Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#303 Houston 60 vs.
#304 Tulane -5
Thursday, September 19, 2019 at 8:00pm EDT
Yulman Stadium, New Orleans
Written by Sporty Jordy

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#303 University of Houston
#304 Tulane University
1-2
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When and where: September 19, 2019, Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, LA, 8:00 PM ET

An American Athletic Conference clash takes center stage on Thursday night when the Houston Cougars head on the road for a showdown with the Tulane Green Wave. A 1-2 record isn’t how the Cougars wanted to start the season, but it’s their current predicament after facing a pair of ranked teams in Oklahoma and Washington State. However, they did manage to squeeze in a win over Prairie View, but it also wasn’t anything that turned heads.

Speaking of turning heads, the Green Wave put a major beatdown in their Week 3 meeting against Missouri State. That 58-6 victory was much-needed after they were stomped on the road against No. 10 Auburn the previous week.

These two teams last met in November 2018, when the Green Wave were routed on the road in a 48-17 loss. Can they make the necessary adjustments to be more competitive on Thursday?

Houston defense taking a pounding

Getting torched on the defensive side of the ball is quickly turning into a weekly routine for the Cougars. They are giving up a whopping average of 497.7 yards per game—340.0 yards through the air and 157.7 yards on the ground. It’s hard to win against any team when giving up that sort of yardage on defense, much less when competing against the best teams in the country.

Granted, that should be the talking point when coach Dana Holgorsen is addressing his team before Thursday’s game against Tulane. The Green Wave doesn’t boast the same offensive efficiency they saw with teams like Oklahoma and Washington State. So that could open up an opportunity for the defense to have a better night.

More importantly, however, they’ll need a better showing from quarterback D’Eriq King. Tulane’s defensive front is stingy against the run, and it could fall on King to make plays with his arm to give the Cougars a chance to win. He is 42-of-77 throwing for 434 yards, four touchdowns and one interception on the season.

“He’s dynamic with his feet, and he’s dynamic making plays,” said Holgorsen. “He’s played a lot and had a lot of success and he just wants to win. My job is to get him to be the best quarterback that I can.”

Could sweet revenge be in store for Tulane?

The Green Wave have undoubtedly been waiting for an opportunity to get even with the Cougars after last year’s shellacking in Houston. They’ve already flexed their defensive might this season to show they’ll be much better equipped in slowing down the Cougars’ offense. Sure, they made life a living hell for FIU and Missouri State, but the real talking point is how strong they held up against Auburn. They essentially held one of the best teams in the country to 24 points and 379 total yards.

Keeping King in the pocket is essential if they hope to repeat that performance against the Cougars.

He managed to rush for 82 yards and a touchdown last season, while he was held to only 11-of-15 passing for 82 yards and one touchdown. They also gave up 139 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to running back Patrick Carr. If the Green Wave’s defensive front can stifle the rushing attack and consistently collapse the pocket around King, they could force the Cougars into turnovers.

“We have to make him be a quarterback and keep him in the pocket and make him hand the ball off or throw,” Tulane defensive coordinator Jack Curtis said. “If he can do those things and run, it can be a long night for us because once he gets in the open field, he is so fast and athletic.”

They recently held Missouri State to only 182 total yards on offense—128 passing yards and 54 yards on the ground.

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Houston will obviously present a far greater challenge, but a strong defensive effort will remain key to their success.

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King is going to be expected to play hero ball with his arm, and I’m not convinced he’s ready to wear the red cape for Houston’s offense. As the Cougars have already learned, there’s a big difference when facing a small-time team like Prairie View in comparison to Oklahoma and Washington State.

It’s fun watching King do his video game act as a dual-threat quarterback in the pocket, but it’s also hard to win with so much being heaped on the shoulders of one player. Tulane has the defensive front that can shut down the ground game and force King into another solo act, which has already resulted in two losses this season. Opposing teams are only averaging 95.0 yards per game on the ground against Tulane’s defense.

King was defeated the last time the Cougars traveled to Yulman Stadium in 2017. Although he put on a show for the ages, his efforts alone weren’t enough to overcome the Green Wave on the road. I see a similar scenario unfolding with him struggling to get his running backs involved and throwing away a key interception to seal the win for the Green Wave.

Prediction: Tulane (-4.5)

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This is a difficult match-up for the Cougars on paper given how well Tulane’s defense has played against the run. Not to mention it’s a divisional game between two opponents that are very familiar with one another. This game will turn into a slog much like the 2017 head-to-head meeting with the Green Wave clogging up the running lanes and forcing Houston to play outside of their comfort zone. Give me the under betting total on Thursday.

Prediction: Under (56.5)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Sporty Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys and all the Sun Drop you can drink.