Last Updated Dec 27, 2021, 7:00 PM

Birmingham Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Houston vs. Auburn

Dec. 28, 2021
Dan Dobish
VI Betting Expert

The Houston Cougars (11-2) take on the Auburn Tigers (6-6) in the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl on Tuesday afternoon at Protective Stadium in Alabama. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on ESPN.

Score Prediction

Houston 31, Auburn 19

Best Bets

Houston +110 ML at Bet365

Houston +2 (-110) at BetMGM

Under 51 (-115) at BetMGM

Birmingham Bowl Predictions

The big news in this game is not necessarily who will be on the field, but who used to be on the team(s). For Auburn, they have lost starting QB Bo Nix, backup RB Shaun Shivers, backup WR Elijah Canion, as well as depth players DE Caleb Johnson, OG Tashawn Manning and S Ladarius Tennison to the transfer portal. In addition to that, CB Roger McCreary, who had 49 total tackles (41 solo) with a sack, two interceptions, including a pick-six, and 14 passes defensed with a fumble recovery, has also opted out. Leading tackler LB Zakoby McClain, who had 95 total stops (55 solo) with a pair of sacks and six passes defensed, has also opted out, as did RT Brodarious Hamm. And C Nick Brahms, another starter, is sidelined with an injury.

In addition to all of the losses on the offensive side of the football, and along the O-line, the team will be breaking in a new offensive coordinator after canning Mike Bobo.

Houston's losses aren't as severe, but they will be without their All-American CB/KR Marcus Jones, as he opted out to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft. Jones was good for 47 tackles (36 solo) with five interceptions, 13 passes defensed and a forced fumble. He also registered two touchdowns on punt returns, and two scores on kickoff returns in 2021.

So, in terms of depth, and momentum, Houston is in a much, much better place than Auburn at this juncture. However, the game is in Birmingham, a short hop, skip and a jump from The Plains, so there's that.

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Birmingham Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: AAC vs. SEC
  • Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2021
  • Venue: Protective Stadium
  • Location: Birmingham, Alabama
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET

Houston Cougars Betting Analysis

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

  • SU: 11-2
  • ATS: 7-6
  • O/U: 8-5

The Cougars arrive in the Birmingham Bowl looking to snap a four-game postseason losing streak, including the New Mexico Bowl last season against Hawaii on Dec. 24, 2020. Oddly enough, that game was played in Frisco, Texas because, why, COVID, of course. Houston has appeared in Birmingham for the BBVA Compass Bowl back on Jan. 4, 2014, losing at Legion Field to the Vanderbilt Commodores of the SEC, 41-24.

While Houston had tremendous success this season, a black cloud seems to follow them in bowl games. They're just 4-14 SU across the past 18 bowl games dating game to a 35-0 win in the Garden State Bowl in 1980 over Navy, now a fellow AAC member.

These teams have actually met on the gridiron six times, with Auburn holding a 5-1 series advantage. However, the most recent meeting was Oct. 27, 1973, a 7-0 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium by the Tigers. These schools have met in a bowl game before, too, with the Cougars only win of the series coming Dec. 31, 1969 in the Bluebonnet Bowl, 36-7.

The Cougars are 1-5 ATS in the past six games as an underdog, while going 1-5 ATS in the past six neutral-site games, and 0-6 ATS in the past six games played in the month of December, too. The OVER is 5-2 in the past seven bowl games, while going 7-3 in the past 10 games overall, and 9-4 in the past 13 games as an underdog.

Auburn Tigers Betting Analysis

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

  • SU: 6-6
  • ATS: 6-6
  • O/U: 5-7

The Tigers haven't had a lot of bowl success lately, either, losing two in a row, both to Big Ten teams, while going 1-4 SU across the past five bowl trips overall. The last time they faced an AAC foe in a postseason game was the 2017 Peach Bowl, a 34-27 setback against UCF in Atlanta. Auburn has appeared in the Birmingham Bowl before, and it made itself right at home with a 31-10 shellacking of Memphis, another AAC institution, in 2015 in front of 59,430 raucous fans at Legion Field.

However, Auburn is 0-6 SU in the past six bowl games when facing a team ranked inside the Top 20, with its last win against No. 2 Oregon in 2010 in the BCS National Championship Game behind QB Cam Newton against Oregon under the leadership of Gene Chizik.

The Tigers are just 1-4 ATS in the past five bowl games, although they're 7-3 ATS in the past 10 games as a favorite and 7-2 ATS in the past nine games in the month of December. As far as totals, the UNDER is 4-1 in the past five games overall for the Tigers, while going 7-3-2 in the past 12 neutral-site affairs. The UNDER is also 6-2 in the past eight games against teams with a winning overall record.

Inside the Stats - Houston Cougars

  • Record: 11-2
  • VI Ranking: 19
  • Points Scored: 485
  • Points Allowed: 273
  • PS/G: 37.3
  • PA/G: 21.0

Inside the Stats - Auburn Tigers

  • Record: 6-6
  • VI Ranking: 64
  • Points Scored: 355
  • Points Allowed: 266
  • PS/G: 29.6
  • PA/G: 22.2

Key Players to Watch

  • UH: Nathaniel Dell - WR (80 catches, 1,179 yards, 12 TD)
  • UH: Clayton Tune - QB (261/381, 3,263 yards, 28 TD, 9 INT)
  • AUB: Tank Bigsby - RB (207 rushes, 1,003 yards, 10 TD)
  • AUB: T.J. Finley - QB (51/91, 600 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT)

Birmingham Bowl Betting Conclusion

The Tigers have a lot going for them. Auburn will have a huge advantage in terms of fan support, and the Tigers have picked up a win at the Birmingham Bowl before. Plus, Houston has, quite frankly, stunk in bowl games for the better part of the past four decades. But, like Rocky Balboa said at the end of Rocky IV, if I's can change, and you's can change, we all can change. The Cougars are going to put their bowl difficulties behind them and get a nice victory to get to 12 wins.

Houston will have to do without their All-American corner and return man, but that's nothing compared to all the defections, injured players and a transition to a new offensive coordinator, too. All of the losses are just too much for Auburn to handle, even if they were playing this game at Jordan-Hare.

Birmingham Bowl Betting Trends

  • Houston is 0-4 ATS in the past four bowl games.
  • Houston is 1-5 ATS in the past six neutral-site games.
  • Houston is 1-5 ATS in the past six games as an underdog.
  • Houston is 0-6 ATS in the past six games in December.
  • Auburn is 1-4 ATS in the past five bowl games.
  • Auburn is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 games as a favorite.
  • The OVER is 7-3 in the past 10 games for Houston.
  • The OVER is 5-2 in the past seven bowl games for Houston.
  • The UNDER is 4-1 in the past five games overall for Auburn.
  • The UNDER is 7-3-2 in the past 12 neutral-site games for Auburn.

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