Texas battles Oklahoma in a clash of first-year head coaches
The Week 7 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by the annual Texas-Oklahoma game — a showdown that has extra intrigue with first-year head coaches at both schools. Elsewhere, Mississippi State looks to get back on track against struggling BYU and beleaguered Tennessee is searching for a big win against South Carolina. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
Texas (+7.5) over Oklahoma
The stakes are enormous for a pair of first-year head coaches who would love nothing more than to post a win over their respective school’s hated rival. Oklahoma looked like the easy pick... before the Sooners’ inexplicable loss at home to Iowa State. The Cyclones, one week after throwing for 246 yards (5.0 per attempt) in a 17–7 loss at home to Texas, torched the OU defense for 368 passing yards on an astounding 13.6 yards-per-attempt average. The previous week, Baylor threw for 463 yards in a closer-than-expected 49–41 loss to the Sooners. Texas is 2–0 in the Big 12 after surviving in double overtime against Kansas State. True freshman Sam Ehlinger was brilliant at QB, throwing for 380 yards and two TDs while adding 107 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Texas 27, Oklahoma 24
Louisiana (-14) over Texas State
Louisiana beat an FBS opponent for the first time in 2017, topping Idaho 21–16 in Moscow on Saturday. This pick, however, is more about the opponent. Texas State lost its 15th straight against an FBS team, falling 45–27 at home to ULM. The Bobcats rank last in the Sun Belt in total offense (300.7 ypg) and scoring offense (14.5) and have scored only eight touchdowns in five games against FBS opponents. Everett Withers, the former interim head coach at North Carolina and head coach at James Madison, has recruited well in his short time at Texas State, but the product on the field right now is not good.
Louisiana 27, Texas State 10
Mississippi State (-22.5) over BYU
BYU ranks 128th nationally in both total offense (253.5 ypg) and scoring offense (11.7 ppg). The Cougars have rushed for fewer than 100 yards in four of their five games against FBS opponents and have only topped 13 points once against an FBS foe (in a 40–24 loss to Utah State). These horrid offensive numbers cannot be sitting well with well with the Cougar faithful. Mississippi State has been manhandled in its last two games, losing to Georgia and Auburn by a combined score of 80–13. Before that, however, the Bulldogs scored 57 points at Louisiana Tech and 37 at home vs. LSU. Against non-elite defenses, the MSU offense is capable of posting big numbers. Mississippi State should roll.
Mississippi State 34, BYU 10
Tennessee (-2.5) over South Carolina
There are differing opinions on what Butch Jones needs to do to save his job at Tennessee. Most people can agree, however, that his chances of returning next year will go down significantly if his team does not beat South Carolina. And despite all of the drama that continues to plague this program, there are still some very good players on the roster. South Carolina has been a difficult team to get a read on; the Gamecocks have scored 31 points or more in three games and 17 or fewer in the other three. They beat NC State in the opener but needed a minor miracle to defeat Louisiana Tech by one point at home. They rank 12th in the conference in both total offense and total defense yet are outscoring SEC opponents by nearly seven points per game (in league play).
Tennessee 27, South Carolina 20
Eastern Michigan (+4.5) over Army
Army is 4–2 overall, but the Black Knights’ best win, by far, was 21–17 over Buffalo at home. They feasted on UTEP and Rice — two of the worst teams in the nation — the last two weeks. Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, has lost three straight but has played relatively well in each game. The Eagles lost by seven at home to Ohio, by four at Kentucky and by five at Toledo. This is a solid team that is being undervalued because of its name and its losing record.
Eastern Michigan 30, Army 27
Houston (-13.5) over Tulsa
After losing three games by 10 points or fewer, Tulsa was pounded by surging Tulane 62–28 on Saturday morning/afternoon. The Golden Hurricane rank 129th in the nation in total defense (587.5 ypg) and are allowing 8.2 yards per play, by far the most in the nation. Houston is 2–0 in the AAC after a solid 35–22 win over SMU. The Cougars’ offense rolled up 463 yards on a season-high 6.8-yard average in the win over the Mustangs. The most interesting note: Kyle Allen, a former five-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M, has been benched in favor of veteran Kyle Postma.
Houston 34, Tulsa 13
Colorado (-12.5) over Oregon State
Year 3 of the Gary Andersen era was not going well, but no one could have envisioned Monday’s announcement that Andersen and the school had decided to part ways. Oregon State is 1–5 overall, with the one win coming by three points over Portland State. The Beavers’ closest game against an FBS opponent: a 58–27 loss at Colorado State on Aug. 26. Colorado, too, has been disappointing. The Buffaloes have followed up their Pac-12 South Division title from last season by losing their first three league games in ’17. But this is not a bad team; the Buffs’ last two losses, at UCLA and vs. Arizona, have come by a combined seven points.
Colorado 31, Oregon State 17
ULM (-7.5) over Georgia State
The schedule hasn’t been tough, but ULM has opened up Matt Viator’s second season with a 3–0 record in the Sun Belt. They have averaged 46.3 points (in regulation) in those three wins after scoring 29 and 17, respectively, in season-opening losses to Memphis and Southern Miss. This is a good offensive team. Georgia State is 2–2, with losses to Tennessee State and Penn State and wins over Charlotte and Coastal Carolina (both on the road). Give the Panthers credit for playing better, but neither of those two wins is particularly impressive.
ULM 34, Georgia State 21
UCF (-34) over East Carolina
East Carolina has lost five games, each by at least 20 points. Last weekend, the Pirates lost at home to Temple, 34–10; the Owls had previously scored more than 16 points only once this season (29 vs. 0–6 UMass). UCF is 4–0, with each win coming by at least 28 points. And there are decent wins on the résumé: at Maryland and vs. Memphis. The Knights are very, very good.
UCF 51, East Carolina 10
Navy (+4) over Memphis
Memphis coach Jay Norvell said he spent all day Sunday “throwing up” after watching film of Navy’s option attack. Last year, the Midshipmen rolled up 447 yards on the ground in a 42–28 win over Memphis in Annapolis. This year, with Zach Abey running the show at QB, Navy is 5–0 and has rushed for 400-plus yards in all but one game. Memphis is fresh off of a 70–31 win over UConn in a game that featured seven touchdown passes by QB Riley Ferguson. The previous week, however, the Tigers lost at UCF 40–13. This is a team with some glaring defensive issues.
Navy 38, Memphis 34
Last Week: 4-5-1