Houston (2-0) at Cincinnati (2-0)
When: Thursday, September 15th 2016
Where: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Time: 7:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The Houston Cougars and Cincinnati Bearcats will open up conference play Thursday night at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Houston opened the season with an impressive 32-23 over Oklahoma, then rolled over Lamar 42-0 without Heisman Trophy candidate Greg Ward, Jr., who was resting his shoulder in preparation for tonight’s tilt. Ward threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns in the upset win over the Sooners and running back Duke Catalon, who also rested last week, ran for 88 yards. Three backs – Kevrin Justice (111 yards, two TDs), Mulbah Car (109 yards, TD) and quarterback Kyle Postma (106 yards, two TDs) – rushed for more than 100 yards against Lamar, but Ward and Catalon will be needed tonight. Houston leads the AAC in total defense (233 yards), scoring defense (11.5 points), sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) and have held their last four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. Linebacker Steven Taylor has a league-best 3.5 sacks and freshman lineman Ed Oliver has 10 tackles, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss to lead the Cougars defense.
Cincinnati also comes in 2-0 with wins over Tennessee-Martin and a road victory at Purdue. Cincinnati’s defense has forced eight turnovers (+2.5 margin) after being ranked 124th in turnover margin (-1.5) last year, and they have has scored 35 points off those turnovers. Linebacker Eric Wilson leads the AAC with 24 total tackles as Cincinnati ranks second in the league with 13.5 points allowed. Sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore (510 passing yards, five TDs, one INT, 71 rushing yards and two TDs) accounted for five scores in the win at Purdue last week. Nate Cole (12 catches, 145 yards, three TDs) and Devin Gray (nine catches, 167 yards) lead a new group of young receivers for Cincinnati after the Bearcats graduated six senior wideouts. Cincinnati almost pulled the upset in Houston last year, but fell 33-30.
Beware of the week night home underdogs. All the talk about Houston after their win over Oklahoma was are they going to get into the Playoffs as an undefeated team. That probably didn’t sit well with an over-looked Cincinnati squad. The past three meetings between these teams have been decided by 17 total points. Houston is the much better team, but I smell a trap. Take the points.
Pick: Cincinnati +7.5