Charlie Brewer

Senior QB Charlie Brewer will get to open his season on Saturday against Houston. Photo from @FBSchedules (Twitter)

  • Soon after opening with a 6.5-point spread, the Baylor Bears are now just 3.5-point favorites against the Houson Cougars at 12:00pm EST on Saturday
  • New Bears head coach Dave Aranda squares off against a successful early-season ATS coach in Houston’s Dana Holgorsen
  • See the updated game odds, spread and total for Baylor vs Houston within the story below

New Baylor head coach Dave Aranda is hopeful that the third time’s the charm when the Bears open their season against Houston at McLane Stadium on Saturday.

After having to scratch games against Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech due to COVID-19 concerns, Baylor was able to schedule the Cougars to open its season on Saturday (FOX, 12 p.m. EST). Houston was left without a game this week when Memphis was forced to postpone their matchup after the Tigers suffered a coronavirus outbreak. The Cougars also missed a scheduled game with cross-town program Rice, when the Owls chose to delay the start of their season until September 26.

Baylor opened as 6.5-point favorites, but the line shrunk to 3.5 points as money quickly poured in on the Cougars. Furthermore, for all of the unpredictability caused by the pandemic, one thing that has proven fairly predictable early this season has been the impact of the interruptions caused by COVID-19 on head coaches with new teams.

The game is set to be a shootout regardless of the state of both programs, as the Baylor vs Houston odds set a projected total of 62.5 points to be put up on the board.

Baylor vs Houston Odds

Team Spread at FanDuel Moneyline Total
Baylor Bears -3.5 (-105) -172 O 62.5 (-110)
Houston Cougars +3.5 (-115) +140 U 62.5 (-110)

Odds taken September 15th

New Faces in New Places

When Matt Rhule left Baylor following three seasons to take over as head coach for the Carolina Panthers, the Bears did well to lure Aranda away from LSU, where he built a reputation as one of the nation’s top assistants and recruiters.

Aranda inherits a talented roster led by senior quarterback Charlie Brewer, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of his last two seasons. Baylor’s experienced offensive line should also find success clearing lanes for senior running back John Lovett, who finished 2019 with 6.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Houston’s defensive front seven that returns nearly all of its starters from a year ago, but the group was well below average against the run on early downs last season.

The Cougars stumbled out of the gates in 2019 and pre-season Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback D’Eriq King chose to redshirt and forgo the rest of the season after a 1-3 start. Clayton Tune stepped in behind center, and the junior QB is set to lead the Cougars into Waco this weekend after finishing last year with 1,533 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Although Houston’s defense struggled through most of last season, the unit was among the best in the country at rushing the passer and stopping short-yardage plays in obvious passing situations.

What Can We Expect on Saturday?

Reports have suggested that Baylor is intent on dialling up its offensive tempo this year, which could be troubling for Houston after having limited time to prepare. The Cougars gave up 30 points-or-more to six of the seven programs it played last season that finished within the top 50 of total plays run in 2019.

In Holgorsen’s nine seasons as a head coach, he is 5-1 on the road in September against the spread. Saturday’s matchup will be just the third time in his career that he will coach as a road underdog to start the season.

Last year, Houston lost 49-31 at Oklahoma in the season opener, but the Sooners were 23.5-point favorites. The only other time a Holgorsen-led team was a road dog to start the year came in 2013 while he was still at West Virginia, when the Mountaineers lost to Oklahoma, 16-7, but covered a 21-point spread.

Houston begins its season of the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference this season at +100, even as four other conference programs opened 2019 with wins. Baylor’s Conference Championship odds are much more steep at +3300 with FBS heavyweights Oklahoma and Texas leading the Big 12 and Aranda making his debut as a head coach.

Best Bet

The pandemic has made predicting all season-opening games much more difficult, but the depth and experience of Baylor’s roster was a heavy motivator in the game’s initial 6.5-point spread.

The line appears to have been primarily bet down by those banking on the volatile circumstances each team has had to work through to get this game on the books for Saturday afternoon.

Even with Holgorsen’s success on the road in early-season matchups, Aranda’s pedigree as a coach and Baylor’s overall talent advantage should be enough for the Bears to cover at the updated 3.5-point line.

Pick: Baylor -3.5 (-105)

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