It’s been a rough road for the Houston Cougars over the past 9 or 10 months. In fact, this week is probably the first time that the school’s football fan base is glad former HC Tom Herman left town.
Herman set the program back with his all-too-typical behavior at the end of former Houston QB Greg Ward’s senior season in 2016. First, he told the Cougars administration and the media that he had no plans, and was in no discussions, to take a head coaching position at Texas. Then, before the team’s bowl game, he suddenly bolted for Austin. Of course.
Houston lost the bowl game, and had their first game of 2017 cancelled by Hurricane Harvey.
Meanwhile, Arizona opened its season with a 62-24 thrashing of NAU.
Who: Houston Cougars at Arizona Wildcats
When: Saturday, September 9th, 10:30 PM EST
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson AZ
Lines: Houston (-1) at Arizona (+1) / O/U Total: (70)
The O/U opened about 5 points lower than where it is now, demonstrating that cash players think the game will be more wide-open than odds-makers do. But Arizona didn’t exactly focus on aerial quick-strike tactics against Northern Arizona in Week 1.
The Wildcats rushed for over 500 yards, with 8 ball-carriers gaining 30 yards or more. The Tucson Toughies are running defenses over with a read-option attack led by QB Brandon Dawkins, who has sprinted for 275 yards on 19 carries in his last 2 games. Clearly, Wildcat play-callers want teams to focus on the RBs…only to have the speedy Dawkins turned loose when they least expect it.
The emphasis on running for both teams (Houston HC Major Applewhite is more conservative than his predecessor Herman) calls the O/U into question. Cougar nose tackle Ed Oliver is a terror, and there is no read-option system to eliminate an un-blocked tackle as opposed to a defensive end. Perhaps bettors think the ‘Cats will finally be forced to throw to avoid running into a brick wall inside.
The Cougars are uncertain at QB, with 5-star recruit Kyle Allen having underwhelmed in spring football.
The under is the play. It’s too risky to determine a winner (the point spread is, after all, essentially a SU bet) given the strange circumstances of one team escaping a hurricane and another not having played an FBS school yet.
But with Houston still figuring out who’s playing QB, and Arizona determined to run up the middle until someone stops it, we’re expecting a “short” 60 minutes and a final score in the high 20s or low 30s…which will come in under the inflated O/U mark.