Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM

Saturday Night's Essentials

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Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Saturday's slate in all FBS vs. FBS matchups. All lines courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas Superbook:

Primetime Matchups

Wyoming (-7/47) at Texas State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+: Bobcats QBs Tyler Vitt and Gresch Jensen each threw a pair of interceptions in a season-opening 41-7 loss at Texas A&M and took turns disappointing new coach Jake Spavital enough that he declined to name a starter prior to this home opener. Wyoming has no such problems since Sean Chambers has separated himself as the guy upon returning from a broken leg, protecting the ball and helping the Cowboys rally past Missouri for an upset in Laramie last Saturday. It was the school’s first win over a Power-5 school in over a decade. Although Wyoming has some personnel issues to deal with in the back, safety Alijah Halliburton comes off a 17-tackle game over Mizzou that included a fumble recovery. The determining factor in this one should be Wyoming’s ability to keep Texas State’s passing game from finding a rhythm as its depth concerns are tested in near-100 degree weather. Both of the Cowboys’ wins in the series have by 41-10 scores.

North Texas at SMU (-3.5/73), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3: The Mean Green hope to win a Conference USA title after fading down the stretch last season and are after a second straight win over the Mustangs following a 46-23 rout in the 2018 season opener. North Texas snapped a three-game losing streak in the series but hasn’t won in Dallas since 1933. SMU has won 11 of the last 15 Safeway Bowls and got good news this week with Nebraska transfer Cam’Ron Jones becoming eligible and joining UCLA transfer Brandon Stephens in a revamped secondary. Texas transfer QB Shane Buechele threw for 360 yards. Half of the yardage went to West Virginia transfer Reggie Roberson, Jr., who caught 11 balls. UNT QB Mason Fine is likely to surpass the 10,000-yard mark for his career and comes is in as the NCAA’s leading active passer. We could get a shootout here in 100-degree weather.

BYU at Tennessee (-3.5/53), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: After a demoralizing loss to rival Utah, the Cougars will have company in misery as they visit Knoxville given what happened to the Vols last week. Tennessee fans will flood Neyland Stadium hoping they’re team responds after sleepwalking through an upset loss to Georgia State, a Sun Belt member that came in as a 24.5-point favorite. A couple of guys left the team and we’re about to find out how far embarrassment goes as a motivating factor. Tennessee’s streaks of 30 straight wins over non-Power-5 schools and 11 consecutive non-conference home wins ended last week against a team that isn’t as loaded as the visiting Cougars, who are expecting to get better play out of QB Zach Wilson after he got roughed up by the Utes. Coming off shoulder surgery, he may not be 100 percent yet. The Vols will look to force game-changing mistakes the way Utah managed to, but they’ll have to stop the run to put BYU in compromising positions in order to make the most of the pressure 100,000 fans can put on a visitor.

UCF (-12.5/67.5) at Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m. ET, CBSSN: The combination of Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush and freshman Dillon Gabriel looked sharp in attempting to take over for McKenzie Milton (knee), who will miss the season for the Knights after finishing sixth in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting. The opponent they looked sharp against was FBS member Florida A&M, so this first road trip to face Lane Kiffin’s Owls should be more telling, helping the Knights prepare for upcoming games against Stanford and Pittsburgh. FAU was lit up by Ohio State last Saturday and fell behind 28-0 in the first quarter but gained its bearings and surrendered just 17 points over the final three quarters. UCF lost defensive back Bam Moore to a knee injury and will have to replace his contributions in trying to contain a fast-paced FAU attack that notched a backdoor cover in Columbus when QB Chris Robison found a rhythm. UCF won 56-36 in Orlando last year and has won both meetings in this series.

Western Kentucky at Florida International (-8/57), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+: The Hilltoppers opened the Tyson Helton era with a loss to FBS member Central Arkansas but have no time to wallow with the Conference USA opener on tap. FIU is feeling the same way after getting destroyed at Tulane, but should find it easier to rebound given the continuity Butch Davis has established and the fact they get to play this one down in Miami. The Panthers also get back RB D’Vonte Price, who was absent in New Orleans last week but found the end zone twice in last season’s 38-17 rout of WKU. Davis has beaten the Hilltoppers twice and will look to neutralize pass rusher DeAngelo Malone in order to get the James Morgan-led offense to perform to start living up to expectations. The ‘Toppers are hoping converted DB Gaej Walker can keep producing at running back after breaking off 152 yards in his debut.

Coastal Carolina at Kansas (-7/53), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+: Les Miles looks to become the first Kansas head coach to open 2-0 since Turner Gill did so in 2011. He lost his next 10 and was canned and replaced by Charlie Weis, who won six games over three seasons. So, yes, two wins is a big deal in Lawrence. The Jayhawks held off FCS member Indiana State, rallying after falling behind on a fumble in the end zone with 4:26 left. Carter Stanley rallied KU to a win and Hasan Defense added a pick-six, but there’s not a lot to get excited about outside of seeing Miles stress out. The Chanticleers are indeed live ‘dogs as they arrive coming off a home loss to Eastern Michigan to open the season. Coastal runs an offense that is difficult to prepare for but fell victim to four Fred Payton interceptions, which is double what he had all of last season. If the Chants can overcome being displaced from their normal schedule due to Hurricane Dorian, they should be in this game come fourth quarter if they can avoid turnovers.

Liberty at Louisiana (-14/65.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+: Word is that Hugh Freeze will coach from the press box in something resembling a dentist’s chair and he’ll be hoping for better results than his Flames supplied in being suffocated by Syracuse in a 24-0 loss. Buckshot Calvert struggled as his protection broke down and the offense finished with -4 rushing yards. Liberty visits the Cajundome, where Louisiana went 5-1 last season and is 37-19. The Ragin’ Cajuns lost to Mississippi State at the Superdome last Saturday but held its own in falling 38-28. They lost starting guard Ken Marks to a season-ending injury but have the numbers to move forward given their experience up front. Levi Lewis settled in as the starting quarterback and adds a dimension they lacked last season due to his speed and elusiveness.

Western Michigan at Michigan State (-15/46.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN: The Spartans dominated Tulsa in its opener but weren’t terribly adventurous on the offensive end. We’ll see if they choose to remain vanilla against the in-state foes from Kalamazoo, which is very much a possibility since Arizona State comes through next week before Big Ten play begins and the offensive line remains a work in progress. Mark Dantonio has been talking about a new-look offense for weeks and we’re still waiting to have our minds blown. The defense held the Golden Hurricane to -73 rushing yards. Western hammered Monmouth 48-13 and has one of the MAC’s top rushers in LeVante Bellamy running behind a veteran offensive line, but they haven’t beaten Michigan State in East Lansing in 100 years, losing 10 straight matchups. Senior QB Jon Wassink lost to Sparty 28-14 three seasons ago.

LSU (-6.5/57.5) at Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: The Tigers looked sharp in destroying Georgia Southern 55-3 in Baton Rouge, unveiling a new-look offense that scored 42 points by halftime. QB Joe Burrow had a school-record 253 yards at the break and finished 23-for-27 with five scores. Production like that won’t come as easily against the Longhorns on the road in Austin. Tom Herman went 5-1 at Memorial Stadium last season, losing to West Virginia by a single point and posting victories over USC and TCU. Sam Ehlinger tied a career-high with four TD passes against Louisiana Tech, so both schools that consider themselves DBU will need to be on alert. LSU safety Grant Delpit and Texas’ tandem of Caden Sterns and Brandon Jones are among the country’s best at their positions and the Tigers have a good one emerging in JaCoby Stevens, so every possession is going to be riveting.

Tulane at Auburn (-17/51.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: After escaping what appeared to be certain defeat in Arlington last Saturday night, Auburn looks to build on its fortunate survival against Oregon by handling Tulane in what will be its toughest remaining non-SEC game until bowl season. Anticipation over Bo Nix’s debut at Jordan-Hare may have taken a hit if the Tigers came in 0-1, but on the heels of a frantic comeback that featured a fourth-down conversion and a go-ahead touchdown toss, the atmosphere should be electric. LSU transfer Justin McMillan looked fantastic against FIU and will give Auburn’s defensive front fits with his elusiveness. He’ll have to beat the Tigers with his arm to engineer an upset, which means Alabama native Darnell Mooney has to have a big night. Auburn is expected to have buck rusher T.D. Moultry and WR Will Hastings available and came out of the win over the Ducks relatively unscathed.

Arkansas at Ole Miss (-6/50.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN: Georgia routed Vandy in the first SEC game of the season last week, but this second league contest should be much more competitive. Neither team looked particularly sharp in its opener with Ole Miss losing at Memphis and the Hogs struggling with FCS member Portland State. Ben Hicks will again start ahead of Nick Starkel for Arkansas, while the Rebels saw proress from redshirt freshman Matt Corral in nearly engineering a comeback win at the Liberty Bowl, improving after a slow start. Rich Rodriguez is calling plays for the first time in league play and at home but is already under fire after catching the brunt of the blame for Saturday’s 15-10 loss to the Tigers after producing just 93 passing yards and 3.3 yards per play. Arkansas can pull off the road upset if it tackles well and gets a big game from RB Rakeem Boyd, who can make life easier on whoever plays quarterback for Chad Morris if he gets enough touches. The Razorbacks have dropped all eight of its SEC openers, falling by an average of 21 points. The Rebels snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with a 37-33 win in Fayetteville last season.

Nevada at Oregon (-15/63), 7:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12: The Ducks will look to prevent last Saturday’s meltdown from taking them down twice as they welcome the Wolf Pack into Autzen Stadium. Oregon fans are displeased with head coach Mario Cristobal, whose questionable decisions down the stretch helped cost the team an upset of Auburn. Justin Herbert said in the lead-up to last week’s showdown that he didn’ come back for his senior year to lose in Week 1 so it will be interesting to see how he responds. WR Juwan Johnson and TE Cam McCormick will be game-time decisions after missing the Auburn loss but Brenden Schooler (foot) and Mycah Pittman (shoulder) remain out. Nevada stunned Purdue at home with a frantic comeback led by redshirt freshman Carson Strong, who will be making his first road start. The Wolf Pack need to get backs Toa Taua and Kelton Moore going to work the clock and keep pressure off strong. Oregon has won the last six matchups between the schools.

Buffalo at Penn State (-30.5/56), 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX: The Nittany Lions had no problem replacing Trace McSorley in their first game without him, scoring 44 first-half points in a 79-7 demolition of Idaho. Sean Clifford found star WR KJ Hamler twice but should have much more resistance with the Bulls in town, although that’s not necessarily a team strength. Buffalo is replacing standout Tyree Jackson with sophomore Matt Myers, who accounted for three scores against Robert Morris but will now test himself against the best defense he’ll see all season. Penn State beat Buffalo 27-14, failing to cover the number as a 17-point favorite, it the most recent meeting between the schools back in 2015.

Eastern Michigan at Kentucky (-15/52.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN: The Wildcats were impressive in rallying past Toledo at home last week, surviving their first test against a quality MAC school. They’ll face another sound team with the Eagles in town and the fact Florida visits next week makes things trickier since they’ll be looking ahead to that after finally snapping a 31-year losing streak against the Gators last year. Eastern Michigan has an interesting weapon in new QB Mike Glass, who was nearly flawless in engineering an upset at Coastal Carolina and is similar to UK’s Terry Wilson in his ability to improvise and tuck and run out of the pocket. EMU has started off 2-0 in consecutive seasons after engineering road upsets at Rutgers and Purdue. It lost just 24-20 in Lexington back in ’17, covering as a 14-point underdog .

UTEP at Texas Tech (-34.5/65), 8 p.m. ET: The Red Raiders won their first game after dumping Kliff Kingsbury and hiring Matt Wells, beating Montana State 45-10. They’ll be expected to roll here and win at Arizona next week before settling in and defining their season post-bye with games at Oklahoma and home against Oklahoma State. If they can split those, they’ve got a shot at a big year. Alan Bowman threw for 433 yards, completing 40 throws and executing an offense that wants to snap it before the play clock bleeds down to 30 seconds, fire off a pass, line up and do it all again. The Miners aren’t expected to provide much resistance in Lubbock, coming off a 36-34 win over Houston Baptist and voted as most likely to bring up the rear in C-USA’s West Division.

Miami (FL) (-5/46.5) at North Carolina, 8 p.m. ET, ACCN: Mack Brown tasted victory in his return to coaching, pulling off an upset of South Carolina in Charlotte behind true freshman Sam Howell. The Tar Heels will debut in Chapel Hill in front of a sellout crowd and welcome in the Hurricanes, which reunites Brown with former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who he fired when the two coached together at Texas. This one will be personal for the first-year ‘Canes head coach, who came up short in his debut against Florida in Orlando to open the college season. Jarren Williams will make his first true road start for UM, which is 6-3 over its last nine dates with UNC, winning thee last two by a combined margin of 71-29. Whichever makes the most appearances, the Heels’ turnover belt or Miami’s turnover chain, should supply a good indication of who wins here.

Late-night Snacks

Tulsa (-6.5/53.5) at San Jose State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN3: After its historic futility in attempting to establish a ground game in East Lansing, Tulsa hopes to get its offense on track in Northern California as it attempts to hold serve and snap a 13-game road losing streak. The Golden Hurricane were able to pressure Michigan State and will try and clamp down on Josh Love and the Spartans, who opened the season with a 35-18 victory over Northern Colorado. San Jose State has beaten only one FBS opponent in each of the last two seasons and hasn’t beaten a non-conference opponent since 2012.

Arkansas State at UNLV (PK/64), 10 p.m. ET: The Rebels dominated Southern Utah 56-23 to open the season and are looking to open 2-0 for the first time since 1999. Dual-threat Armani Rogers can be a force struggled with turnovers in last season’s 27-20 loss in Jonesboro. UNLV tied a school record with seven rushing touchdowns, three of which came from junior Charles Williams. Arkansas State WR Kirk Merritt needs to be cleared from concussion protocol in order to return. Dahu Green (knee) is also looking to return. The RedWolves fell at home against SMU last week and remain without head coach Blake Anderson, whose wife lost a battle with cancer just before the season began. QB Logan Bonner had a strong first start and will look to pick up a victory on the road in Vegas by continuing to find Omar Bayless if his receiving corps remains shorthanded.
Stanford at USC (-3/43), 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Cardinal’s KJ Costello was expected to duel with the Trojans’ JT Daniels in a matchup of two of the Pac-12’s finest. Neither will play. Daniels was lost for the season with an ACL injury and Costello has been ruled out after a head injury, so backups Kedon Slovis, a true freshman, and sophomore Davis Mills will make their first starts. Slovis helped USC survive Fresno State and was coached by Kurt Warner in high school, while Mills is from the Atlanta area and helped the Cardinal hold off Northwestern last week. Stanford will rely on its ground game on the road and feels like it has an advantage up front, while USC was expected to throw the ball around the yard in order to take advantage of all its elite receivers. Slovis’ ability to find a rhythm with a few receivers while protecting the ball against a veteran defense will decide the winner here.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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