The Tarleton State Texans are hoping their success at the Division II level translates well to Division I when they take on the visiting McNeese State Cowboys in the first spring college football game of the year on Saturday. Tarleton State (11-1, 8-0 in 2019), which is coming off back-to-back Lone Star Conference championships and three over the past seven seasons, had a plus-28.5 scoring margin in 2019. McNeese State (7-5, 5-4), which placed fifth in the Southland Conference, last won a league title in 2015, when it went 9-0 in the conference. The Cowboys outscored their opponents 313-311 a season ago.
The game is slated to start at 7 p.m. ET at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville, Texas. The latest McNeese State vs. Tarleton State odds from William Hill Sportsbook list the Texans as three-point favorites, while the over-under for total points expected is set at 51. Before making 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: Tarleton State -3
- 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
Senior wide receiver J.F. Thomas looks to build on his stats from a year ago. Thomas started all 12 games for the Texans in 2019 and was the team's second-leading receiver with 36 receptions for 737 yards (20.5 average) and six touchdowns. He ranked 16th in the nation in yards per reception and had a season-high seven catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns at Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 7, 2019. He was named to the All-Lone Star Conference first-team.
Defensively, Tarleton State is led by senior defensive back Tre Johnson, who earned All-Lone Star Conference honorable mention. Johnson played a big role for the Texans who ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency defense (91.64) and No. 10 in scoring defense. He finished with 45 tackles, including 31 solo, and made seven tackles for loss, had a fumble recovery and had eight pass breakups. He tied a career high with seven tackles at Texas A&M-Kingsville on Oct. 26, 2019.
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.