Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tulane @ Houston Preview

It is “Prediction Thursday”- and that means rolling out our 5-0 ATS mark for the year! This morning the New York Post tells us that if you take the Wave, you get +9.5 for your trouble- frankly, a pretty stiff line for a Cougar team that couldn’t take care of Rice in their building.

Houston is genuinely bad. First, they feature that sort of ghastly “rush defense” you associate with strength-deficient in the trenches C-USA defensive teams. Honestly, they are Tulane-level bad against the run. They have allowed 1572 yards on the ground- a shocking 5.0 yards per rush; we’re at 1194 total with a 4.5 average. You can imagine just how shoddy the Cougars are. (I suppose the Cougars have an alibi for a portion of the totals. Houston has played one more game- and it was against Miami.) Their pass defense does not look so bad on paper- but again, when teams can both run the football like that against you and habitually play from in front, they frequently eschew the pass. I bet the Cougars are suspect there as well.

There isn’t much to think about here really. Houston will score the usual- somewhere north of thirty points- their offense is undoubtedly efficient and the quarterback Kolb is a good player. You might remember: he was the guy who absolutely tortured us last year- throwing for three scores and 300 or so yards- while the Cougars rushed for another 250. I expect more of the same- except our defensive front is somewhat better than the disaster last year- and that might keep the Cougars to 150-175 yards rushing- which is still bad but maybe manageable.

I don’t think Tulane is going to put up the kind of offensive numbers they did last week. For one thing, Scelfo has to try and run the ball here- as Jovon is still the guy the Wave has the most confidence in- and I cannot imagine the Wave not having a huge rushing day if they commit to it. And the Wave needs to protect that “D”- and the best way to do that is rush the football and run that clock. I think Scelfo would like to try and run the ball 40 times- try & play a game in the 20s- or at least not the 40s. I also bet Scelfo is tempted to take the shackles off Ricard and see what he has... but I am not sure a shoot out is the best strategy against a team Tulane can run on and impose their will on offensively.

So that’s it. I do think Wave will crash a little off the exhausting Homecoming win- how can you expect the kids to come with that level of determination again this week? However, is Houston capable of back-to-back emotional, thudding fights like they played last week against in-state rival TCU? Emotionally, it is almost a wash. Plus, there is no home field advantage here (they draw worse than Tulane). Candidly, I almost think Tulane might be kind of impatient to get out there again.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tulane won this game. Okay, it isn’t exactly a toss-up- Houston is just about guaranteed to get to thirty and the Wave simply isn't. But I doubt Houston ought to be -9.5 over anyone. A good rule of thumb is if it wouldn’t surprise you if a particular team won- and you’re getting a touchdown or more- go with it.

I am actually pretty confident in the Wave in this spot- particularly if the Wave can run the ball and keep the number of Houston’s possessions down to where the Cougars will have to work to score 30 points. Hold the Cougars to 30 or so- and the 21-24 the Wave needs to cover seems very do-able. So, I like Tulane here- two weeks in a row! Give me the Wave and +9.5 points.