Less than 200 miles separate Baylor University from the University of Houston, yet these two schools have not played each other since 1995. The former Southwest Conference rivals will finally meet again on Saturday after some unusual events took place to align a reunion. Baylor is the third opponent that Houston has expected to face for a season opener against since August after games against Rice and Memphis had to be postponed over issues related to COVID-19.
The Baylor Bears had their original season opener against Louisana Tech postponed as well.
(this game has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns on Baylor)
Cougar's hope that losing is behind them in Holgorsen's second seasonUnder the first year under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, the Houston Cougars had a very disappointing 4-8 record last season, snapping the program's streak of six consecutive bowl games. It was also a very bizarre season that saw many players redshirt, including quarterback D'Eriq King, who played the first four games. King wound up transferring to Miami-Florida.
The Cougars return nine starters on offense led by junior quarterback Clayton Tune who completed 59.2% of his passes last season while throwing for 1,533 yards, 11 TDs, and 9 INTs. Tune also added 244 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Marquez Stevenson, a 6-0 senior wide receiver, is the team's top returning target after catching 52 passes for 907 yards and 9 TDs last season. The Cougars return all four of their top receivers last season. Four seniors return from an experienced offensive line.
Senior Kyle Porter, who transferred from Texas, is the leading returning running back for the Cougars, after gaining 616 yards on 4.7 yards per carry.
The Cougars struggled defensively in 2019, allowing 34 points and 467.5 yards per game. The defense, however, should be much improved with a lot of experience returning. The Cougars were hit heavy with injuries in 2019, and return seven starters, and also welcome in five transfers from FBS programs who had to sit out last season.
The Big 12 runner-up has alot of questions on defenseThe Baylor Bears went 11-3 last season, with all three losses coming to top 10 ranked teams. The Bears lost to Oklahoma once during the regular-season 34-31, and again in the Big 12 Championship Game 30-23 in overtime. The final loss of the season came to the Georgia Bulldogs 26-14 in the Sugar Bowl.
Baylor returns eight starters on offense from the team that went 8-1 in the 2019 Big 12 regular-season. Signal-caller Charlie Brewer, who completed 64.5 of his passes last season while throwing for 3,161 yards, 21 TDs, and 7 INTs, will lead the way. R.J. Sneed, who was third on the team with 42 catches for 437 yards and 3 TDs, returns as the team's leading wide receiver. The Baylor Bears lost their top two running backs to graduation and currently have senior Trestan Ebner, who rushed for 255 yards on 4.8 yards per carry last year as the top returner on the depth chart.
The Bears had the top defensive unit in the Big 12 last year, holding opponents to 19.8 ppg and a +11 turnover margin, but it will be hard for this year's team to duplicate the same success. Senior cornerback Raleigh Texada and middle linebacker Terrel Bernard are the only two starters returning on the defensive side of the ball from last year's team. The Bears lost a lot of talent to graduation, along with defensive end James Lynch, a consensus first-team All-American and safety Grayland Arnold who both left early for the NFL draft.
- Baylor is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games
- Houston is 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games played on a Saturday
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Bears have a lot of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, but they have plenty of talent back offensively. I think quarterback Charlie Brewer will be able to make enough plays against a Houston defense that ranked 124th against the pass last year.
Houston quarterback Clayton Tune should be improved this season but had a mediocre 2019 and is far from elite at this point in his career. Although Tune will face an experienced Bears defense, he still has a lot to prove himself.
I will take the Baylor Bears to cover at home.
Prediction: Baylor -4
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams should be more assertive on the offensive end in 2020 than what they have defensively. Baylor only brings back two starters on defense and will be facing a Houston team that brings back nine offensive starters from a team that put up 30.7 ppg last year.
The Houston defense, however, gave up 34 ppg, ranking 113th in the nation last year. I expect to see improvement throughout the season from Houston on defense, but in week 1, with a short amount of time to prepare, I don't foresee the Cougars shutting down a Bears offense led by Charlie Brewer. Brewer as 7,742 career passing yards and 30 career starts and should pass Robert Griffin III as the schools all-time leading passer this season.
These teams did not know that they would even be playing each other at all this season until early in the week, and I think the lack of extra scouting time and preparation will hinder the defenses. Expect to see plenty of points on Saturday and for this game to go over the total.
Prediction: Over 63