Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prediction Thursday

Via a backdoor cover, Tulane covered the 21 points last week versus Ole Miss fairly easily, moving the mark to 2-0 ATS. Frankly, never was anything worse than a push threatened. Honestly, that game was about as close to a lay-up as you’ll find- particularly once some of the dimmer bulbs on started to forecast an unreal blowout. Ole Miss, carrying a loss to an FCS program, should not have been favored by three scores over anyone- and Tulane’s improved defense was still a secret to Vegas.

This week is not so easy. Oddsmakers have caught up to the fact that Tulane has a little pulse. Even with their woes, Houston still rates over the Rebels. Tulane moves to the road. But Houston gets a smaller number? The Cougars are -18.5 over Tulane. The Green Wave picked up something like a TD in Vegas over last week’s “win”.

Consequently, this week’s spread is a lot saner. Add in the mystery surrounding Houston’s new quarterback, Terrance Broadway (5-8-84-0 versus UCLA), and this game is a real stumper. You’re really gambling this week. Nevertheless...

I’m not real caught up in whether this is Houston second, third or fourth quarterback. This isn’t like the NFL- where quarterbacks, due to lineage, plenty of practice time and pre-season, slot very nicely into depth charts. In college, there are barely enough practice snaps to get the first guy ready, let alone to pigeonhole other guys in an orderly manner (it almost always a seniority call in an emergency). It is enough to say he isn’t the super Case Keenum. Again, that is all I can confidently say about Broadway. I am going to rely that Vegas has the talent disparity between Tulane and Houston priced correctly.

I have three thoughts. Sure, Houston really struggled offensively versus UCLA. But go back a previous game to UTEP (a more realistic proxy for Tulane), the Cougars ran the ball like crazy (42-308)- and unfortunately, the ever competent Bryce Beall is still available. In fact, playing for a quarter without Casey, Houston still managed to hang 17 points up in fifteen-ish minutes. Tulane has never been able to control the Houston fronts on either side of the ball. I doubt Tulane will be either able to run it (thus move the clock) or stop the run.

Second, the best way for a big underdog to hang in is a disinterested opposition. Coming off a loss to UCLA and playing a deep back-up at quarterback, Houston ain’t sleep-walking here. That is a big situational risk taken off the table.

Third, the total (over/under) is 60- one of six games on the entire college slate with a sixty handle. Someone thinks there is going to be bunches of scoring- and let’s face it, it ain’t going to be coming from Tulane.

Houston is the best team on the 2010 schedule (still getting votes for Top 25 despite the UCLA and Keenum loss)- and although Tulane is improved, they are just not in this class. Away from home, motivated opposition, opposition that has proven it can score bunches against mediocre C-USA resistance without the starting quarterback. Feels like trouble. I’ll take the Cougars -18.5

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