Rice Owls (1-1) at Houston Cougars (1-0)
When & Where: Saturday, September 16th, John O’Quinn Field at TDECU Stadium Houston, TX at 8 PM EDT (Espn3.com)
Spread: Houston -21.5
The Houston Cougars have high hopes for the 2017 NCAAF season and they started off their year right last week with a 19-16 road win in Arizona. Houston was actually favored in the game, their first under new head coach Major Applewhite. Things went better for Applewhite in his debut than they did for former Cougar coach Tom Herman who lost his debut at Texas 41-51 to Maryland on September 2nd.
This will be the third game of the year for the Rice Owls. The team rebounded nicely last week with a 31-14 road win at UTEP. The Owls are no strangers to top-notch teams, losing their season opener 62-7 at home versus Stanford. Regardless, the oddsmakers aren’t giving Rice much of a fighting chance in Saturday night’s tilt, opening them up as 24 point road underdogs.
Rice Searches For Offensive Identity
When you lose 62-7 in your season opener, it’s hard to establish an offensive identity. The Owls did bounce back nicely in week two however and they did so with their ground game. In that 31-14 win over UTEP (as +1.5 underdogs) Rice was able to grind out 308 yards on the ground on 48 attempts (6.4 yards per). The team attempted only 18 passes, completing 10 for 131 yards.
The Rice defense will be faced with the task of shutting down Houston’s passing game. This is something the team didn’t do in the loss against Stanford, allowing Cardinal QB Keller Chryst to throw for 253 yards and 2TDs on only 24 attempts. The Owls D was much improved last time out against UTEP however, holding them to 229 yards.
Houston Looking for the Offense We All Know and Love
The Cougars did get a victory in their opener although the offensive output was less than impressive. To be fair, the only reason it was the opener last week was because the September 2nd game against UTSA was canceled because of Hurricane Harvey. To be fair, Houston QB Kyle Allen wasn’t horrible against Arizona – completing 25/32 for 225 yards – but he also threw 2 INTs. It was far from the 17th ranked pass offense we saw a year ago though.
What some people fail to remember is that Houston had a top 15 defense in 2016 in yards per game. The unit was bend but don’t break against Arizona, allowing 371 total yards but giving up only 16 points. Last year Houston also only allowed 97.9 YPG to opponents on the ground, 3rd best in the nation– a key stat for Saturday night against the Rice rushing game.
Owls are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games following an ATS win.
Owls are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games on turf.
Owls are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games.
Owls are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
Owls are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
Owls are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
Cougars are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games in September.
Cougars are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.
Cougars are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. CUSA.
Cougars are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
What To Expect From Coach Applewhite in Game 2
Although it was only a 19-16 game, Houston’s win in Arizona was under-the-radar impressive. The team was playing in their season opener against a team who put up 62 points the week prior. The Cougars had the disadvantage of having their first game of the year canceled due to a hurricane and there had to be some nerves in Applewhite’s coaching debut with the team.
So what can we expect in week 2? Applewhite should have a better command of the team and the crowd will be behind their backs in the long awaited home opener. The Cougars defense should control the Rice ground game, it’s just up to the UH offense to put up enough to cover the huge number.