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NCAAF

Oct 06, 2020

Tulane vs. Houston Week 6 Predictions, Odds, Preview


  • October 8, 2020
  • By Joe Nelson
  • VegasInsider.com

College Football has not been able to keep many of the planned Thursday night games in the early going this season but this week the AAC will aim to open up the football weekend as Tulane visits Houston.

Houston will be playing its first game of the season after a series of cancellations while Tulane is off to a 2-1 start overall though losing in its only American game so far this season.

BETTING RESOURCES

TULANE-HOUSTON BETTING ODDS

Line Movements

  • Spread: Houston -6.5
  • Money-Line: Houston -250, Tulane +210
  • Total: 59

HOW TO HANDICAP TULANE-HOUSTON

Tulane is 2-1 S/U and 1-2 ATS this season with some big swings in its games.

The Green Wave won 27-24 in its opener at South Alabama but trailed 24-6 in that game. Tulane then had a 24-0 halftime lead vs. Navy at home but lost 27-24 on a field goal as time expired.

In its most recent game in late September Tulane trailed 21-14 at Southern Miss before putting up 52 points in the final 37 minutes to win 66-24.

Houston is yet to play this season with postponed games vs. Rice, Baylor, and North Texas in September.

BETTING ANALYSIS – GREEN WAVE

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • Overall: 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS, 2-0-1 O/U

Willie Fritz isn’t a household name but he has compiled now 179 wins in his career mostly at lower level programs. After a long run at Central Missouri he led Sam Houston State for four seasons, twice competing for the then Division I Championship. He led Georgia Southern to a 17-7 record as a Sun Belt newcomer and he has led improvement at Tulane now in his fifth season, coming off back-to-back 6-6 regular seasons capped off by bowl wins.

Fritz has been a strong spread performer at 30-22-1 ATS at Tulane, though most of that success has come at home in a favorite role. His Georgia Southern teams also went 16-8 ATS in his two seasons as few head coaches can rival his over 60 percent cover rate, even if at Tulane he is still a few games below .500 S/U overall.

Georgia Southern and Tulane ran the option for Fritz but that changed slightly with offensive coordinator Will Hall who joined the program last season. The emphasis is on playing up-tempo while still featuring some option elements but also spreading receivers out as well. Running the ball is a priority and the Green Wave have nearly netted 900 rushing yards in the first three games on 6.5 yards per carry.

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Quarterback play has been shaky with Southern Miss transfer Keon Howard completing only 42 percent of his passes so far and without a touchdown pass. Howard played sparingly last season behind Justin McMillan who threw for 2,400 yards while also leading Tulane in rushing.

The up-tempo pace for the Wave has certainly been a big factor in the roller coaster style of games in which the Wave has been a part of this season. Tulane has also had to replace its top running back and top two receivers from last season but so far the Wave already have four different rushers hitting triple-digit yardage through three games.

Tulane was a middle-of-the-pack scoring team in AAC play last season, actually even at 252-252 in going 3-5 in conference games. Memphis and SMU beat Tulane handily by 30 and 17 respectively but the Wave also had a pair of three-point losses to Navy and UCF.

Tulane’s rushing presence coupled with a run defense that so far has allowed only 2.8 yards per rush makes for attractive underdog traits. Tulane has allowed 8.8 yards per pass attempt however as big plays against the Wave in the air are possible. Senior DE Patrick Johnson is considered a mid-round NFL draft prospect for 2021 and he has four sacks already as a player to watch on defense.

BETTING ANALYSIS - COUGARS

  • Overall: 0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U

Head Coach Dana Holgorsen surprised many by leaving West Virginia after the 2018 season to take over at Houston, moving from the Big XII to the AAC. Holgorsen was the OC at Houston in 2008-09 before a one-year run at Oklahoma State before moving to Morgantown, somewhat contentiously taking over for Bill Stewart.

Holgorsen went 61-41 at West Virginia but never matched the success the team had in an Orange Bowl run in his first season in 2011, the final season as a Big East team. West Virginia did go 10-3 in 2016 and in seven of eight seasons with the program West Virginia had a winning record for Holgorsen.

His first season at Houston fell well short of expectations finishing 4-8. Most notably star quarterback D’Eriq King opted to sit out the rest of the season after a 1-3 start, eventually transferring and now leading Miami this season.

His replacement Clayton Tune is back this season and he held off Holgorsen’s son Logan for the starting quarterback job for 2020. Tune had marginal numbers last season completing just 59 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Houston was a successful rushing team last season posting more than 2,200 yards on 4.8 yards per carry, with Tune offering some mobility. Seniors Kyle Porter and Texas transfer Mulbah Car are expected to lead the ground game with Porter offering elusive quickness while Car is a physical force in goal line situations.

Potential late round NFL draft pick Marquez Stevenson is back as the leading receiver for Houston in 2019 as the offense is experienced after scoring more than 30 points per game last season. The offense lost Tackle Josh Jones, a third round NFL draft pick to Arizona, who will be difficult to replace.

Houston won only twice in AAC play last season and surprisingly went 1-4 S/U and ATS at home in 2019, with the only S/U win coming vs. FCS Prairie View. Houston allowed 176 points in its four AAC home losses, though in fairness they did face three of the conference’s top teams in those games. Houston was outscored 230-286 last season in league play and 368-408 overall, numbers indicative of a closer to .500 record than the Cougars produced.

In a major transition and replacing one of the program’s most productive players of all-time, Houston wound up with three one-score losses and the schedule overall was difficult, playing Oklahoma and Washington State in non-conference play and drawing both Cincinnati and UCF from the East division crossover games.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Houston leads the all-time series 17-7 (13-9 ATS) going back to 1968 but these teams have a lot of recent history as regular Conference USA foes in the late 1990s and 2000s and now playing annually as AAC foes since 2014.

Houston won and covered in this series 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012 but the series but the Cougars are 3-3 S/U and 2-4 ATS since 2014 with the host winning S/U each of the past four years.

Last season was the first time Houston was an underdog in this series since 2003 and many of the ATS wins for Houston came as a heavy favorite in a difficult stretch for the Tulane program.

LAST SEASON

This was a mid-September Thursday night game last season and it lived up to the TV spotlight. Houston, in what would be King’s final game, led 28-14 at halftime but Tulane would tie the game early in the fourth quarter after Houston was held to back-to-back punts to start the second half. The Cougars missed a field goal with about 10 minutes remaining and Tulane broke the 28-28 tie with a 44-yard kick at the 6:10 mark.

Houston used nearly all the remaining clock on a 16-play drive but couldn’t get in the end zone, eventually settling for a 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds to go, seemingly forcing overtime.

The Wave hit a solid gain to near midfield on first down and then McMillan hit Jalen McClesky down the field at about the 25-yard-line where two Houston defenders collided and a third wasn’t able to make the tackle as The Wave would score with three seconds remaining for a stunning finish, also covering as a 4.5-point home favorite.

Houston had a 533-511 yardage edge and both teams had a single turnover. The box score was nearly identical with both teams eclipsing 300 rushing yards on similar averages while completed passes were rare with Tulane’s big plays late boosting its per attempt average to 9.3 yards per pass. Most of the key players on both offenses will be different this time around with the exception of Porter and Stevenson for Houston.

NOTABLE BETTING TRENDS

-- Houston is 14-18 ATS as a home favorite since 2014, though surprisingly the Cougars were not a home favorite in a FBS game last season at all.

-- The Cougars are 28-10 S/U at home since 2014 but just 17-21 ATS.

-- Tulane is just 8-18 S/U on the road under Fritz since 2016, going 12-14 ATS, with two of those S/U wins this season.

-- Tulane is only 6-10 ATS as a road underdog since 2016.

TULANE VS. HOUSTON - PREDICTIONS

  • Score Prediction: Houston 34, Tulane 27
  • Best Bet: Over


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