Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, a 6-foot-6 senior, was a candidate to go No. 1 in this year’s NFL draft, but he returned to school and could be the first pick in the next draft. The quarterback in Auburn’s huddle on Saturday will be taking his first career snaps.
Now is the time for a top team from the Pac-12 to step up in class and make a statement.
Herbert passed for 44 touchdowns with 13 interceptions the past two seasons as Oregon’s offense scored 39.4 points per game in his 27 starts. Herbert is surrounded by skilled running backs and receivers, and the Ducks’ offensive line is the most experienced in the nation, with a combined 153 career starts.
The Tigers’ Bo Nix is extremely talented, yet he’s also the first true freshman QB to start a season opener for a Southeastern Conference team in 15 years. It’s no mystery why bettors perceive the Pac-12 as inferior to the SEC, but conference pedigree is creating line value in this matchup in Arlington, Texas. The Ducks, who return 17 starters and reeled in an elite recruiting class, should be live underdogs. The play is Oregon +3½ (or 4 … check the updated line).
Northwestern (+6) over Stanford: A definitive betting pattern has developed with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. Last season, the Wildcats went 7-1-1 against the spread as underdogs and 0-4-1 against the spread as favorites. In fact, Northwestern has covered 10 in a row as a road ’dog, with eight outright wins. Hunter Johnson, a Clemson transfer, is probably the most talented quarterback in program history.
The Cardinal return just nine starters, and K.J. Costello, who led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency last year, lost his top two targets to the NFL. Some concerns shadow what was a weak Stanford defense a season ago.
Louisiana Tech (+20½) over Texas: A Longhorns team that returns just eight starters might be a slow starter. The lookahead factor for Texas, which has a huge game against LSU on deck, should be a situational edge for the road underdog.
There is a lot to like about Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray twice last year before upsetting Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. There’s also something to admire in Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, who’s 14-4 ATS as a road ’dog since 2014, and Holtz has a dangerous QB in senior J’Mar Smith.
Last season: 18-14.
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