The Tarleton State Texans and McNeese State Cowboys kick off the NCAA Division I spring college football season in a non-conference matchup on Saturday. The Texans, who won the Division II Lone Star Conference championship at 8-0 and was 11-1 overall in 2019, have a potent offense which averaged 531.7 yards per game. The Cowboys, who finished 5-4 in the Southland Conference and 7-5 overall a year ago, also can move the ball and averaged 382.9 total yards per game.
Kickoff from Memorial Stadium in Stephenville, Texas, is set for 7 p.m. ET. William Hill Sportsbook lists the Cowboys as 2.5-point favorites in the latest McNeese State vs. Tarleton State odds. The over-under for total points is set at 51. Before entering any Tarleton State vs. McNeese State picks, you’ll want to see the latest college football predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s Emory Hunt.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007, and a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette. He knows the game from a player’s perspective, and is a specialist when it comes to picking all levels of college football. He enjoyed a dominant 2019 season, going 116-79 against the spread while returning nearly $3,000 to $100 bettors.
- McNeese State vs. Tarleton State spread: McNeese State -2.5
- McNeese State vs. Tarleton State over-under: 51 points
- MS: Will be playing a competitive game for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019, a span of 447 days
- TS: Will play its first game as a Division I program after playing its final Division II season in 2019
Why Tarleton State can cover
The Texans return two of their top three running backs from a year ago. Senior Khalil Banks played in nine games, carrying 112 times for 644 yards (5.8 average) and nine touchdowns, and helped Tarleton to its second straight undefeated regular season. He caught seven passes for 53 yards (7.6 average). His best game was against Doane College when he carried 11 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried 16 times for 94 yards and three scores in a win over UT Permian Basin.
Also returning is senior running back Ryheem Skinner, who played in 11 games, rushing 61 times for 379 yards (6.2 average) and three touchdowns. He had a season-high 84 yards at Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 7, 2019. He also scored a season-high two touchdowns at Western New Mexico on Nov. 16. Prior to his time at Tarleton State, he played two seasons at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif. He ran for 1,294 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, and had eight 100-yard rushing games and four multi-touchdown games.
Why McNeese State can cover
Despite that, the Texans are not a lock. That’s because the Cowboys also have a number of returning weapons this season, including senior running back Elijah Mack. Mack was second on the team in rushing with 533 yards on 127 carries (4.2 average) and 59.2 yards per game. He tied for the team lead with four rushing TDs. He rushed for 100 or more yards twice with a high of 142 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns against Southeastern Louisiana. He had 125 yards on 18 carries against Abilene Christian.
Also powering McNeese State’s offense is senior quarterback Cody Orgeron, who led the team in passing, completing 202 of 348 passes (58 percent) for 2,628 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was intercepted nine times, but had a rating of 139.07. He passed for more than 300 yards in two games, including 344 yards on 26 of 41 passing and four touchdowns at Central Arkansas. He was also the team’s third-leading rusher. He carried a team-high 158 times for 482 yards (3.1 average) and three touchdowns. His 506 total offensive plays set the school’s single-season record.
How to make McNeese State vs. Tarleton State picks
Hunt has studied the matchup and found a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Tarleton State vs. McNeese State? And what crucial X-factor causes one side to hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to jump all over on Saturday, all from the proven expert who specializes in picking all levels of college football.