Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Washington State vs. Houston
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Washington State vs. Houston
Venue/Location: NRG Stadium in Houston, TX
Time/TV: Friday, Sept. 13, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Washington State -9, Total 75.5
Fans of defensive-oriented football better duck for cover on Friday night as this Washington State/Houston game has a chance to go full “air raid” on us all. Houston HC Dana Holgorsen is a disciple of Washington HC Mike Leach, having played for Leach (as an OC) in the early 1990's and coached alongside him at Texas Tech for seven years at the turn of the century.
Offensive football is what it's all about for these two guys, and with a total in the mid-70's for this game, points aren't likely to be hard to come by. That doesn't necessarily mean that the 'over' is the play for this game – although it's the only side of the total that's seen significant action so far this week – but plenty of throws will be attempted from both sides in this game and it might end up being one of those games where whomever has the ball last comes out on top.
The lone time these two coaches squared off against one another was in 2009, as Leach was in his final year at Texas Tech and Holgorsen was the OC at Houston. It was the Houston Cougars who came out ahead that day (29-28) on a TD in the final minute of the game. That game also had a closing total of 75.5, so it's not like these two guys can't easily go 'under' the number, as sometimes familiarity in knowing what to expect from the opposition is the great equalizer in terms of a lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Will that be how this year's game plays out?
Having that history from the 2009 game between these two coaches had to play a part in the oddsmakers setting this total in the mid-70's as it's been bet up a shade from opening at 74.5. The point spread is a lot closer then the FG Houston was getting as a home dog back then, and with the betting market quickly pushing this spread through the key number of -7 after opening up in the -6 range on Washington State, there is strong sentiment that the teacher (Leach) will get the best of his protege (Holgorsen) this time around.
That type of move in favor of Wazzu is impossible to ignore, but it's also tough to support. For one, you are getting the worst of the number by far right now, and two, it's a long cross-country trek for the Washington State on a short week, right before Pac-12 play kicks off for them next week.
At the same time, Houston's defense was carved up by Oklahoma in Week 1, as it was there abysmal play that got the discussion started about Jalen Hurts now being a tremendous passer. I'm more inclined to believe Hurts' 332 passing yards on 20-for-23 throwing had more to do with Houston's ineptitude on defense then it was Hurts improvement, but there is still a full year left for Hurts to prove me wrong in that regard. For this game though, it's that hypothesis that I'm still standing behind, which suggests that Houston's defense is likely going to get carved up once again.
Supporting that notion is the fact that Wazzu has scored 50+ points in both games so far this year – albeit against very weak competition – but those results put Washington State in a nice 'over' spot that I discussed earlier in the week here. I don't think Houston gives up 50 or more, but the Sooners did fall one point shy of that number and that was with the game being just 7-0 for Oklahoma after the first quarter. If Leach's squad can put up multiple major scores in that first 15 minutes, I wouldn't put it past Washington State scoring 50+ here.
Heck, Washington may need that many points just to cover the point spread or perhaps even win the game, as Houston’s offense will score plenty of points as well being in the third week of Holgorsen's system. Washington State's defense does have decent looking numbers defensively, at least on the surface, but again you've got to go back to the quality level of the competition they've faced so far and it's not anywhere close to good. Even last week's game against Northern Colorado was relatively tight at the half (24-10 lead for Wazzu as -43 favorites), and this is a significant step up for Wazzu's defense to be facing, in a tough spot on the road.
So while it's not anything like the best play of the week by far, as it's hard to ignore the “publicness” of an 'over' play for this game, it's probably the only way to go. Sure, you could get beat with a game that finishes 40-33 or something like that, but even for someone like me who prefers to be contrarian – sometimes just for the sake of being contrarian – it's probably too hard to stomach holding an 'under' ticket for this game if you are going to watch it.
The side has lost all value in terms of backing the visitors, as this easily could end up being a one-score game between these two coaches again, but Washington State could also be the ones who pull away late and do win by double figures.
So it's the 'over' or nothing for me here, as the air raid offense in college football gets the full primetime treatment on Friday night.