College Football Picks: Houston Will Cover -10 vs. UConn With or Without Ward

Matthew Jordan

Friday, November 20, 2015 8:44 PM UTC

Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 8:44 PM UTC

It could be a huge letdown/trap game for Houston on Saturday as the Cougars play their final road contest of the season, facing AAC foe Connecticut. Houston is a 10-point favorite on college football odds with a total of 49.

Cougars Off Memorable Victory
Houston (10-0, 6-0) was No. 24 in last week's College Football Playoff rankings but rose to No. 19 on Tuesday. That's because the Cougars beat Memphis 35-34 last Saturday to keep their AAC championship game hopes alive as well as a possible New Year's Six bowl game that goes to the highest-ranked team among the Group of Five conferences (Navy right now).

Things certainly weren't looking great for Houston in that game as star quarterback Greg Ward Jr. left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. Memphis had a 20-7 lead at halftime and was still up 34-14 with just under 12 minutes left in the game. But backup QB Kyle Postma led Houston to three touchdowns over about a 12-minute span of game clock in the fourth, capped by a  7-yard TD run with 1:27 left. The extra point gave Houston a 35-34 edge.

Memphis attempted a 48-yard field goal to win the game, but Jake Elliott missed wide right. It was the third-largest come-from-behind in Houston history. It was the only comeback win this season by an FBS team trailing by at least 20 points in the fourth quarter, the first in 282 tries this in 2015. Postma finished 21-for-33 for 236 yards and a TD pass and rushed six times for a team-leading 49 yards and a score. The win allowed Houston to remain in a first-place tie with Navy in the AAC  West Division. Those two close the regular season against one another in Texas.

It's not clear as of this writing if Ward will play in this game, but Coach Tom Herman made it clear that Ward is his starter: “Greg is our starter if he’s healthy; that’s a no-brainer. We’re talking about a guy who has led us to this point. He played really badly in the first half. Some of it was on him, some of it were things that he couldn’t control, but the things that he could control, I didn’t think he played really well. He’s our starter."

After the game, Herman said Ward could have played if needed, but because he relies on his running so  much that it wasn't an ideal situation. This season, Ward  is completing 69.3 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has rushed 147 times for 810 yards and 16 scores. He is the only player nationally to average over 200 passing yards per game (217.6 yards per game) and over 80 rushing yards per game (81.0) while ranking 22nd nationally in total offense with 298.6 yards per game. The junior is one of two players nationally with double-digit rushing (16) and passing (13) touchdowns. He is 10th in scoring among non-kickers with 96 points and fourth in the country eight rushing attempts of at least 30 yards and 14 rushing attempts of at least 20 yards. Both numbers lead all FBS quarterbacks. He's looking like a game-time call.

The Cougars are 6-4 against the spread on college football odds this season and 4-5-1 'over/under.' Herman is one of five coaches in college football history to start his career at 10-0.


Huskies Are Rested Up
In its second season under head coach Bob Diaco, UConn (5-5, 3-3) can get bowl eligible with an upset here. The Huskies haven't played in a bowl game since 2010 when they were still in the Big East. They were 2-10 in Diaco's first season. UConn is off its bye week but enters on a two-game winning streak. It beat Tulane 7-3 last time out.

UConn also has a dual-threat quarterback in sophomore Bryant Shirreffs. He has thrown for 1,998 yards and eight touchdowns against seven interceptions, while rushing for 422 yards and three touchdowns. Arkeel Newsome leads UConn with 645 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

Houston is No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25, meaning it is the highest-ranked team to play at Rentschler Field since No. 14 Michigan in 2013. West Virginia, ranked No. 4 at the time, is still the highest-ranked team to come to the stadium (2006).

Connecticut is 4-6 ATS on college football picks and 2-8 O/U.


Last Meeting
This is the first-ever game between the schools.

College Football Picks: Houston and 'under.' I think Postma is good enough to lead at least a two-touchdown victory but Houston offense won't be quite as productive (even if Ward plays, which won't be 100 percent). The Cougars have covered 21 of their past 27 road games while UConn is 3-9 ATS in its past 12 at home. The 'under' is 4-1 in Houston's past five. It is 8-2 in  UConn's past 10.

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