Conference USA Thursday Night Free Football Picks: Houston Cougars at Tulane Green Wave

#11 Houston Cougars at Tulane Green Wave
Superdome  – New Orleans, Louisiana
Thursday, November 10, 2011, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS Sports Net
Opening Line: Houston -33
Current Line: Houston -34
Opening Total: 73 1/2
Current Total: 71
Opening Money Line: Houston -19475 / Tulane +10025
Current Money Line: Houston -22600 / Tulane +11400

The Houston Cougars are huge favorites against lowly Tulane on the road Thursday night. Houston is one of 5 undefeated teams left in the country.

Houston is 9-0 this season and is #11 in the BCS standings. If they run the table then they have an outside shot of getting a BCS bowl berth but need some help. The Cougars travel to New Orleans Thursday night to take on the 2-8 Tulane Green Wave. Houston is coached by Kevin Sumlin and has home wins over UCLA 38-34, Georgia St 56-0, East Carolina 56-3, Marshall 63-28, and Rice 73-34, along with road wins at North Texas 48-23, Louisiana Tech 35-34, UTEP 49-42, and last week at UAB 56-13. Tulane is coached by interim coach Mark Hutson, who took over the program after coach Bob Toledo resigned after a 2-5 start. The Green Wave have wins at home over SE Louisiana 47-33 and at UAB 49-10. Since a 2-1 start Tulane has lost 7 in a row. Tulane has home losses to Tulsa 31-3, Syracuse 37-34, UTEP 44-7, and Memphis 33-17, along with road losses at Duke 48-27, Army 45-6, East Carolina 34-13, and last week at SMU 45-24. Houston leads the series 12-4 all time against Tulane including 4-2 in New Orleans. The Cougars have won 8 straight in the series including 42-23 last year in Houston.

Houston traveled to Birmingham last week to take on the UAB Blazers. Houston was a 27.5 point road favorite on the college football betting line. Houston was up 21-10 at halftime, but pulled away in the second half for a 56-13 rout. Houston scored the last 35 points of the game after the Blazers pulled to within 21-13. Houston had 654 total yards including 488 passing yards. Heisman contending quarterback Case Keenum threw for 407 yards and 2 touchdowns, and added 2 rushing touchdowns. Back-up Cotton Turner threw for 81 yards and a touchdown pass in mop-up duty. Running back Michael Hayes had 16 carries, 93 yards, and a touchdown. Charles Sims had 14 carries, 71 yards and a touchdown, along with 4 catches for 55 yards. Receiver Tyron Carrier had 12 catches, 105 yards and a touchdown. Justin Johnson had 7 catches, 91 yards, and a touchdown. Both teams had one turnover. Houston had a 54 yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Blazers had 269 total yards including 115 rushing yards.

Houston has the #1 ranked offense in the country averaging 617 yards a game including the #1 passing attack with 457.1 yards a game and average 159.9 rushing yards a game. The Cougars are scoring 52.7 points a game. Houston has 12 turnovers and has allowed 9 sacks this season. The Cougars are 74/135 on third and fourth down conversions. Houston is 43/52 scoring in the red zone with 37 touchdowns. On defense, The Cougars are allowing 400.1 yards a game and 23.4 points a game. Houston is allowing 183.8 rushing yards and 216.3 passing yards a game. Houston has forced 19 turnovers and 25 sacks this season. Cougar opponents are 55/146 on third and fourth down conversions, and 24/33 in the red zone with 21 touchdowns. Houston has 4 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season.

Keenum is 257/347 passing with 3,626 yards, 34 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also has 32 carries for 27 yards and two touchdowns. Turner has 3 touchdown passes and an interception, along with a rushing touchdown, in limited action this season. Running backs Bryce Beall, Sims,  and Hayes split most of the carries. Beall has 50 carries, 286 yards, and 6 touchdowns, along with 3 catches for 39 yards. He has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for the Tulane game. Hayes has 94 carries, 553 yards, and 7 touchdowns, along with 30 catches, 323 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Sims has 65 carries, 451 yards, and 7 touchdowns, and 22 catches, 347 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  Including Hayes and Sims, six Cougar receivers have at least 22 catches. Patrick Edwards has 56 catches, 1,148 yards, and 11 scores. Tyron Carrier has 65 catches, 743 yards, and 5 touchdown catches. He has a kick return for a touchdown, and has over 1,200 all-purpose yards.  Justin Johnson  has 42 catches, 609 yards and 7 touchdowns. E.J. Smith has 24 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel Spencer only has 11 catches but has two touchdowns.  Kicker Matt Hogan is 64/64 on extra points and 6/8 on field goals with a long of 35 yards.

SMU hosted Tulane last week, and the Mustangs were 26.5 point favorites. SMU was up 31-0 at halftime, but Tulane scored 24 third quarter points to get back in the game. SMU won 45-24 but Tulane got the cover. Tulane had 9 penalties and 2 turnovers, and SMU had 6 penalties and one turnover. Tulane had an 18 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the third quarter. Tulane had only 271 total yards, including 57 rushing yards, and 16 first downs. Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was sacked 4 times. Receivers Wilson Van Hooser and Justyn Shackleford each had touchdown catches. SMU had 453 total yards including 322 passing yards.

Tulane averages 351.7 total yards, including 237.3 passing yards and 114.4 rushing yards a game. The Green Wave score 22.7 points a game. Tulane has 21 turnovers and has allowed 20 sacks this season. The Green Wave are 57/158 on third and fourth down conversions, and 22/28 scoring in the red zone with 15 touchdowns. Tulane is allowing 388 yards and 36 points a game. The Green Wave give up 227 passing yards and 161 rushing yards a game. Tulane has forced 17 turnovers and 20 sacks this season. Green Wave opponents are 65/145 on third and fourth down conversions, and 47/48 scoring in the red zone with 35 touchdowns. Tulane has 4 defensive touchdowns this season.

Griffin is 177/298 passing with 2,100 yards with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He is questionable for the Houston game with an undisclosed injury. If he can’t go back-up D.J. Ponder will start, but he has 4 interceptions in 45 attempts with no touchdowns. Running back Orleans Darkwa has 150 carries, 652 yards, and 9 touchdowns, along with 29 catches for 282 yards. Albert Williams had 48 carries, 237 yards, and one touchdown, along with 8 catches for 57 yards. Robert Kelley has 46 carries, 185 yards, and 2 touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 126 yards. Five Tulane receivers have at least 20 catches this season. Van Hooser has 27 receptions, 383 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Shackleford has 27 catches, 366 yards, and a touchdown. Xavier Rush has 20 catches, 302 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Joe Kemp has 26 catches, 258 yards, and a touchdown. Kicker Cairo Santos is 27/28 on extra points and 10/15 on field goals with a long of 49 yards. Tulane has six players listed as questionable or out including 4 skill position players.

Tulane is 3-7 against the spread this season and  the total is 5-5 in those games. Houston is 7-2 ATS this season and the total is 6-3 in those games. Houston has covered the last 2 against Tulane. Tulane is 11-27 ATS overall, 11-29-1 at home, 13-39 in conference games, 16-36 on turf, 8-18 in November, 13-30 against teams with winning records, 7-18-1 as a home underdog, 3-8 as an underdog, and after a straight up loss of 20 points or more, 5-16 as an underdog of 10.5 points or more, 1-4 after allowing 40 points or more, 1-6 as a home underdog of 10.5 points or more, 1-12 following a cover, and 0-5 at home versus teams with winning road records. Houston is 4-0 ATS after scoring 40 points or more in the previous game, in conference games, as a favorite, after a straight up win and overall, 6-0 against teams with losing records, 13-3 as a favorite of 10.5 points or more, including 4-1 on the road, 4-9 in road games, 4-13 as a road favorite, 1-4 in November, and 1-8 on turf.

Houston will win this game easily unless the whole team gets drunk on Bourbon Street and forgets to go to the game. The only thing that worries me is Houston has a big game coming up next week against SMU and could overlook Tulane. I could see a back door cover with such a huge number for the Green Wave as Houston’s defense isn’t spectacular and gives up some points and yards.

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