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LSU projected as a heavy favorite against Texas

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The Horns might be significant underdogs when the Tigers come to Austin in early September.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Louisiana State vs Central Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Projected betting odds for several high-profile games during college football’s non-conference schedule include the Texas Longhorns as eight-point underdogs against the LSU Tigers for the much-anticipated tilt at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin on September 7.

And while that line is just a projection, it does represent one data point in what could become a consensus about that game — it’s certainly also the case that two major metrics aren’t high on the Longhorns this season.

In the S&P+ projections, Texas ranks No. 35 nationally, largely due to the departures of 13 starters and the fact that S&P+ never like head coach Tom Herman’s team last year, either. By comparison, LSU ranks No. 4 nationally in that metric — despite losing three early entrants to the NFL draft, the Tigers still rank fourth in returning production.

Over at ESPN, the FPI projections of the Longhorns at No. 26 nationally were enough for the Worldwide Leader to declare that “Texas is not back” due to those aforementioned losses:

Though Texas took strides last season, it had the benefit of starting 13 seniors and graduate students. Even with a cumulative top-five recruiting rank over the past four seasons, the fact that Texas is returning just eight starters is very likely to be a problem.

The combined strength of LSU’s offense and defense, which both rank in the top 10 according to that metric, also slots the Tigers at No. 4.

So while a game against an offense led by Big Ten castoff Joe Burrow might not seem that intimidating, there’s plenty of production returning to aid Burrows and an elite defense to back him up.

An electric atmosphere in Austin will only help the Sugar Bowl champions, but at this point, neither the home-field advantage nor the finish to the 2018 season are sparking much optimism in the metrics or the projected betting odds.