• Defensive struggle: Both Houston and Rice offenses lack talent, setting up each team's defense to put forth strong performances this week.
• Thin of offense: Houston lost its two key pieces on offense from 2022 in QB Clayton Tune and perennially open WR Tank Dell, replacing them with Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith and last season’s WR2 Sam Brown, who steps up to take a bigger role in Dell’s absence.
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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Last week, I highlighted a potential upset, and Texas State actually got it done. It went pretty much as projected, which is always nice. Baylor’s offense gained almost 500 yards, but the Bears defense just could not do anything to keep the Texas State offense off the field, and Texas State led almost the entire game with no real danger of ever losing that lead. Plus-28 landed and the 18/1 moneyline also paid — not a bad way to start the season.
The most talked about team going into this week will obviously be Colorado, who caused an upset of their own against TCU last week, and their game versus Nebraska this week. It will be the most bet college football game in history. The look-ahead lines had Colorado at anything between plus-eight and plus-10 for this Week 2 matchup but after their impressive performance as a 21-point underdog and Nebraska’s questionable offense in Week 1, they are now three-point favorites and opened at an even bigger favorite than that before some early money came in.
How can a relatively efficient market that has had months to prepare be so incredibly wrong about a team's strength? Well, it is an enormously difficult problem to solve. I mentioned last week that college football priors were an immensely complicated problem overall, so you have to be willing to throw them out almost immediately once new information presents itself because turnover, especially in this case, can be enormous. Colorado is a truly fascinating subject, the most complex we have ever seen as far as college football is concerned, and it deserves much more attention to detail than I can give it in this article. In this case, however, I do not think solving the Colorado conundrum gets us all the way to an answer because TCU’s roster was decimated in the offseason too.
Houston @ Rice – Under 52.5 (-110, generally available)
Both of these teams are facing lower competition than they faced in Week 1, but they should each be able to contain the opposing offenses that do not appear to have too much to offer.
Houston lost its two key pieces on offense from 2022 in QB Clayton Tune and perennially open WR Tank Dell, replacing them with Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith and last season’s WR2 Sam Brown, who steps up to take a bigger role in Dell’s absence. Defensively, Houston has a relatively new-look secondary. Jalen Emery returns as a sophomore after playing a lot as a redshirt freshman last year, posting a 74.4 coverage grade in Week 1 after registering a 65.1 last year. Transfers fill multiple other positions with highly graded East Carolina corner Malik Fleming starting opposite Emerywhile A.J. Haulcy took up a spot as the starting free safety. This defense did an excellent job of containing an electric UTSA offense and now, it takes on what can certainly be seen as a step down in competition against Rice.
Rice’s regular season win total being set in the preseason at 4.5 told us a lot about what to expect from this team coming into the season. The Owls have West Virginia transfer JT Daniels at QB but sadly, he looks like a shadow of the player he was capable of being at USC and Georgia, leaving West Virginia after a modest 2,100-yard season and a 13-9 TD-INT ratio. There is still hope he can recapture some form at this lower level, and playing Texas in Week 1 did not offer him that step down in competition, but his grade distributions were less than exciting and the decisions he made were questionable at best. Houston’s defense is not an easy task either and the expectation is that the struggles will continue at least for this week.
Despite getting overrun by Texas, Rice’s defense only gave up a rather useful -0.009 EPA/play and a reproduction of that level of play against the much weaker offensive unit that Houston is set to field should see scoring kept on the low side.