The Texas Tech Red Raiders from the Big 12 will host the Florida International Panthers from Conference USA on Saturday night. According to CBS Sports, Texas Tech is ranked No. 53 in the nation and FIU is No. 108.
Before the season started, the Red Raiders were selected to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 Football Poll, voted on media representatives. Since the games have begun, Texas Tech has gotten off to a 2-0 start in non-conference play. According to a panel of media members that cover Conference USA schools, the FIU Panthers were picked to finish sixth amongst the seven teams in the C-USA East Division this year. FIU is 1-1 to start this season.
FIU looking for the upset in TexasThe Florida International Panthers went 0-5 last year and 0-3 in Conference USA. It is worth noting that the schedule was not easy, and the Panthers played Liberty close before losing 36-34 in the opening game of 2020 for FIU. Liberty finished last year with a 10-1 record. Back from last year from FIU are seven offensive and nine defensive starters. The Panthers, however, have a lot of room for improvement, after ranking 11th in the nation with 22.4 ppg last year and 87th with 32.4 ppg allowed.
FIU has stable leadership behind head coach Butch Davis who has compiled a 23-21 record over four seasons at the school. Butch Davis has also spent time as the head coach at the University of Miami and North Carolina at the collegiate level and with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-2004.
FIU opened up this season with a 48-10 win as a 35 point favorite against Long Island, outgaining the Sharks 597 to 291 in total yardage for the game. Senior quarterback Max Bortenschlager, a former transfer from Maryland, led the team completing 14 of 17 passes for the game with 266 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the win over Long Island, with junior Bryce Singleton catching six passes for 149 yards with a touchdown in the game. The rushing attack was led by senior D'vote Price, who picked up 165 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries for the game.
Last week against Sun Belt member Texas State, the Panther's flaws were exploited more, even though they still managed to outgain the Bobcats 400 yards to 339 in a 23-17 overtime loss. Bortenschlanger completed 17 of 34 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in the loss, and Price rushed for 111 yards, but on 23 attempts.
Red Raiders look to start 3-0Texas Tech returned seven offensive and eight defensive starters from their 2020 squad, which went 4-6 overall and 3-6 in the Big 12. Expectations were not very high for the Red Raiders this season, but that changed a little after they opened up with a 38-21 win as a three-point dog to the Houston Cougars. In that game, the Red Raiders gained 376 yards of total offense but were led by their defense, which held the Cougars to just 251 yards of total offense, 174 passing, and 77 on the ground.
Last week, the Red Raiders seemed to let their guard down as a 31.5 point favorite against Stephen F Austin. Texas Tech found themselves trailing 13-7 at halftime before managing to outscore the Lumberjacks 21-9 in the second half to escape with a six-point victory. SFA still slightly outgained Texas Tech 375 to 363 in total yardage and the Red Raiders also lost the turnover battle two to zero, with Shough throwing two picks.
Oregon transfer Tyler Shough has started both games for the Red Raiders this season and has completed 28 of 45 passes for 394 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. The rushing leader is Tahj Brooks, with 249 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 249 yards per attempt.
- Panthers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight-up loss.
- Red Raiders are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. CUSA.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Texas Tech's offense may not be as explosive as it was when Kliff Kingsbury led the program from 2013-2018, but you often can't beat the Red Raiders unless you can put up some points. Texas Tech averaged 29.1 ppg in the Big 12 last season and averaged 33 points in two non-conference games this year. FIU has been strong defensively so far but did allow 32.1 ppg last season, and it's safe to say the Red Raiders will be the toughest test they have faced so far.
The biggest issue for FIU is, I don't see their offense being able to keep up. The Panthers were 122th in the nation in total offense and 121st in passing offense last season and have not yet played an opponent worthy of truly allowing us to see how much they have improved in those areas. FIU has only covered the spread in one of its last six games, which was in the season-opening blowout against Long Island. After almost losing to SFA last week, I am expecting taking Texas Tech to come out ready to play and cover here. I see the Red Raiders putting points on the board and also shutting the Panthers down when they possess the ball.
Full-Game Total Pick
When you think of Texas Tech, traditionally, you think of a high-powered offense with a poor defense, but the Red Raiders have been showing steady improvement defensively. The Red Raiders were 66th in pass efficiency in 2020, after being ranked 106th in 2019, and through the first two games this year, Texas Tech is 44th in the same area. Both of these teams appeared to be the strongest on the defensive side of the ball this year. The Red Raiders have allowed 21.5 points in games against Houston and SFA, while the Panthers have allowed 16.5 ppg in their contest against Long Island and Texas State. I will side with the under here, with Texas Tech winning 35-13.