Craven's College Football Wagers: Texas, Texas A&M starting backup quarterbacks as heavy favorites

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College programs aren’t afforded scrimmages like the high school ranks or preseason games like the NFL. Week 1 can cause severe over reactions with programs dusting off the rust from eight months of program-only activities. That was especially true coming out of a pandemic-shortened season when seniors were granted a free year of eligibility. Underdogs in Week 1 of the NFL, for example, went 9-7 straight up against the money line. 

Week 2 provides an over correction. A good performance is backed up with a dud, such as the ones put on by Texas, Texas Tech and even Texas A&M. Some teams rebound from poorer performances to play inspired football such as with Baylor, Houston and Texas State. 

A clearer picture emerges in Week 3 and the 10 games on the schedule for FBS teams in Texas should provide us a few more answers than Week 1 or Week 2 combined. TCU and UTEP are idle.

Lines provided by Bovada. 

Texas A&M vs. New Mexico, Saturday, 11 a.m., SEC Network

Line: Texas A&M -29.5, O/U 50

Overview: The Aggies could use a confidence booster sandwiched between a near-loss to Colorado and the start of a grueling SEC schedule. That’s exactly what Texas A&M gets in the form of New Mexico on Saturday morning. Starting quarterback Haynes King is out at least a month with a leg injury that required surgery. Insert Zach Calzada, a sophomore from Georgia who went 18 of 38 for 183 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Colorado in three quarters of action. 

Texas A&M shouldn’t face too much of a threat from New Mexico’s offense. That means Jimbo Fisher and company can rely on the running back tandem of Devon Achane and Isaiah Spiller. The dynamic duo didn’t receive enough touches last week (16). I expect that number to double against New Mexico and for Fisher to devise a game plan that allows Calzada to complete a higher percentage of passes. 

Craven’s WagerOver 50

SMU at La Tech, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Line: SMU -13, O/U 66

Overview: The Mustangs leave home for the first time in 2021 in a road match against Skip Holtz’s La Tech squad out of Conference USA. Both offenses are capable of big plays, and both defenses are known to allow a few. That spells fireworks and fun afternoon game for the casual viewer, unless you’re a defensive coordinator or one of those weirdos who likes the Big Ten. SMU outscored opponents 91 to 21 en route to a 2-0 start. Tanner Mordecai has already thrown for 629 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

Craven’s WagerSMU -13 and the over 

Baylor at Kansas, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ESPN+/Big 12 Network

Line: Baylor -18, O/U 49.5

Overview: Baylor is still an unknown in my eyes and it is hard to take too much from relatively easy wins over Texas State and Texas Southern. A game against Kansas my not offer us many extra data points on the 2021 version of the Baylor Bears. The offensive line is good and bordering on great. Head coach David Aranda should also be trusted to field an adequate defense. The major unknown is at quarterback and the ability of Gerry Bohanon to be more than a game-manager. A game-manager might be all Baylor requires against Kansas, but he’ll eventually need to prove capable of taking shots down the field or into tight windows as Big 12 play continues. 

Craven’s WagerKansas +18 and under 49.5

UTSA vs. Middle Tennessee State, Saturday, 5 p.m., ESPN+

Line: UTSA -12.5, O/U 59.5

Overview: The Roadrunners are rolling with Conference USA beginning on Saturday in the Alamodome. UTSA posted a shutout for the first time in program history in the 53-0 win over Lamar, the largest margin of victory ever by the Roadrunners. That lopsided win last week allowed head coach Jeff Traylor to rest his starters in the second half to provide a rested team for the conference opener. For the first time in school history, UTSA is considered a real contender for a conference title and those expectations can weigh on teams. We’ll learn more about the mental makeup inside the program as the Roadrunners turn from hunter to hunted against Middle Tennessee State. 

Craven’s WagerMiddle Tennessee State +12.5 and under 59.5

Texas State vs. Incarnate Word, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN3

Line: N/A

Overview: Texas State is building some momentum in 2021 after an overtime road-win against a talented FIU program. The Bobcats couldn’t win close games in 2020, so achieving that goal early in the season should instill some belief within the locker room, head coach Jake Spavital said at this week’s press conference. The Bobcats overcame a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter and eventually won in overtime thanks to two touchdown runs by Brock Sturges.

UIW, led by quarterback Cameron Ward, throws the ball roughly 70 percent of the time and will test Texas State’s ability to rush the passer and tackle in space.  

Craven’s WagerNo wager on games between FBS and FCS, usually, but I expect this one to be close in the first half before Texas State pulls away in the third quarter. 

Houston vs. Grambling, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN+

Line: N/A

Overview: Houston rebounded with authority from a Week 1 loss to Texas Tech by drubbing crosstown rival Rice 44-7 in Week 2. Cougar quarterback Clayton Tune avoided interceptions against Rice after throwing four in the loss to the Red Raiders a week earlier. Grambling shouldn’t keep up with the Cougars on Saturday night, allowing head coach Dana Holgorsen to rest his starters ahead of conference play and get his reserves much needed experience. 

Craven’s Wager: Houston by 35+. 

Texas Tech vs. FIU, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN+/Big 12 Network

Line: Texas Tech -20, O/U 54

Overview: The Red Raiders suffered a scare in the 28-22 win over SFA in Week 2, a disappointing effort for Matt Wells’ program. Texas Tech opened the season with an emotional road-win over Houston, so maybe an emotional letdown against an FCS program wasn’t unexpected. Tech is a heavy favorite for the second consecutive game with an FIU program that lost to Texas State in overtime in Week 2. Wells won’t mind building game plans around an emerging rushing attack and an improved defense, but the Red Raiders need more from transfer quarterback Tyler Shough following a 12 of 22 for 174 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the win over SFA.  

Craven’s WagerFIU +20 and over 54 

North Texas vs. UAB, Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Stadium

Line: North Texas +12, O/U 57

Overview: North Texas faded in the Week 2 loss to SMU. The Mean Green trailed 14-12 with 6:12 left in the third quarter. They were outscored 21-0 after that. North Texas’ defense gave up touchdowns of 62, 58, 29, 19 and 85 yards in the loss. That type of effort won’t get it done against UAB, the defending Conference-USA champion and one of the favorites to claim the crown in 2021. North Texas quarterback Jace Rudder did throw for 366 yards and emerge as the clear-cut No. 1 option for North Texas, but his two interceptions were concerning. He’s thrown four in 72 attempts through two games. 

Craven’s WagerUAB -12 and over 57 

Texas vs. Rice, Saturday, 7 p.m., Longhorn Network

Line: Texas -26, O/U 53

Overview: The Longhorns were bullied and embarrassed in a loss at Arkansas that caused whiplash following a solid Week 1 performance under the new leadership of Steve Sarkisian. The physicality along the offensive and defensive lines were exposed against an Arkansas team that entered the fourth quarter tied with Rice in Week 1. Texas must get its running game going as sophomore Bijan Robinson is the most talented player on the team, and one of the only difference makers on offense. Sarkisian announced early in the week that quarterback Hudson Card would be replaced by Casey Thompson, who led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter of the loss to Arkansas and was excellent in the second half of last year’s Alamo Bowl. 

Craven’s WagerTexas -26 and the over 

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