When and where: October 19, 2019, Pratt and Whitney Stadium, East Hartford, CT, 12:00 PM ET
A first conference win of the season is guaranteed on Saturday when the Houston Cougars and UConn Huskies go toe-to-toe in an American Athletic Conference tilt. It will also be a showdown between two of the conference’s worst defenses with both teams giving up an average of 928.4 total yards per game combined. That should make for an overall sloppy and fun game, assuming UConn’s struggling offense actually shows up to play. They were recently held in check in a 49-7 loss to Tulane, while the Cougars are coming off a 38-23 loss to Cincinnati.
Houston folds in the fourth quarterThe Cougars actually played themselves into a fighting chance against the No. 25-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. That was until the team gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter and ended their upset hopes. You can rest assured Houston coach Dana Holgorsen has been preaching 60 minutes of football to his team all week.
Along with the late defensive struggles, Houston quarterback Clayton Tune also threw a late pick-six that sealed the game and added more salt to the wounds. Tune especially walked away from that game shaking his head after throwing away three interceptions. However, he should have a much better performance on Saturday when facing a defense nearly as bad as his own. The Huskies are the third-worst passing defense in the conference with opposing teams averaging 241.8 yards per game against them. They’ve also given up 18 touchdown passes through the air with only four interceptions.
Tune is playing through a hamstring injury, which will put even more pressure on his offensive line to hold up. For all of UConn’s defensive struggles, they still rank middle-of-the-pack in the conference with 13 sacks. They could cause some serious problems if they’re able to break into the backfield.
Houston’s defense has been absolutely horrendous this season, but they did show some life in the early going against Cincinnati. If they can replicate that performance in the slightest, they’ll have no problems shutting down a UConn offense only averaging 295.8 total yards and 16.7 points per game.
Can the Huskies generate points?There is no arguing the Huskies are riddled with problems on both sides of the ball. However, their offensive issues are so glaringly bad that it has a profound impact on the defense as well. They are currently the second-worst team in the AAC conference in turnover margin with seven interceptions and five fumbles lost this season. That’s an alarming number of turnovers and far too many drives with bad field position for a defense that’s already underwhelming on paper.
Some of you might point to the fact that Houston has been worse in the turnover department. While that would be a correct assessment, you also have to take into consideration the Cougars are averaging 32.0 points per game as opposed to UConn’s 16.7 average. The Huskies lack a shutdown defensive unit, which means they’ll have to figure out a way to generate touchdowns against a bad Cougars defense allowing 475.7 yards per game.
It doesn’t help matters that senior quarterback Mike Beaudry is still dealing with an injury and listed as questionable for Saturday’s game. The team could also be without linebacker D.J. Morgan, which would be a huge blow for the defense. The senior defensive player has the third-most tackles on the roster, two sacks and one forced fumble.
Putting pressure on Tune and forcing turnovers is the only hope for the Huskies keeping this game close, along with leaning heavily on the legs of Kevin Mensah to carry the offense. The Cougars are giving up 170.8 yards per game on the ground. At the very least, the Huskies should be able to grind out long, sustained drives and slow the game down.
- Cougars are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 road games against a team with a losing home record.
- Cougars are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games after an ATS loss.
- Cougars are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games on grass.
- Huskies are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 conference games.
- Huskies are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games after accumulating less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Huskies are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games in October.
- Huskies are 0-6-1 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.