College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions for Cal vs. North Texas

College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions for Cal vs. North Texas article feature image

Via Matthew Pearce/Getty Images. Pictured: North Texas Mean Green wide receiver Roderic Burns (24) runs for a first down during the game between the North Texas Mean Green and the Houston Cougars on September 28, 2019 at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas.

Cal vs. North Texas Odds

Saturday, Sept. 2
4 p.m. ET
Cal Odds
-110o / -110u
North Texas Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

The North Texas Mean Green host the California Golden Bears Saturday afternoon as both teams kick off their seasons in Denton.

Cal enters on the heels of a 4-8 season in which the Bears won just two Pac-12 games and lost seven of their last eight games. Justin Wilcox begins his seventh season as Cal's head coach, but he may be on the hot seat after amassing just 10 total wins over the last three seasons.

The Mean Green join the AAC after reaching the Conference USA Championship game a year ago.

Despite playing for their conference championship and sixth bowl in seven seasons, North Texas fired head coach Seth Littrell and replaced him with Eric Morris, who was the offensive coordinator at Washington State last season after being the head coach at Incarnate Word from 2018-2021.

Read on for a betting preview, pick and prediction for Cal vs. North Texas on Saturday, September 2.

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California Golden Bears

The Cal Bears will start Sam Jackson V at quarterback — a dual-threat TCU transfer — in the first year in Jake Spavital’s Air Raid offense. While Jackson is a tremendous athlete and is paired with a talented running back in Jaydn Ott (who recorded an elite 90.1 PFF Rushing Grade), the Bears may have trouble moving the ball through the air consistently as Jackson is limited in the passing game.

The Bears were just 104th in Offensive Success Rate and 75th in Finishing Drives last season, so they need to make significant improvements to be effective on that side of the ball.

Defensively, the Bears have a ton of experience, but it remains a question if that’s a positive for this unit, which ranked 130th in Success Rate Allowed and 80th in Finishing Drives. The defense was poor against both the run and pass, as Cal ranked outside the top 125 in both Rushing Success and Passing Success Rates Allowed.

The good news for Cal is that veteran defensive lineman Brett Johnson returns after missing the entire 2021 and 2022 seasons with injuries. Johnson recorded a career-high 10 tackles in the 2020 Big Game against Stanford.

Linebacker Jackson Sirmon and defensive back Craig Woodson will also play key roles on Wilcox’s Cal defense and were both preseason All-Pac-12 selections.

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North Texas Mean Green

North Texas lost 29-year-old starting quarterback Austin Aune after he declared for the draft and brought in Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Chandler Rogers.

However, Stone Earle, who began fall camp as the third-string quarterback, won the starting job (although Rogers is also expected to see action).

Rogers also considered transferring to Cal over the offseason, so there's an added level of intrigue in seeing him play in this matchup against Oski and company.

The Mean Green offense shifts to the Air Raid under Morris. That may not be the best move for a North Texas offense whose strength is its four running backs.

However, Morris did lead his Washington State offense to a 28-9 win over Cal last season when Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns against the Golden Bears.

Roderic Burns, who tallied over 650 receiving yards each of the last two seasons, will be featured heavily in the passing game.

The Mean Green offense ranked among the top 15 in the country in both Rush and Pass Play Explosiveness, so there's optimism for this unit, which ranks second in experience.

With 80% of their offensive line starts returning, the running game should thrive, especially with both quarterback options posing a threat on the ground to go along with their deep backfield.

The North Texas defense also has a scheme shift, as the Mean Green move to a 3-3-5. While the Mean Green defense was poor by almost all metrics last season, they are experienced and playmakers such as defensive end Mazin Richards and cornerback Ridge Texada should be set up to thrive this season.

Richards recorded a team-high 7.5 sacks last season while Texada had 15 passes defended — along with three interceptions — as he was a first team All-Conference USA selection.

Cal vs. North Texas

Betting Pick & Prediction

With Cal hosting Auburn in Berkeley next weekend, this may set up as a lookahead spot for the Bears, especially in the middle of the day in triple-digit Texas heat.

While the addition of Jackson gives Cal’s offense a higher ceiling than it's had in the past, his limitations as a passer mean the unit's floor is also lower if he and Ott can’t get the ground game going. The Cal offensive scheme change to Spavital’s offense could also mean that the Bears see some growing pains early.

Against an experienced North Texas defense and a coach in Morris who had success at Washington State against Cal last year, this could pose a serious problem.

The experience for North Texas — especially at every position surrounding Earle on offense — could prove to be the difference in this matchup.

Our Action Network Projections actually favor North Texas by 0.3 points here, so I love the value of taking the Mean Green at +6.5 on FanDuel. Jackson’s floor as a passer for Berkeley — along with the mediocre Cal defense against the run and pass — also yields value on the North Texas moneyline, which is worth at least a sprinkle at +210.

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