Rice will try to spring an upset for the second consecutive week when it travels to Houston on Saturday night. The Owls were 12-point underdogs in their 33-21 win over Louisiana last week. Houston has now dropped two straight games to Texas Tech and Kansas since beating UTSA in its season opener.
Owls coming off big upset winRice got off to a rough start this season when it was tasked with facing one of the most explosive offenses in college football, and it showed in the 66-14 loss to then-No. 14 USC. The Owls have been impressive in their two games since then, beating McNeese State 52-10 before pulling off a big upset against Louisiana last week. Louisiana entered the week with the nation’s longest winning streak, making it one of the biggest upsets of the week. Rice quarterback TJ McMahon has completed 63.8% of his passes for 642 yards and seven touchdowns through his first three games.
McMahon will be focused on avoiding mistakes on Saturday, as he has thrown six interceptions as well. Three of those picks came against USC, while the other three came in the first half against Louisiana last week. McMahon told reporters after the game that he needs to clean up mistakes, otherwise his team will not be able to beat some of the teams on the schedule—that is certainly true this week. Junior running back Ari Broussard is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on 51 attempts, but senior running back Cameron Montgomery has turned 15 carries into 132 yards. The Owls have lost six straight games against Houston, including a 44-7 setback at home last season as 7.5-point underdogs.
Cougars trying to re-focus following another lossHouston has had one of the most disappointing starts to the season of any Group of Five schools. The Cougars got off to a wild start with a 37-35 win over UTSA in triple overtime before losing to Texas Tech in double overtime the following week. They added to their pain with a 48-30 loss to Kansas, which has been one of the most shocking teams in the country. Houston jumped out to a 14-0 lead before allowing the Jayhawks to rattle off 28 consecutive points and take control of the game. The Cougars are now playing the second game of a three-game homestand that includes a contest against Tulane next week.
Their offense has scored at least 30 points in all three of their games, led by senior quarterback Clayton Tune. He has thrown for 744 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, completing 62.7% of his passes. Tune’s top target has been junior wide receiver Nathaniel Dell, who has caught 18 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman running back Brandon Campbell leads the team with 36 carries for 177 yards and two scores. Houston’s defense ranks No. 118 nationally in total defense, despite not facing a top 30 offense thus far. The Owls rank No. 40, including a matchup against a top-15 offense (USC).
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Rice was only a 7.5-point home underdog against Houston last year, and there appears to be an even smaller gap between these teams so far this season, so I am going to back the Owls as 17.5-point underdogs on Saturday night. This is a terrible scheduling spot for Houston, which is coming off a pair of crushing losses that followed a triple-overtime game to start the season. They are facing a Rice team that is confident and motivated after beating Louisiana last week. The Cougars have only covered the spread twice in their last six games, and their defense has been horrendous this season.
Full-Game Total Pick
While Houston’s defense has been terrible—there is no getting around that—I still like the under in this game. Rice is going to be looking to keep the ball away from Houston’s dynamic offense, which means controlling the tempo throughout the evening. The Owls are going to be running the ball and throwing short passes, keeping the clock moving. Their defense has been strong so far this season as well, and they are going to be motivated to face Houston after giving up 44 points to the Cougars last season.