• SMU was destroyed by North Texas in Week 1, and now is a three-touchdown underdog as it hosts TCU on Friday night. Sonny Dykes needs to engineer a quick turnaround to have his Mustangs keep things close.
By Sam Chase
September 05, 2018

TCU at SMU (+21.5)

Fri. 9/7, 8:00 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on TCU-SMU:

1. The second week of the college football season presents gamblers with the opportunity to jump on lines that are overreactions to what happened in Week 1. Teams that surprised or disappointed in their openers are over- or undervalued for their next game. Sharp bettors can benefit by recognizing that bias. Having lost 46-23 at North Texas as only a three-point underdog last week, SMU might look like a prime candidate for this type of play as it tries to bounce back against TCU, getting 21.5 points for a Friday night game this weekend.

But make no mistake, the Mustangs really got smacked this past weekend. The 46-23 final score does little justice to how thoroughly they were dominated. Try these numbers instead: At one point, North Texas had gained 27 first downs while SMU had earned only one. SMU trailed 36-0 through three quarters, and had 38 total yards to that point. 38.

The Mustangs finished with a winning record in 2017, and return more than half of their starters this year. But new head coach Sonny Dykes is off to an inauspicious start, having been outscored by a combined 64 points in his first two games at the helm. (Dykes also presided over the team's 51-10 loss in last season's Frisco Bowl.) SMU can't play much worse than it has in either of his first two games, but that doesn't mean it can hang with an excellent team like TCU.

2. Of course, we don't for sure that TCU is actually an excellent team. The Horned Frogs cruised to a 55-7 victory over FCS opponent Southern in Week 1, falling short of covering the 50-point spread after taking their foot off the gas and sitting the starters fairly early.

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Despite the level of competition, bettors evaluating TCU should be encouraged by the performance of sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, making his second career start. Robinson, one of the most heralded recruits in program history, completed 17 of 24 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns—and rushed for 45 yards and two more scores—before handing the reins to backup Michael Collins at halftime. SMU's defense looked completely lost last week. The unpredictability of facing a dual-threat quarterback is the last thing the Mustangs need as they try to get back on their feet, and Robinson should be able to light up the scoreboard.

3. One uncertainty for TCU is its offensive line, which had predictably little trouble against overmatched Southern but will still need time to fully coalesce. The unit lost four starters from last season, and those guys were no slouches: Matt Pryor and Joseph Noteboom were NFL draft picks, and Austin Schlottmann was a third-team All-Big 12 selection in 2017. Not all seemed to be settled in the opener, with TCU coach Gary Patterson giving both Austin Myers and Anthony McKinney snaps at left tackle.

But Patterson knows how to get an inexperienced line to perform. The O-line also returned just one starter entering the 2016 season, and that group ended up paving the way for an attack that finished 29th in the nation in total offense. More importantly, SMU's defensive front is in demonstrably worse shape. North Texas QB Mason Fine was virtually untouched when he completed 40 of 50 pass attempts against the Mustangs.

Pick: TCU -21.5

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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