The Ole Miss Rebels will face off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on a neutral site in opening week of college football. Kickoff is set for 12:00 EST on Saturday, September 1st. The game will be played in Houston at NRG Stadium (home of the Houston Texans). You can catch the game on ESPN.

Oddsmakers currently have the Red Raiders listed as a slim 2-point favorite with the total sitting at 68 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 1 betting odds and for more links to our individual game previews.

Vegas Game Odds & Betting Preview: Texas Tech vs Mississippi

The Rebels went into the 2017 season with a self-imposed bowl ban and having to replace head coach Hugh Freeze. It would have been easy for this team to just throw in the towel, but they fought hard and managed to 6-6 and did so by upsetting rival Mississippi State on the road in the final game of the season.

Matt Luke served as the interim head coach after Freeze’s departure and was named the official new head coach of Ole Miss after the season. He’ll have another difficult task ahead of him in 2018, as the Rebels are once again ineligible for postseason play. On the bright side, they do have 15 returning starters (8 offense, 7 defense). While they aren’t expected to compete in for the title in the loaded SEC West, they could have a say in who wins, as they host my top 3 teams in the division in Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Texas Tech also finished last year at 6-6, but would drop to 6-7 after a 34-38 loss to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl. It continued a streak of mediocre finishes under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders are 30-33 overall and just 16-29 in Big 12 play over Kingsbury’s first 5 years on the job.

Even with an impressive 16 returning starters (6 offense, 10 defense), there’s little to no buzz around this Texas Tech team being able to compete with the top-tier teams in the Big 12. Most have them pegged for the basement of the conference with Baylor and Kansas.

College Football Free Pick & Predictions: Texas Tech -2

If I was going to play this game, I would have to roll the dice with the Red Raiders laying less than a field goal. While it’s considered a neutral site game, I have to believe it’s going to feel like a home game for Texas Tech. While the two schools are roughly the same distance from Houston, I just wonder how excited Ole Miss fans are about this year’s team.

Click on the link for more college football free picks from our experts on staff.

I also am not a fan of backing teams where the games just don’t mean as much to them. I know it’s the season opener and players get up for that first game of the year, but there’s no real incentive here for Ole Miss to win this game with that bowl ban.

Regardless of those two factors, I also think the Red Raiders are the better team in this matchup. While the Rebels have some talented skill players, the jury is still out on senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who is only starting because Shea Patterson transferred to Michigan.

I know that Texas Tech has been a joke on the defensive side of the ball of late, but the Red Raiders took major strides last year. They went from giving up 43.5 ppg and 554 ypg to only allowing 32.2 ppg and 444 ypg. They also went from allowing 239 rushing yards/game to only giving up 162. They have 10 starters back from last year and this should be the best defense Texas Tech has had in quite some time.

One of the reasons for the big improvement last year was the Red Raider’s ability to create turnovers. They had 29 takeaways last year, which was the most of any team in the Big 12 and 6th nationally. Forcing turnovers has been a staple of defensive coordinator David Gibbs and with all that talent coming back, I expect them to excel in this department again. Adding to this, Ole Miss won the turnover battle just twice in 12 games last year.

As far as Texas Tech’s offense is concerned, I don’t think we have to worry about the Red Raiders being able to put points on the board. Texas Tech has been a force on the offensive side of the ball for quite some time. They do have to replace starting quarterback Nic Shimonek, but keep in mind he was a first year starter and had to replace the school’s No. 3 all-time passing leader in Patrick Mahomes. Whether it’s junior McLane Carter or sophomore Jett Duffey, expect whoever wins the job to put up big time numbers in this scheme.

With all that said, I just don’t think Ole Miss will be able to go score for score with the Red Raiders in this one and all we are doing with this line is trying to predict who will win the game.