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North Texas vs. SMU Betting Odds & Pick: Back the Mustangs’ High-Powered Offense (Saturday, Sept. 19)

North Texas vs. SMU Betting Odds & Pick: Back the Mustangs’ High-Powered Offense (Saturday, Sept. 19) article feature image

Tim Warner/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Sonny Dykes of the Southern Methodist Mustangs.

  • The Mustangs and Mean Green face off at 6 p.m. ET in a Texas Special college football matchup on the CBS Sports Network.
  • SMU disappointed in its Week 1 showing against Texas State, but Mike Calabrese cautions not to fall victim to recency bias.
  • Find his full game breakdown below with updated odds plus his picks for today’s game.

North Texas vs. SMU Odds

North Texas Odds +14.5 [BET NOW]
SMU Odds -14.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +410/+-590 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 69.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

Odds updated as of Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Recency bias is a dangerous thing when it comes to college football — particularly in a season that is tailor made for no-shows, bounce backs and downright strange performances. That’s why I made it a habit to project spreads for the first four games of the season back in August.

In the case of SMU-North Texas, I projected this spread to be in the three touchdown range. North Texas, after all, would be breaking in a new starting quarterback after years of steady service from Mason Fine.

After a near upset on the road at Texas State, oddsmakers are doubting SMU’s ability to run a Conference USA team off the field despite UNT’s heavy roster turnover (121st in returning production). Sportsbooks’ reliance on the Mustangs’ opener as concrete evidence of their ceiling is providing savvy gamblers with value in Week 3 against the Mean Green.

And it wasn’t just SMU’s poor performance on the road that has this line tighter than I predicted four weeks ago. Surprisingly, North Texas exploded for more than 700 yards of total offense and 57 points in their opener while breaking in a slew of new offensive weapons.

The fact that UNT did that against one of the worst defenses at the FCS level has created a bit of a fools’ gold situation for UNT backers. To understand the exact ins and outs of why SMU is vastly undervalued in this spot, let’s dive a little deeper.

It can be difficult to quantify exactly how limited a playbook is on a given Saturday, but the fact that SMU ran the ball 44 times and dinked and dunked the ball against Texas State in the early going is telling. The Mustangs hit their 2019 season average of total plays (80) with nearly an identical ratio of run (44) to pass plays (36) as they averaged a year ago.

The difference was the lack of deep throws. In 2019, Shane Buechele finished second nationally in deep passing yards with 1,462 yards on throws targeted at least 20 yards downfield.

Against Texas State, he attempted just two passes of 20-plus yards in the first half, allowing an otherwise outgunned Bobcats’ defense to prevent the big play. In the second half, Sonny Dykes dialed up more deep throws, resulting in four deep completions in SMU’s first four drives of the second half.

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Once the deep ball element was embraced, SMU was back to the level of explosiveness it enjoyed for much of 2019. So why didn’t that translate to more points? SMU had two touchdowns negated by penalty, one on an illegal blindside block and another due to an illegal formation penalty.

The blindside block was within a hair of being clean and the formation penalty was simply an unforced error as it came on the opposite side of the field from Buechele’s naked boot touchdown run.

Didn’t show up in the stats, because the blindside block brought it back, but Kylen Granson was going to the house without that block.

— Brian Shacochis (aka Shack, aka Shacknado) (@DynastyTools) September 6, 2020

If those two scores held up, the narrative of SMU sleepwalking through its 2020 season opener would have been erased entirely.

The Mean Green, conversely, didn’t squander a single opportunity against a historically inept Houston Baptist defense. They were perfect in the red zone, excluding their victory formation at the end of the game, and rolled up a school record in total yardage (721).

Seth Littrell is a quality head coach, but the gaping holes in the running game and the absence of a pass rush from the HBU front made this game look like a seven on seven drill. SMU won’t be so forgiving on Saturday.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Despite an uneven defensive performance, SMU was still able to generate seven TFLs, six pass breakups, four QB hurries, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception against Texas State.

That level of havoc on an off night is bad news for North Texas. Mean Green redshirt sophomore, Justin Bean, is still extremely inexperienced, and I expect him to wilt under the pressure.

He was just 11-for-18 for 217 yards against HBU, who subsequently surrendered 430 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Texas Tech over the weekend. SMU will make it difficult to keep pace in a shootout and should pull away behind a more aggressive game plan from Sonny Dykes and his staff.

Pick: SMU -13.5

[Bet SMU at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

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