The UConn Huskies have not lost by more than 24 points since November 29, 2014. They’re catching 28 points on Thursday night against the Houston Cougars. UConn has actually been favored in three of its four games so far this season, which is a rarity, since UConn was favored three times over the course of the season in both 2014 and 2015. Houston is clearly the class of the American Athletic Conference once again this season and they have outscored opponents 146-19 over the last three weeks. They can prove it again as heavy chalk here.
UConn vs. Houston College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday September 29, 8:00 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Houston -28
It’s always fascinating to see these huge favorites in games with relatively low totals. Not much is expected from the UConn offense, which makes a lot of sense. The Huskies are 2-2 straight up on the season, but Bob Diaco’s team is 0-for-4 against the number thus far. UConn has played four close games this season, with the largest margin of victory being Syracuse’s seven-point win last week. Houston is 4-0 straight up and 3-0-1 against the spread, depending on the Lamar number that you bet or tracked for Week 2. Houston has scored 44.7 points per game and yet three of their four games have gone under the total.
Well, the Huskies will come out fighting, mostly because huskies have curled tails and cannot put them between their legs. This UConn offense is a scrappy bunch, which is a nice way of saying that they try hard, but clearly lack the necessary pieces to look decent. UConn has managed just five yards per play against Maine, Navy, Virginia, and Syracuse. They have scored 7.7 points per game in the first half. A slow start here could pretty much bury them. UConn relies heavily on Noel Thomas, who has 40 of the team’s 81 receptions. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs leads the team with 74 carries. He’s completed 67 percent of his passes, but big plays are few and far between with this group.
Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has kept up the tradition of a solid defense in Storrs. UConn has been an above average program on the defensive side for a while now and they have sent some back seven players, specifically from the secondary, on to the next level. The Huskies have held the opposition to 22.5 points per game and bottled up Houston when these two teams met last season. The Cougars had a season-low 318 yards and a season low of 17 points. Greg Ward Jr. was hurt, but the Huskies were a 10-point home dog. They’re now a 28-point pup on the road.
Houston has two really impressive wins that were in front of a lot of eyes. The Week 1 win over Oklahoma was thoroughly impressive as almost a two-touchdown dog and the Week 3 primetime ESPN win over Cincinnati featured a strong second-half performance. Houston has scored 179 points in four games. You can make a strong case, however, that perception is ahead of reality. Houston is down to 5.65 yards per play this season after gaining 6.2 last season. The Cougars have only run for 4.1 yards per carry, down from last year’s 4.9. Houston has played Oklahoma, Lamar, Cincinnati, and Texas State. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of defenses.
Houston does, however, have a murderer’s row of its own on defense. The Cougars were +21 in turnover margin last season and they have seven takeaways in four games so far this season. Todd Orlando has done a phenomenal job with this group and they have only allowed 10.5 points per game this season. His aggressiveness has proven to be an issue for opposing teams and has given Houston a lot of short fields over the last 18 games. The quality of competition hasn’t been great for Houston, but the defense did an excellent job with Oklahoma and a solid Cincinnati offense.
College Football Free Pick: UConn Huskies +28
How many points does UConn need to score in order to cover the spread? That’s the big question about this game. If they get seven, can they hold Houston to 35? In reality, the under might be the way to look at this game, but the Huskies are also a fairly live dog at +28 here. UConn keeps games close. It’s something that they have a knack for. It’s a short week for both teams and that probably helps Houston, but Greg Ward Jr. has been banged up and Duke Catalon hasn’t been as explosive as Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson. You should have downgraded this Houston offense a little bit, despite the high point outputs, and that’s why UConn might be able to hang here.
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