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Houston Cougars Betting Predictions – Despite Losses, Cougars Could Wind Up With C-USA Title

Posted by Blake Frazier on 8/1/2012 6:04:20 PM

Online betting players didn’t expect Houston to play for the national title even if they had beat Southern Miss in the Conference-USA title game, but the Cougars’ 13-1 season is still something to be proud of. Head coach Kevin Sumlin left, as did their record-setting quarterback, but Houston could still end up with the conference title in their final year with the C-USA and they wouldn’t be a bad wager to do so.

Head Coach: Tony Levine (1st year)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Nesbitt
Defensive Coordinator: Jamie Bryant
Stadium: Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX
Capacity: 32,000
National Championships: 0

Offense

What happens after you lose a quarterback like Case Keenum, who shattered NCAA passing records across the board, although that was over six years as he suffered injuries that gave him more time at Houston. David Piland is the man in control now, but he saw a lot of time at the helm in 2010 when Keenum was recovering from a knee injury, so it’s not like he is brand new. Speaking of new, coordinator Mike Nesbitt has run a version of Houston’s high-flying offense in the past, which is why he was brought in, so there shouldn’t be a big difference in terms of a system. Piland should be used to most of the plays and formations that he’ll see, but fans shouldn’t expect him to put up numbers like Keenum did (although Houston does have a knack for churning out passes with gaudy stats). Another encouraging sign is that four starts are back on a line that was 32nd in sacks allowed.

However, there is going to be a step backwards for an offense that was first in the nation; Houston’s top four receivers are gone, as are two of the top three running backs, although Charles Sims should help in the backfield. It may take a few games for the Houston offense to get going.

Grade: C

Defense

Houston’s college football betting hopes in 2011 were boosted by a defense that forced 31 turnovers to negate their 62nd-ranked unit in total defense; the Cougars were only 35th in points allowed. Like the offense, the defense has a new coordinator in Jamie Bryant, who turned Vanderbilt into a top-20 defense after they were 93rd before he got there, and he is installing a 4-3 defense just as the team was getting used to a 3-4 by the previous regime. The linebackers will lead the group, led by Derrick Matthews and Phillip Stewart and three of the four secondary starters are back as well.

The only question comes from the pass rush after Sammy Brown left and took his 13.5 sacks with him, and now the Cougars have to find a way to generate a rush to take some of the pressure off the defensive backs.

Grade: C

Special Teams

Houston will have both their kicker (Matt Hogan) and punter (Richie Leone) from 2011 back in the lineup and they’ll be even more important than last season, especially Hogan as the offense will need to pick up points whenever they can. Leone will be useful in the battle for field position.

The Cougars will have to find a new return man with Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards gone, so that will be a spot to watch before the season starts.

Grade: C

Prediction

Houston’s college football betting odds have them at +450 to win the Conference-USA title, just behind Central Florida, who may not be able to even play in the postseason because of NCAA violations, so the Cougars could steal the championship in their final year before heading to the Big East. The Cougars aren’t going to be the well-oiled machine that they were under Keenum, but Piland knows what he’s doing and the Cougars have an opportunity to come out of nowhere to win the C-USA crown, making them a decent sports betting option in 2012.

2012 Schedule

September 1st – vs. Texas State (8:00 PM ET)
September 8th – vs. Louisiana Tech (8:00 PM ET)
September 15th – at UCLA (10:30 PM ET)
September 29th – vs. Rice (in Houston at Reliant Stadium) (2:30 PM ET)
October 6th – vs. North Texas (7:00 PM ET)
October 13th – vs. UAB (8:00 PM ET)
October 18th – at SMU (8:00 PM ET)
October 27th – vs. UTEP (4:15 PM ET)
November 3rd – at East Carolina (TBD)
November 10th – vs. Tulsa (5:00 PM ET)
November 17th – at Marshall (12:00 PM ET)
November 24th – vs. Tulane (TBD)

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