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Tony Levine found his quarterback and took advantage of an opportunistic defense to lead the Houston Cougars to an 8-5 season and a 10-3 against the spread mark. Larry Coker’s job has been so good at UTSA that he got an extension and the Roadrunners could play in the Conference USA title game. A couple of Texas programs face off in Week 1 as Houston opens their new on-campus football stadium.

UTSA vs. Houston College Football Preview

Date/Time: Friday August 29, 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPNU

College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb

College Football Betting Favorite: Houston -10.5

Total: 54.5

After a 5-7 record both straight up and against the spread in 2012 and no true quarterback entering the season, oddsmakers were slow to catch up with Houston, as they went 10-3 against the number, in large part because of a +25 turnover margin. The adjustment this season comes in Week 1 as the Cougars are laying double digits against the Roadrunners even though Coker’s team returns 20 starters from last year’s 7-5 squad.

Houston Cougars:

John O’Korn emerged from the pack of starting quarterback hopefuls and had a very exciting freshman season with over 3,100 passing yards and 28 TDs. The Houston offense mostly returns in tact as Deontay Greenberry, one of the best wide receivers in the country, anchors a group that also features second-leading receiver Daniel Spencer. Both of last year’s starters at running back return and the only losses are on the offensive line, where both tackles and the left guard will be new starters. Defensively, the Cougars caused 43 turnovers that led to 131 points and the team was +25 in turnover margin. Both of the team’s top cornerbacks are gone and regression has to be expected with a turnover margin that lopsided. The defensive line could be a little young because of an ACL tear suffered by senior Eric Braswell in spring ball.

UTSA Roadrunners:

Larry Coker’s squad returns 10 starters on each side of the ball, but the lone loss on offense was starting quarterback Eric Soza. Soza was the quarterback as the team transitioned from FCS to the WAC and now to their second season in Conference USA. The Roadrunners had a methodical, efficient offense for the most part, averaging nearly five yards per carry, but three different players, including Soza, carried the ball over 90 times and two of those three are gone. Soza was more mobile than new starter Tucker Carter and that’s something to watch early in the season. Defensively, the Roadrunners went 278 straight passes against without an interception and only had eight interceptions on the season. In conference play, the defense held the opposition to just 340 yards per game and only 19 points per game. The lopsided 59-28 Houston/UTSA game last season was one of the more misleading games of the season as UTSA outgained Houston by two yards, but wound up -5 in turnover margin.

Free Pick: Houston -10.5

With the buzz of a new stadium and most of the offense in tact, the Houston Cougars should not only win this game, but should be considered a major player in the AAC this season. A new starter at quarterback with just 33 attempts worth of experience is trouble for the Roadrunners, especially against an opportunistic defense, even with regression on the horizon.

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