College Football Week 1 Odds, Pick for Arkansas vs. Rice: Look to Bet Saturday’s Total
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: K.J. Jefferson.
- The Rice Owls and Arkansas Razorbacks will go to battle to open their 2021 seasons on Saturday.
- There may be betting value on the over/under, according to Mike Bainbridge.
- Check out Bainbridge's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
College Football Week 1 Odds
The records didn’t show it, but last season was a step in the right direction for both the Arkansas Razorbacks and Rice Owls.
Despite playing a shortened slate, the Hogs posted their best win percentage since 2017. Considering their third-ranked strength of schedule last season per ESPN, it was a promising first year for head coach Sam Pittman.
Head coach Mike Bloomgren enters his fourth year in charge of the Owls with a 7-23 overall record but looks to have the program on an upward trajectory after a 2-3 season that featured a convincing 20-0 victory over No. 15 Marshall on the road. Nineteen starters who accounted for 84% of the team’s production in 2020 are back this year.
We know exactly what a Bloomgren-led team strives for on offense — run the heck out of the ball and control the clock.
Rice ranked second nationally in 2020 in time of possession at nearly 60% and were second in the country over the last three seasons in that category. Rice will employ a two-quarterback system to begin the season with sophomore Wiley Green getting the initial nod, and former Nebraska transfer Luke McCaffrey adding a rushing element that can threaten defenses.
The Owls ranked 24th in 2020 in run play percentage at 59% and will undoubtedly look to establish a presence on the ground this season with all five starters back on the offensive line. How their backfield shakes out will be an interesting storyline to monitor as the game progresses with “Swiss Army Knife” Jordan Myers listed atop the depth chart at running back after playing tight end for much of his career.
Defensively, Rice ranked third in Conference USA in yards allowed per game and returns eight of their top nine tacklers from a year ago. Not once last season did the Owls allow more than 140 yards in a game and ranked inside the top 15 nationally in defensive Predicted Points Added (PPA), defensive explosiveness and line yards allowed.
Injuries started to mount for Arkansas in fall camp, with two primary offensive playmakers in receiver Treylon Burks and running back Trelon Smith both ailing.
With Burks, the expectation as of now is that the Razorbacks will be without their best player as he continues to deal with an undisclosed injury that has kept him out of practice in recent weeks. In just nine games, Burks amassed 51 receptions and seven touchdowns. The next closest returning receiver for Arkansas had just 14 catches last season, and a true freshman in Ketron Jackson will likely start in Burks' place.
At running back, Smith has been dealing with a turf toe the past few weeks and may not be 100% to play either. That would leave the backfield in the hands of another true freshman in Rahiem "Rocket" Sanders. Not the sort of inexperience you’d prefer lining up next to starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson, who has just two career starts under his belt.
Adding to the litany of wounded Razorbacks is defensive tackle John Ridgeway, a listed starter on the current depth chart, who is doubtful after undergoing an appendectomy last weekend. Ridgeway's absence would be a big one for an Arkansas defense that ranked 12th in the SEC in run defense a year ago, allowing 192.1 yards per game.
Arkansas vs. Rice Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Rice and Arkansas match up statistically:
Rice Offense vs. Arkansas Defense
Arkansas Offense vs. Rice Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Arkansas vs. Rice Betting Pick
With the plethora of injuries mounting for the Razorbacks, particularly on offense to key playmakers, and a Rice team implementing a two-quarterback system with no established starter, the under feels like the play here.
The plodding pace of the Owls offense combined with two new starting quarterbacks on both sides should seemingly result in a low-scoring affair. If Treylon Burks is a no-go, that sways my pick even further towards the under.