College Football Odds, Pick for Abilene Christian vs. SMU: Expect Mustangs to Roll Early (Sept. 4)
Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rashee Rice.
- The SMU Mustangs welcome the Abilene Christian Wildcats to town to kick off the 2021 season.
- The Mustangs should have a strong offense and will start Oklahoma transfer QB Tanner Mordecai.
- Check out Alex Kolodziej's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
College Football Week 1 Odds
SMU’s laying double digits against an in-state foe for the second straight season after opening with Texas State last fall.
It’ll be FCS Abilene Christian out of the WAC taking the short trip to Dallas to get steamrolled. It’s simply a matter of how many points the Mustangs want to hang Saturday.
Let’s dive into the handicap for this Lone Star State crossover.
Abilene Christian came up empty in all three matchups against FBS opponents in 2020.
The Wildcats gave UTEP a scare in Week 1, losing 17-13, but that can’t even qualify as a consolation prize considering a two-deep roster of motionless lawn gnomes would have been a single-digit underdog to the 2020 UTEP football team.
Abilene got decapitated the following week against Army, 55-23, then closed out a 1-5 campaign with a 55-15 tush-kicking against Virginia.
Head coach Adam Dorrel loaded up on hardware at Northwest Missouri State, winning three titles over a four-year span. However, Abilene Christians’s just 14-26 since he took the post in 2017, getting outscored by roughly a touchdown per game over the last two seasons.
At quarterback, it’ll be either Iowa transfer quarterback Peyton Mansell or Stone Earle, who both earned starting time a season ago.
The former got the nod out of the gates and finishing with north of 1,200 passing yards in six contests; the latter earned his first start in the finale as a true freshman, completing 19-of-31 attempts for 150 yards and one score.
The Wildcats mustered 23 points or more just once in six tries last season.
Abilene squandered 34 points or more to everyone, save for UTEP and lowly Mercer. The rush defense allowed a dismal 5.0 yards per carry and allowed a whopping 16 touchdowns on the ground.
The defensive line is stocked with experience, led by All-Southland defensive tackle Quent Titre.
Meanwhile, the secondary needs to be more aggressive after recording just a lone interception in 2020.
SMU sure knows how to make a solid first impression
The Mustangs ripped off six covers in seven tries to kick off 2019, then started last year 3-1 against the spread.
Their bread and butter is an Air Raid offense rife with ammo. This Group of Five squad could be one of the nation’s most efficient units in the country once it’s all said and done.
Head coach Sonny Dykes lit up the AAC in 2019 and 2020 behind former Texas quarterback and transfer Shane Buechele, who led the offense to consecutive top-10 ranks in total yards per game.
Now, it’s time for Oklahoma transfer quarterback and former four-star Tanner Mordecai to start throwing up video-game numbers with his star-studded receiving corps.
His former teammate at OU, tight end Grant Calcaterra, is another newcomer. He averaged more than 15 yards per catch and notched six touchdowns in 2018.
The wide receiving corps is in excellent shape, headlined by future NFLer Reggie Roberson (474 yards and 21.4 yards per reception in only five games in 2020) and Rashee Rice (1,000+ yards in two seasons as an underclassman).
However, look for Ulysses Bentley IV — the team’s leading rusher from last year — and an offensive line that returns everyone from last year to completely demolish Abilene Christian on the ground. The defense allowed a mind-boggling average of 224.8 yards per game in 2020.
SMU’s defense doesn’t need to be great, with an offense that can routinely give you 35 points of cushion per contest. However, there’s enough talent and experience for the Mustangs to find themselves in the top half of the country in important metrics.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s been great at bigger stops, and two key transfer pieces — Oregon linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia and Florida cornerback Jahari Rogers — round out a squad that returns nine starters from 2020.
Abilene Christian vs. SMU Betting Pick
Sonny Dykes is a quick-strike connoisseur. His clubs have ranked top-25 nationally in first-half points per game in all three seasons as head coach, including the ninth-best clip in 2019.
I’m not sure how interested Dykes and Co. will be in the later stages of the game, but I do know there’s enough talent under center, in the backfield, and in the skill corps for SMU to hit paydirt on every meaningful possession.
Most of the scoreboard carnage will be done early, and the market’s only hope is to latch onto the bandwagon before it’s too late. If you can get a -17 or better on the first-half spread, lay it.