Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Free NCAAF Pick: Over
Best Line Offered: JustBet
On Saturday, our attention is drawn to a bowl total that fell a whopping eight points, from 67.5 to 59.5, as sharps pounced all over the opening line, reducing the value on the “under” to next to nothing.
While there is no way to say for sure what those making the college football odds were thinking about this game, one could surmise they believed Houston would control tempo. That comes in a good and bad sense.
Houston averages 46.4 PPG and has a quick-strike offense as they possess the ball for just more than 25 minutes a game, which is next to last at the FBS level. Losing quarterback D’Eriq King and his 50 total touchdowns makes the Cougars less explosive, but if you saw Houston against Memphis in their season finale, Clayton Tune is a more-than-adequate backup.
The other aspect for Houston is they allow 34.4 PPG and their defense is so undisciplined it is hard to watch. Oddsmakers certainly took that into consideration, as Army could get to the edges to create big plays. If the Black Knights establish the outside run, they can use misdirection and run the ball in the A-gaps for big plays also.
While the opening total probably was too high, this adjustment is too large. In looking to make college football picks, Houston’s defense allowed 36 points and 522 yards to a below-average Navy squad that runs a similar offense. Though Army held Oklahoma to only 28 points, they did so by having the pigskin for 87 plays. The Cougars defense will wear out long before then.
Houston’s speed on the perimeter will allow them to make enough large gains throughout the contest. Lastly, keep in mind Army is 20-9 “over” as a favorite and Houston is 17-4 “over” as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points.
Saturday’s Other Total Picks
BIRMINGHAM BOWL – Wake Forest vs. Memphis (73), noon ET, on ESPN: The total in Saturday’s lid-lifter came down once Tigers leading rusher Darrell Henderson decided his 1,900-plus yards and 22 TDs were enough, so he called it a college career and is heading to the NFL. From our perspective, we have two defenses conceding more than 31 PPG and two offenses that can generate big plays. Take the “over.”
DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL – Buffalo vs. Troy (50), 7 p.m. ET, on ESPN: Buffalo played shoddy defense in three of its last five contests, and the 20 points they permitted in the last 20 minutes of the MAC title game to Northern Illinois cost them a championship. Troy rung up only 22 total points in their last two contests, which is cause for consternation. Nonetheless, hard to ignore Buffalo is 7-1 “over” when the total is between 49.5 and 56 this season and Troy is 7-0 “over” as a bowler.
HAWAII BOWL – Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii (61), 10:30 p.m. ET, on ESPN: Louisiana Tech scored only 24.2 PPG on the season, but they will be facing a Hawaii defense that was torched for 42.1 PPG over their last six outings. With the Rainbow Warriors passing offense, the “over” gets the call one more time!