Texas finds itself as a home underdog against LSU heading into the marquee college football matchup of Week 2. LSU is favored by seven points in the latest spread and the over-under is set at 57, per OddsShark. The betting public is nearly split with 51 percent of the money going towards the Tigers.
It is a rare non-conference game for both teams and a big test for Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The Longhorns signal-caller threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns while adding 34 rushing yards in their Week 1 victory over Louisiana Tech. Ehlinger is facing what looks to be one of the best defenses in the country in LSU. Texas head coach Tom Herman believes Ehlinger has improved as much as any quarterback in the country.
“If there is a quarterback that improved more than Sam Ehlinger from 2017 to 2018, then you’ll have to prove it to me,” Herman noted to Yahoo Sports. “Because I don’t think there is one. What those two guys have been able to do together to be able to improve his game, I’ve never seen it.”
On the other side, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has been just as impressive. Burrow had just four incompletions against Georgia Southern going 23-of-27 for 278 yards and five touchdowns. Burrow credits Ed Orgeron for his maturation as a quarterback.
“Without Coach O, without him believing in me, who knows, I might have gone to Cincinnati and lost the job,” Burrow told Bleacher Report. “I might have gone to North Carolina and lost the job and not be playing. Now we’re getting ready to make a run at this thing, the whole thing, and who knows what will happen with my career after this.”
LSU’s Defense Could Pose Problems for Texas
Texas has the advantage of what should be a raucous home crowd in one of the biggest games to come to Austin in some time. LSU’s defense has the speed to give Ehlinger a handful on Saturday night. Despite losing Devin White and Greedy Williams to the NFL draft, the Tigers reloaded their signature unit.
It would not be an offseason with talk of a revamped LSU offense. Dating back to the Les Miles days, there seems to be constant chatter about a new and improved LSU offensive scheme, but often the results on the field have been waning. It is early, but it appears LSU may have finally turned the corner with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger in charge. Ensminger is introducing more tempo into the system and aims to utilize Burrow’s legs a bit more.
“I think we have to put three and four receivers on the field,” Ensminger told Nola.com. “I think we have to be an (run-pass option) team. I think we have to be a more fastball team. I think we have to go no huddle. That’s the direction that we’re going.”
LSU-Texas Prediction: Tigers Prove to Be Too Much for Longhorns
If there is any concern with picking LSU, it is Tom Herman’s strong track record as an underdog. ESPN’s Bill Connelly detailed Herman’s success in these situations.
Herman is the ultimate big-game coach. In four years as a head coach, he is 10-6 straight-up as an underdog and 13-2-1 against the spread. As a one-possession favorite, he’s 9-2 straight-up and 7-3-1 against the spread. As a healthy favorite, however? He’s 21-5 straight-up (a worse win percentage than as a one-score favorite) and 8-17-1 against the spread.
When you look at the other numbers, nearly every metric favors LSU. The OddsShark computer projects a 37.4-26.4 victory for LSU, while SP+ has the Tigers winning 42-28 to cover the spread.
Texas is an improved team, but I can’t help but think they are a bit overinflated after their bowl win over Georgia. While I expect it to be a close contest, LSU has a chance to win this matchup in a variety of ways and I expect the Tigers to win while covering the spread.
Heavy’s Pick: LSU 34 Texas 24. LSU Covers -7 Spread. Over on the Point Total.