Houston (-2.5) vs. Tulane (Friday)
Safe to say this hasn't been the start to the season the Cougars expected, but their goals can remain in front of them with conference play opening. That means this game is a must win. The stats aren't overly favorable here, but I'm not impressed with Tulane's body of work. Sure, they upset Kansas State, but have otherwise only seen Massachusetts, Alcorn State and Southern Miss, losing the last of those. I think we'd have jumped over this line preseason if told it would be this low, so I view it as a buying opportunity.
Washington (-2.5) at UCLA (Friday)
Loyal readers are probably going to notice I'm targeting for or against the same teams, which seems increasingly risky the more weeks we have game action. But this just seems like a huge step up in class for the Bruins, who barely beat South Alabama, and otherwise have smashed Bowling Green, Colorado and Alabama State. I remain fully in on this Washington offense and QB Michael Penix. I don't love the Husky defense, and expect UCLA to get theirs and make this a tad uncomfortable. But Washington is more battle tested and will prevail over the long haul.
Kentucky (+7) at Mississippi
I liked the Wildcats Sunday night at (+4), all of the money is coming in on them, but the line has moved to (+7) now? Something seems very off and for that I'm concerned. But I'll stay the course with my initial lean. It seems like a role reversal on all fronts; Ole Miss is struggling to pass, dominating on the ground while UK has an NFL prospect QB and no rushing attack. The latter should be bolstered by the return of Chris Rodriguez, and simply, I haven't seen enough from Ole Miss to trust them with the growing number. The odd line movement causes a pause on a money line play, but it's also increasing the odds.
East Carolina (-7.5) vs South Florida
Shop around, as I've seen this in the 7-10 point range, but I ultimately don't think it will matter. I was successful going against ECU last week, but take that loss to Navy with a grain of salt; the Midshipmen just have ECU's number. This is a terrific spot for the Pirates to bounce back. USF can't stop the run, at all, allowing 6.42 yards per carry. ECU averages 5.36 per carry. They should have their way and look more like the team that battled N.C. State in the opener. And that doesn't factor in this game being moved to Boca Raton from Tampa due to Hurricane Ian, which surely has altered the Bulls' prep and focus.
Central Florida (-3) vs. SMU
My initial reaction on this was to take the Mustangs, and that was largely based on the fact that I don't believe in John Rhys Plumlee's passing ability even minutely. But after looking a little deeper, I'm not sure he's going to need to pass. The Knights have the nation's fifth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 275.5 ypg, while SMU ranks 107th in stopping it. Not surprisingly, UCF ranks 35th in time of possession, while SMU is 124th, possessing the ball a little over 25 minutes per game. That's going to force them to be perfect offensively to keep up. And UCF has a pretty decent pass defense. The Mustangs will score, but UCF will score more.