Thursday Night College Football Betting: Houston Cougars at UTEP Miners

Houston Cougars at UTEP Miners
Sun Bowl – El Paso, Texas
Thursday, September 29, 2011, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS Sports
Opening Line: Houston -17 1/2
Current Line: Houston -15
Opening Total: 64
Current Line: 65
Opening Money Line: Houston -1050 / UTEP +675
Current Money Line: Houston -650 / UTEP +475

UTEP Vs Houston Cougars Betting Preview
Quarterback Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars travel to El Paso to take on the UTEP Miners in Conference USA action Thursday. The Cougars are 15 point favorites in the contest.

The 4-0 Houston Cougars travel across the state of Texas to take on the 2-2 UTEP Miners. It is the first Conference USA game of the season for the Cougars, and the second for the Miners. Houston, coached by Kevin Sumlin has wins over UCLA 38-34, at North Texas 48-23, at Louisiana Tech 35-34, and last week at home against Georgia St 56-0. UTEP is coached by Mike Price and is 2-2 on the season, with wins over Stony Brook 31-24 in overtime, and at New Mexico St 16-10, and has losses at SMU 28-17 and last week at South Florida 52-24. This is the ninth meeting between the two schools, and the series is tied 4-4. UTEP leads 4-1 in El Paso, but the Cougars won last year in Houston 54-24.

Houston destroyed Georgia St last week 56-0 and dominated in every phase of the game. The Cougars had 732 total yards, including 561 passing yards, and they had 34 first downs.  Houston held Georgia St to 241 total yards, and 11 first downs in the shutout. The game was a little sloppy on both sides, with 18 total penalties and 2 turnovers by each team. Cougar quarterback Case Keenum was 29/34 passing for 415 yards and 2 touchdown throws. The Cougars rushed for 171 yards and 5 touchdowns as well, including 2 from Bryce Beall.

Houston has the #3 ranked offense in the country averaging 585 yards a game including the #1 passing attack with 446.2 yards a game. The Cougars are scoring 44.2 points a game. Houston has 8 turnovers and has allowed 6 sacks this season. The Cougars are 41/69 on third and fourth down conversions. Houston is 18/23 scoring in the red zone with 15 touchdowns. On defense, The Cougars are allowing 382 yards a game just under 23 points a game. Houston is allowing 172.8 rushing yards a game. Houston has forced 9 turnovers and 4 sacks this season. Cougar opponents are 27/69 on third and fourth down conversions, and 14/17 in the red zone with 12 touchdowns.

Keenum is 110/155 passing with 1,534 yards, 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also has 21 carries for 18 yards. Running backs Beall and Michael Hayes split most of the carries. Beall has 36 carries, 224 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 3 catches for 39 yards. Hayes has 39 carries, 204 yards, and 4 touchdowns, along with 17 catches, 165 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Including Hayes, five Cougar receivers have at least 13 catches. Patrick Edwards has 17 catches, 365 yards, and 3 scores. Tyron Carrier has 27 catches, 326 yards, and a touchdown. Justin Johnson  has 17 catches, 288 yards and 4 touchdowns. E.J. Smith has 13 catches for 180 yards. Kicker Matt Hogan hasn’t missed a kick this year in 24 extra point and 3 field goal attempts. His longest field goal is 35 yards this year. Linebacker Marcus McGraw has 41 tackles, and and interception this year. Linebacker Sammy Brown has 31 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and 2 sacks. Defensive Back Thomas Bates has 2 interceptions for the season. Offensive lineman Ralph Oragwu is the only Cougar listed on the injury report. he is questionable with an ankle injury.

South Florida jumped out to a 21-7 first quarter lead against UTEP and never relinquished  it. UTEP never got closer than 7 points for the rest of the game in the 52-24 rout. South Florida scored 2 fourth quarter touchdowns to win by 28 but the Miners covered the 30 point college football betting line against the #18 Bulls. UTEP had 339 total yards in that game including 95 rushing yards. They had 3 turnovers that didn’t help their cause much either. The Bulls racked up 575 total yards including 373 rushing yards, including 332 total yards passing and rushing from quarterback B.J. Daniels who had 3 total touchdowns for South Florida. UTEP back-up quarterback Carson Meger was 26/40 passing with 2 touchdowns, but he threw 3 interceptions including one that the Bulls ran back 30 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

UTEP has struggled on offense this season with 338.8 total yards and 22 points a game. The passing game isn’t bad with 252.2 yards a game but the rushing game is one of the worst in the country with 86.5 yards a game. The Miners have 11 turnovers and have allowed 15 sacks this season through 4 games. UTEP is 26/68 on third and fourth down conversions. The Miners are 10/15 scoring in the red zone with 6 touchdowns. The defense isn’t very good either for UTEP. The Miners are allowing 408.2 total yards, including 191.5 rushing yards. Both are ranked in the mid 90’s out of 120 teams. UTEP is allowing 28.3 points a game this season. The Miners have forced 11 sacks and 6 turnovers so far this season. Miner opponents are 19/49 on third down conversions and haven’t attempted a fourth down yet. UTEP foes are 11/14 scoring in the red zone with 8 touchdowns.

UTEP has started 3 different quarterbacks this season in four games. Nick Lamaison started the first two games against Stony Brook and SMU but missed the last 2 with a shoulder injury. He is listed as probable against Houston. Lamaison is 39/64 passing for 507 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 12 carries for 9 yards. Javia Hall started against New Mexico St but was awful going 17/48 for 254 yards and 2 interceptions with no touchdowns. Meger was better against South Florida than Hall was, but the offense moves better with Lamaison running it. Running back Joe Banyard has 28 carries, 143 yards, and a touchdown, along with 7 catches for 23 yards. Leilyon Myers has 36 carries, 113 yards, and 4 scores. Receiver Mike Edwards has 18 catches for 269 yards. Donovan Kemp has 12 catches, 225 yards, and a touchdown. Eric Tomlinson has only 2 catches this season but both went for touchdowns. Kicker Dakota Warren is 10/10 on extra points but only 6/12 on field goals with a long of 47 yards. DL Adam Ayala and Germard Reed, along with DB Travaun Nixon and OL James Nelson are all questionable with various injuries for the Houston game. The three defensive players are among the best players on that side of the ball for the Miners, so that could be a problem.

UTEP is 3-1 ATS this season but 3 of the 4 games have gone under the total. Houston is also 3-1 against the spread this season but 3 of those 4 have gone over the total. UTEP and Houston have split the last 2 meetings with the home team winning and covering each game. Both games have gone over the total recently. Houston is 0-6 ATS in road games the last 3 seasons after 2 or more consecutive straight up wins. The Cougars are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 as favorite of 10.5 points or more, 4-1 ATS their last 5 September games, 3-8 ATS in their last 11 road games, and 3-12 ATS in the last 15 as a road favorite. UTEP is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games against a team with a winning record, and 4-1 in the last 5 as an underdog. The Miners are 8-18 ATS in their last 26 on turf.

Though Houston has struggled to cover on the road recently, I just don’t see UTEP having enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Cougars. The line has dropped almost 3 points, and I like Houston at -15 as I feel that is good value. Houston could reach the 65 point total by themselves.

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