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TCU at Texas Tech
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The third week of the college football season starts off with a Lone Star state matchup from the Big XII between TCU and Texas Tech. Last year’s meeting was the first between the schools as Big XII foes and it was certainly memorable with a 56-53 outcome. Take a closer look at this week’s opening game to start off the next football week.

Matchup: Texas Christian Horned Frogs at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Venue: Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas (fieldturf)
Date: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET – ESPN
Line: TCU -3, Over/Under 63
Last Meeting: 2012 at TCU, Texas Tech (+1½) 56, TCU 53 (3OT)

It has been four years since the fallout between Mike Leach and Texas Tech, but the program has been handed back to one of Leach’s former quarterbacks. Kliff Kingsbury is off to a 2-0 start as a head coach after a successful 2012 season as the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. A big surprise for the Red Raiders has been walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield winning the job and succeeding as the new quarterback in Lubbock. It has been just two weeks and the competition has been light, but the Red Raiders have been the second-most productive passing team in the country with over 450 yards per game.

While Texas Tech twice went to bowl games in the post-Leach era under Tommy Tuberville, the team has not reached the same heights, though they were ranked as high as #15 in the polls last season after a 6-1 start. In four of the final six games of last season, the Red Raiders allowed 50 or more points and while Texas Tech emerged a bowl winner, it was a fortunate comeback victory against a mediocre Minnesota team. The defense does return a decent amount of experience, but after allowing 490 yards in the opening game against SMU, it is still a glaring concern for the team. While TCU had a marquee opening week game, this is the big early season game for Texas Tech as a win here could allow for a potential 6-0 or 7-0 start before the schedule gets very difficult late in the season.

TCU had all sorts of problems on and off the field last season, still managing to end up 7-6, but there was a great optimism that this year’s team could compete much better in the second year in the Big XII. Most projected TCU to be one of the best defensive teams in a conference often lacking strong defense and the offense appeared to be in good hands with the return of senior quarterback Casey Pachall. Trevone Boynkin played significantly last season in Pachall’s absence and was expected to still have a significant role on the team, but he takes over as the full-time leader for the time being with Pachall injured last week. Gary Patterson’s TCU teams have won 11 or more games in seven of the last 10 years, but there is not much margin for error remaining for the Frogs to reach that mark this season.

In the highly-anticipated opener with LSU at Cowboys Stadium, TCU stayed in the game and lost respectably by just 10 points, but the statistics suggested that the margin of victory could have been more significant. Last week, TCU won by 21 over Southeastern Louisiana, but it was a game where the Frogs were not dominant and if not for a turnover edge might have been even closer. Texas Tech won convincingly on the scoreboard over Stephen F. Austin last week, but four turnovers from the offense left a bit of a concern. This is definitely a big game in the Big XII standings as while neither team has looked like an elite contender for the league title, the struggles of Texas on defense, Oklahoma on offense, and the daunting distractions hitting Oklahoma State this week could open up the race.

The key matchups in this game should be the TCU pass rush led by Devonte Fields going against the inexperience of Mayfield. The young quarterback has not thrown an interception yet despite throwing 90 passes, but this will be the toughest test he has faced by far and he will need to make good decisions while wisely using his mobility to his advantage. TCU has an experienced secondary that is expected to be among the best in the Big XII if not the nation led by cornerback Jason Verrett, who projects as a possible first round NFL pick.

TCU should be able to run the ball in this matchup even if the rushing numbers for the Frogs have not been exceptional so far. Trailing much of the way in the opener forced more passing and needless to say, Texas Tech does not have the same talent on defense as LSU. Boykin is a threat on the ground at quarterback and while B.J. Catalon only has 111 rushing yards so far this season, he has rushed for over 5.8 yards per carry after averaging 4.7 yards per carry last season. TCU has some inexperience on the offensive line and Texas Tech returned its entire starting front seven from last season. The Red Raiders will never rank highly in defensive statistics due to the pace of the offense, but there are some playmakers on the defense led by defensive ends Kerry Hyder and Delvon Simmons.

If this year’s game resembles last season’s game it should be must-see TV and with an underwhelming Thursday NFL matchup this will be a game to keep an eye on. The stakes are big for both teams as while both squads are likely headed to the postseason again there may be an opportunity for the winner to rise in the Big XII picture.

Last Meeting: Last season, Texas Tech led 21-20 at halftime last season in Fort Worth with the Red Raiders ranked #18 in the nation. TCU moved the ball well but consistently had to settle for field goals, eventually taking a 26-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Texas Tech stepped up on defense to force consecutive 3-and-outs and the Red Raiders were up by 10 with just over four minutes to go after Kenny Williams broke a touchdown run from mid-field. TCU answered with a 60-yard touchdown pass and forced a punt to get the ball back with just over a minute to go, down three. The Frogs were able to quickly get into field goal position, but with four plays from inside the Texas Tech 20, they had to settle for the tying kick to go to overtime. Neither team faced much stress in the first two overtimes with matching touchdowns in both sessions. In the third overtime, TCU had to settle for a field goal and in four plays, Texas Tech found the end zone for the win, 56-53.

Series History: Texas Tech is 12-5-2 SU since 1980, but last season’s meeting was the first since 2006. The ATS results have split in the last eight meetings going back to 1991. The last time TCU played in Luboock was 2004, losing 70-35 as just a 6-point underdog.

Line Movement: The road favorite spread has been steady at -3 while the total has climbed from 62 to 63.

TCU Historical Trends: The Frogs have been an excellent road team, going 36-10 S/U on the road since 2005 with a solid 25-19-2 ATS mark. TCU failed in both instances as a road favorite last season, but they are 9-7 ATS in that role since 2009. TCU is 29-21-1 ATS as a favorite of less than 10 since 1995, but just 2-5 ATS in that role the last two seasons.

Texas Tech Historical Trends: Since October of 1994, Texas Tech is on an 18-8 ATS run as a home underdog. The Red Raiders are just 3-3 ATS in that role the past three seasons since Leach left. Texas Tech is just 11-14 as an underdog since 2007, including losing in each of the last three instances last season. Texas Tech has just four S/U wins in 16 attempts as underdog since 2010.

There are two other college games Thursday night:

Tulane at Louisiana Tech 7:30 PM ET (FS1)
Louisiana Tech -8½, Over/Under 57

A big improvement is expected for Tulane this season, but losing to recent FBS entrant South Alabama last week was a big blow to entertaining any bowl hopes for the Wave. Tulane rallied after falling behind 28-7, but it was not enough as they failed late in the game on what would have been a tying 2-point conversion. With a new coaching staff and few experienced players, it is expected to be a big transition season for Louisiana Tech, a 9-3 team last year. Lamar was one of the worst teams in the Southland last season, so struggling in a narrow win last week was not a great showing for the Bulldogs. Historically, Ruston has been a very tough place to play, but Tulane is a team with a much higher ceiling than they have had in most recent seasons. Tulane is just 4-19 S/U on the road since 2009 while Louisiana Tech is 23-15-2 ATS at home since 2005.

Troy at Arkansas State 7:30 PM ET (ESPNU)
Arkansas State -8½, Over/Under 66½

Troy is 2-0, but Savannah State was a one-win FCS team last season, so the blowout result is not worth much credit and the opening win over UAB featured some good fortune. Arkansas State has been the Sun Belt champion the last two years with two different coaches and new leader Bryan Harsin had a better showing than it looked last week in a 38-9 loss at Auburn. The Red Wolves had more first downs and similar yardage production against the Tigers, but settled for three field goals and failed going for it on fourth down on three long drives to come up empty. Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy has run the offense with success and the Troy defense will face a jump in competition this week. Arkansas State is 12-1 S/U at home the last two plus seasons and Troy has allowed 86 points in this matchup the last two years. Larry Blakeney is one of the longest tenured coaches in the nation as this is his 23rd season at Troy. He has just nine returning starters this season but the Trojans are 2-0, looking to return to a bowl game after losing seasons the last two years. Troy is just 3-6 ATS in this series since 2004 and Arkansas State is 11-5 ATS as a home favorite since 2010.

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