Eleven of the 12 FBS teams in Texas are in action for a pivotal Week 6 slate of games. Texas heads to the State Fair for a Red River Showdown against a beatable Oklahoma squad. Baylor hopes to bounce back against West Virginia at home, while TCU is searching for an important win at Texas Tech. The Roadrunners of UTSA face a tough air assault at Western Kentucky with hopes of remaining undefeated, and UTEP plans to move one step closer to bowl eligibility.
Lines provided by Bovada. Rice is idle.
Houston at Tulane, Thursday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: Houston -6, O/U 60
Overview: Houston plays its second midweek game in a row following a beatdown of Tulsa in Week 5. The Cougars are six-point favorites on the road against a Tulane team that enters the game at 1-4. Houston running back Alton McCaskill, a true freshman from Conroe Oak Ridge, is becoming the main man for the Cougars offense. He’s ran for 310 yards and seven touchdowns on 68 carries in 2021. Quarterback Clayton Tune is playing hurt with a nagging hamstring injury, but he’s done a good job limiting turnovers following a four-interception game in Week 1 against Texas Tech. The run game and improving defense should be enough for Houston to win by at least seven points.
Craven’s Wager: Houston -6
Texas vs. Oklahoma, Saturday, 11 a.m., ABC
Line: Texas +3.5, O/U 63.5
Overview: The yearly classic feels up for grabs in 2021. Oklahoma is the favorite, but most of us would have predicted a larger spread prior to the season. Oklahoma’s offense doesn’t look like the well-oiled machine we’re used to watching under Lincoln Riley’s tutelage. A poor offensive line has kept the Sooners from establishing a consistent running game and from quarterback Spencer Rattler finding consistent deep shots.
The Longhorns are on a three-game winning streak thanks to the powerful legs of running back Bijan Robinson. The sophomore enters the contest with 652 yards and seven touchdowns on 105 carries. He broke the 200-yard mark last week in the win over TCU. I’m not falling for the hype. This feels like a game where Oklahoma reminds folks why the Sooners are the top dogs in the Big 12 on a yearly basis.
Craven’s Wager: Oklahoma -3.5
Baylor vs. West Virginia, Saturday, 11 a.m., FS1
Line: Baylor -3, O/U 44.5
Overview: The Bears are back home after suffering their first loss last week against Oklahoma State. Baylor struggled offensively to turn turnovers into points. Oklahoma State packed the box and dared Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon to win the game, and the junior couldn’t do it. West Virginia and Baylor tend to play exciting, back-and-forth games, but give me the Bears’ offensive line to give running back Abram Smith room to operate, which will open up the passing game for Bohanon and his wide receivers. I trust the Baylor defense more than West Virginia heading into Week 6.
Craven’s Wager: Baylor -3
SMU at Navy, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., CBSSN
Line: SMU -13.5, O/U 55.5
Overview: Navy is an annoying team for defenses to prepare for and play because of the uniqueness of the triple-option. Not many college teams run it in the modern era, which means most of the defenders rarely practice against it and defensive coordinators seldomly must game plan around it. Navy is starting to iron out its run game and that is bad news for the SMU defense. The good news for SMU is that its offense, led by Tanner Mordecai, can outscore the Navy offense even if the Midshipmen are rolling on the ground. The big-play ability by the SMU offense will be too much.
Craven’s Wager: SMU -13.5
North Texas at Missouri, Saturday, 3 p.m., SEC Network
Line: North Texas +19, O/U 69
Overview: This one could get ugly for the Mean Green unless North Texas can figure out how to pass the ball with any sort of success. As a team, they’re struggling to reach the 100-yard mark through the air. Missouri isn’t a great SEC team by any stretch of the imagination and are struggling defensively, but that shouldn’t matter against North Texas.
Craven’s Wager: Missouri -19
TCU at Texas Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN
Line: TCU -1.5, O/U 61
Overview: This is the most intriguing game of the weekend in my mind. TCU needs a victory after consecutive losses at home to SMU and Texas. A loss to Texas Tech makes the Horned Frogs 0-3 against in-state competition in 2021 and places some pressure on long-time head coach Gary Patterson. Conversely, Texas Tech and head coach Matt Wells put a dreadful performance against Texas in the rear-view mirror in a gutsy road win over West Virginia. TCU is favored but give me Texas Tech to win the game outright.
Craven’s Wager: Texas Tech +1.5
UTSA at Western Kentucky, Saturday, 6 p.m.,
Line: UTSA +3.5, O/U 70
Overview: The Roadrunners are 5-0 for the second time in school history and this team carries more expectations than any other team fielded by UTSA to date. Those expectations will be tested on the road against a powerful Western Kentucky offense. Quarterback Bailey Zappe, formerly of Houston Baptist, has thrown for 1,712 yards and 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions through four games. The Hilltoppers enter the contest at 1-3, but those three losses are to Army, Indiana and Michigan State. Two of those three losses were by fewer than three points.
To stay undefeated, UTSA must employ a bend-but-don’t-break defensive strategy. It’s hard to imagine the Roadrunners stop Zappe and crew from amassing an impressive amount of passing yards. The goal is to stop those yards from turning into touchdowns. Offensively, the Roadrunners must help their defense by running the football and limiting the number of drives given to Zappe and the Western Kentucky offense.
Craven’s Wager: Western Kentucky -3.5
UTEP at Southern Miss, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN3
Line: UTEP -2.5, O/U 44.5
Overview: UTEP needs two more wins to reach the six-victory threshold needed to qualify for a bowl game. The Miners are on a two-game winning streak ahead of the road game against a Southern Miss team that lost last week at Rice. This is a game UTEP must win to keep bowl hopes alive because the schedule only gets tougher as the Conference USA slate moves towards November. Expect a big game from Gavin Hardison and the passing attack of UTEP.
Craven’s Wager: UTEP -2.5
Texas State vs. South Alabama, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN+
Line: Texas State +3.5, O/U 52.5
Overview: This feels like a must-win game for Jake Spavital and the Bobcats. Texas State is coming off an open week and should be as healthy as it’s been since the win over FIU in Week 2. Being an underdog at home against South Alabama tells us what the national perception of the Texas State program is currently, and a win would build some much-needed confidence and belief inside the program. Another loss puts even more fire under the seat of Spavital.
Craven’s Wager: South Alabama -3.5
Texas A&M vs. Alabama, Saturday, 7 p.m., CBS
Line: Texas A&M +18, O/U 51
Overview: There was a time in the summer when this was considered one of the games of the season. Flash-forward to the present and it is one Texas A&M fans likely wish wasn’t on the schedule this week considering the Aggies are struggling and on a two-game losing streak. The offensive line is young. The quarterback is struggling. And the running game isn’t getting the opportunities to make a major impact. Those are all bad signs with Nick Saban and his Monstars arriving in College Station for a primetime match up. This one could get ugly.
Craven’s Wager: Alabama -18
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