 21-0 in the fourth quarter of a 38-17 win.
Pittman’s offensive emphasis is a physical ground attack. The Razorbacks rushed for 245 yards against the Owls, with Trelon Smith going for 102 and dual-threat quarterback KJ Jefferson running for 89 yards and passing for 128. The Hogs are dangerous dogs, so Texas remains on upset alert.
The pick: Arkansas + 7
Toledo (+ 17) over NOTRE DAME: It was no surprise that the Irish were forced to fight for a narrow win at Florida State. The offense was in midseason form, with Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns, but the Notre Dame defense allowed 442 total yards, including 264 on the ground.
The Rockets returned 21 starters this season and will be one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference. Led by quarterback Carter Bradley and running back Bryant Koback, Toledo has enough talent to hang tough and stay within two touchdowns.
CONNECTICUT (+ 34) over Purdue: Randy Edsall is out at UConn after two disastrous losses, and the coaching change could provide an emotional boost for the Huskies. The more significant angle to this play is the opponent -- the Boilermakers will be looking ahead to next week’s game at Notre Dame and it makes sense for coach Jeff Brohm to pull most of his starters when the score gets out of reach.
Even ugly dogs deserve attention sometimes. The Huskies are the definition of ugly dogs.
Unlv-ARIZONA STATE (Over 54.5): The Sun Devils are 34-point favorites and should be able to score at will behind talented quarterback Jayden Daniels. In a 35-33 double-overtime loss to Eastern Washington, the Rebels found some offensive firepower in Charles Williams, who carried the ball 27 times for 172 yards, and strong-armed quarterback Doug Brumfield.
Last week: 3-1
Florida State (W), Clemson (L), UCLA (W), Nevada (W)