Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Saturday Night's Essentials
Florida State at Virginia (-7.5/56), 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: After blowing a substantial lead against Boise State and narrowly holding off Louisiana-Monroe thanks to a missed extra point in overtime, Willie Taggart’s second season in Tallahassee has fallen drastically below expectations. It may do them some good to get away from their disappointed fan base and hit a reset button of sorts in this ACC opener since a victory would provide a great boost to their season. Taggart hired former defensive coordinator and South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt to help fix a defense that has continued to get shredded despite terrific personnel, but results aren’t likely to come overnight. QB Bryce Perkins has been able to keep drives alive with his feet and could pick up where FSU’s opponents have left off in creating defensive breakdowns by buying time and allowing plays to develop. FSU has won 14 of 17 against the Cavaliers but the schools haven’t played since 2014.
Oklahoma (-23/72) at UCLA, 8 p.m. ET, FOX: The Bruins need to show some backbone for Chip Kelly’s sake considering how awful his offense has looked through an 0-2 start. While Cincinnati and San Diego State are solid programs, neither is on Oklahoma’s level, which could lead to embarrassing results for the Bruins considering Dorian Thompson-Robinson has looked so shaky and UCLA comes in ranked in the bottom-five in the country in total offense. Jalen Hurts was promised that he’d have his hands on everything the Sooners wanted to accomplish in their aggressive offense and thus far, he’s relished in all the opportunities, leading the nation in passing efficiency while doubling as OU’s leading rusher. The Bruins have only been a heavier underdog once against Kelly, but covered, falling 49-21 in Norman last season as a 29-point ‘dog. UCLA is just 2-6 at home under Kelly, while Oklahoma is 9-0 in true road games against Lincoln Riley.
Northern Illinois at Nebraska (-14/54.5), 8 p.m. ET, FS1: After a disappointing debut against South Alabama, the ‘Huskers coughed up a lead at Colorado and are in need of a strong bounceback against the visiting Huskies. Nebraska transitions exclusively to Big Ten play next week but isn’t talented enough to hold anything back against a talented NIU squad transitioning to a new coaching staff with former running back Thomas Hammock taking over for Rod Carey, who left for Temple. QB Ross Bowers has experience and nothing NIU sees this week will compare to the level they just played against in Salt Lake City. Nebraska has only had three receivers make a catch and is relying on Maurice Washington and QB Adrian Martinez to generate big plays and mask offensive line issues. Northern Illinois beat Nebraska 21-17 in Lincoln two years ago.
Texas (-32/56) at Rice, 8 p.m. ET, CBSSN: The Longhorns come off a disappointing loss to LSU but certainly looked the part of a heavyweight despite the loss. They’ll get a change of scenery in visiting Houston’s NRG Stadium, home of the Texans and Friday’s Washington State-Houston clash, before returning to Austin for next week’s Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State. Texas has won 41 of 42 against Rice, winning the most recent meeting 42-28 back in 2015. It should be a long night for the Owls unless they’re able to break off some big plays via misdirection because they figure to get manhandled up front. Sam Ehlinger is likely to continue an excellent run passing it, particularly since there’s such limited depth behind RBs Keontay Ingram and converted QB Roschon Johnson due o injuries.
San Diego State (-16/51) at New Mexico State, 9 p.m. ET: The Aggies have been trounced by Washington State and Alabama, so it’s important the Aztecs don’t believe they’re just going to show up in Las Cruces and win by 30. Getting his players to believe this has been Rocky Long’s objective on the heels of an upset to UCLA, the first win in school history over the Bruins. QB Ryan Agnew looked sharp in throwing for a career-high 293 yards but it remains to be seen whether SDSU asks him to do much here with a huge game against Utah State on deck. San Diego State has allowed only seven points per game and has surrendered just 207.5 yards of total offense. NMSU sophomore QB Josh Adkins has some weapons around him on offense but will be tasked with facing another fantastic defense and has to be looking forward to next week’s rivalry game with New Mexico for more of a fair fight.
Texas Tech (-2.5/75) at Arizona, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3: This one is likely to be a shootout, but the number is right up there where Washington State-Houston was on Friday night. That game never had a chance after a scoreless first quarter, and there’s certainly danger that the clock can run here since the Wildcats run the ball so effectively and the Red Raiders are transitioning away from Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid with Matt Wells taking over. Tech is averaging 41.5 points per game after lopsided home wins over Montana State and overmatched UTEP, so some game pressure on the road may force the pace to slow even further. Arizona scored 65 points against Northern Arizona and had over 50 at halftime, but they won’t be able to score as easily agaomst a defense that come in with a veteran secondary and a terrific linebacker inside in Jordyn Brooks.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA