The University of Houston gets a midweek test against Cincinnati on the road Thursday night. I see this as one of those infamous trap games you hear about so often these days. Houston from a talent point of view certainly exceeds the Bearcats. But college football has a cruel way of punishing the great teams if they aren’t ready to come and play. This is one of those games where the Cougars can’t come in sleeping, or they are going to find out what it’s like to get upset. Weekday games are a different animal too, as they tend to disrupt a player’s normal schedule at school. The chances of the Bearcats pulling the upset depend largely on the health of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Ward has been cleared to play, but the question will be what kind of shape is he in? They kept him out against Lamar, and returned to practice earlier this week.
Houston didn’t need to do much against Lamar, they really could have won by 60 if they wanted to. Their performance against Oklahoma was one for the ages, and if they win out the rest of the way, it’s going to be difficult keeping them out of the college football playoff. Now and then is a long time though, and Houston and Oklahoma could both be frauds. If anything can be said about Houston, I don’t think they are frauds, Oklahoma maybe, but not Houston. The Cougars’ defense is capable of shutting the best offenses down in college football. And yes, the Sooners have one of the best offenses in the country. The most impressive thing they did in that game is making them look like a below average offense. Houston did their homework on Baker Mayfield and made him look like a confused freshman.
It appeared a few months ago that Houston would be facing former member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Gunner Kiel tonight. Kiel came in at Cincinnati and made it look easy, passing for 3,254 yards with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His numbers were down considerably in 2015, going from 31 touchdowns to 19. He missed the team Bowl Game due to a personal matter and now Kiel is sitting on the bench. Fall from grace is pretty accurate. The Bearcats have gone with Hayden Moore, who threw for 9 touchdowns and 11 interceptions a year ago. He looked quite good last week against Purdue though, notching 3 touchdowns with no interceptions on the day. Moore will get the stiffest challenge of his career tonight vs Houston.
Houston Cougars vs. Cincinnati Bearcats NCAAF Betting Odds:
vs. Cincinnati +7.5(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Houston vs. Cincinnati Pick:
Moore was able to steady the offense, and the defense made life on Purdue difficult. The opportunistic Cincinnati defense nabbed 5 interceptions and turning them into points. Going into the 4th quarter Purdue had only 7 points on the board, before scoring 13 garbage time points. Up 31-7, Cincinnati laid off the gas and cruised in for a 38-20 win. They’re going to need an even better tonight against the Houston offense. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. passed for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns on the Sooners. I see him doing something similar tonight against Cincinnati. For the Bearcats to win though, they’re going to need to do what they did against the Boilermakers and force turnovers.
Ward Jr. got all of the accolades against Oklahoma, but it wouldn’t have been the case to begin with if it weren’t for the performance of the defense. We’d be talking about how prolific the Oklahoma offense is and Ward Jr. would be an afterthought. Oklahoma were held to only 23 points, after a year where they averaged around 40 points per game. The running game was held in check, with Oklahoma’s leading rusher, Joe Mixon, only getting 40 yards rushing. The Houston defensive line is fast and fierce, they’re all over the place. How Cincinnati cracks these guys is the key to the game.
Defense travels. I think the Cougars are going to have their defense running at a high level again tonight. There are a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball looking to get recognized by NFL scouts, and there are a few there. Cincinnati will have to establish some kind of ground game to be successful in this game. And I just don’t see that happening tonight against the front-seven of Houston. Cincinnati had to replace all five of their receivers, too. The offense was all out of whack against Tennessee-Martin and only hit 38 points against Purdue thanks to turnovers. There is way too much speed on Houston for them to put together a complete game. However, I don’t see the Houston offense and Greg Ward Jr. going crazy on the Bearcats on the road. He is nicked up and going to protect his shoulder. I was expecting a total of around 60 or 60.5, so the UNDER looks like an attractive option in my opinion.
PICK: UNDER 64.5 POINTS (-110)