The Southeastern Conference won’t start its 2020 college football season until September 26, which means that with the Pac-12, Mountain West, and Mid-American conferences not yet having a return date for football (and the Big Ten now aiming to start in October), only five conferences will play Saturday. On top of that, games between Virginia and Virginia Tech, BYU-Army, and Memphis-Houston have all been postponed due to COVID-19 situations at one of the two participating schools. The schedule is not hugely expansive, but these are some of the more intriguing under-the-radar games.
Navy Midshipmen at Tulane Green Wave
Odds: Tulane -7.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
Navy is a really curious case, because the Midshipmen acknowledged that they went through offseason preparation without hitting in any practice. That approach clearly left them unprepared for Week 1, when BYU went to Annapolis and crushed the Midshipmen, 55-3, on Navy’s home field. Now Navy will begin to hit in practice, but is it too late? Has Navy dug itself into the kind of hole it can’t get out of? Did coach Ken Niumatalolo derail his team’s season by running non-contact practices due to COVID-19 concerns?
We’ll begin to get an answer to those questions against a Tulane team that struggled against South Alabama last weekend, but overcame a 24-6 deficit to win 27-24. It’s really hard to get a feel for either team, but Navy’s abysmal showing against BYU makes it hard to place trust in the Midshipmen right now.
Pick: Tulane -8
SMU Mustangs at North Texas Mean Green
Odds: SMU -14.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
North Texas is untested, having only played an FCS team, Houston Baptist. That is not a legitimate measurement of a football team before facing SMU, which represents the AAC, the sixth-best conference in the FBS. On the other hand, SMU feels like a mystery as well. The Mustangs barely beat Texas State, which subsequently lost at home to Texas-San Antonio.
Was SMU as bad as its Week 1 performance showed, or is this team – with a game under its belt – ready to play a lot better? It’s not an easy question, but SMU probably has a much higher ceiling than what it showed two weeks ago.
Pick: SMU -14
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Odds: Southern Mississippi -4.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were supposed to start their season last weekend against the Baylor Bears, but a COVID-19 outbreak caused that game to be postponed. The Bulldogs will therefore attempt to play their first game of the season this weekend against Southern Mississippi. On September 3, the Golden Eagles began their season with a surprising 32-21 home loss to South Alabama. Following the defeat, Southern Mississippi head coach Jay Hopson stepped down from the position. While the loss was embarrassing, Hopson had also gotten into trouble for off-field matters after unsuccessfully attempting to fire Art Briles as his offensive coordinator prior to the 2019 season. The loss gave the university an excuse to move on. Scotty Walden will be the interim coach for the 2020 season, at least until further developments emerge.
It is hard to place too much trust in Southern Mississippi right now. This is a disorganized team with diminished morale. It is true that Louisiana Tech hasn’t yet played a game, which could leave the Bulldogs rusty and under-prepared. However, they are going to be physically fresh, eager to take the field, and confident for this game. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this matchup, but these uncertainties mostly work in Louisiana Tech’s favor.
Pick: Louisiana Tech +5
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