Rolling the dice on the Houston Cougars in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl

This year, the Las Vegas Bowl is our favorite game to bet of the 2016-17 NCAA College Football Bowl season.  Like 2015, we will start the bowl season with our largest bet of the bowl season.  We placed our biggest bet of the 2015-16 bowl season on the San Diego State Aztecs in the Hawaii Bowl. The Aztecs easily won 42-7 over the Cincinnati Bearcats.  The set up for the Hawaii Bowl was one of the strongest we have seen in years.  Betting against Tuberville in a bowl is always a smart way to go, plus SDSU had key factors in its favor and dominated the game as we forecasted.  On December 17th 2016, the Houston Cougars will be our biggest bet of this year’s bowl season.

In an ironic twist, our bet will be on the Houston Cougars over the San Diego State Aztecs. Both teams were early candidates for the coveted Cotton Bowl spot, which was taken by the undefeated Western Michigan Broncos.  SDSU and UH failed to maintain their high expectations, even though they both started with wins against PAC 12 and BIG 12 schools, respectively.  Houston showed their first chink in the amour against Navy, while San Diego State lost to South Alabama as a 19-point road favorite.

Like most analysts, we look for an edge.  Which team is more motivated to be in this bowl and will play with the urgency to win?  This year that edge rests with the Houston Cougars.  One of the reasons is because of the talented roster of experienced athletes, no doubt that the Cougars can compete with anyone, just ask Bob Stoops.  San Diego State has a talented team too, although the quarterback advantage is solidly in the camp of the Cougars with Greg Ward, Jr. under center.

A key differential is the coaching situation.  Rocky Long has been a beast when it comes to winning games for us.  We have leaned on Rocky during his days in ABQ and Sunny San Diego.  His teams are well coached and fundamentally solid. In the meantime, Houston lost coach Tom Herman to University of Texas. So why would Houston have a coaching edge?  It is because the regents at the University of Houston moved quickly to name Major Applewhite as their new head coach, replacing the departed Herman.

Count us as fans of Major Applewhite.  While not physically imposing, Major was a much better quarterback than Chris Sims and could have lead the Longhorns to more victories.  Longhorn fans will remember how Sims seemed to always choke in the most important games of the year.  Major was always more fundamentally sound than Phil Sims’ son.  Applewhite was a winner as a college quarterback, as an offensive coordinator and he will be as the head coach of the Houston Cougars.  We think this was the best move for the program.  UH shot to the top of our list of bowl teams after it was made official with the announcement of Applewhite as their head coach.  Also, there was good news in hearing that Todd Orlando will stay as the Defensive Coordinator of the Cougars for the Las Vegas Bowl.  His defense is loaded with Upperclassmen and we liked hearing that he wanted to be in Las Vegas for their final collegiate football game.   After the game, he will catch a NetJet to Austin and join Herman to lead the Longhorns back to the glory days.

Our main concern with this bet is Donnel Pumphrey and that is quite a concern.  He should have been in the mix with Jackson and Watson for the Heisman Trophy.  Dude ran for over 2000 yards and got very little national press.  Pumphrey is, by far, the key factor in this game.  He will be playing his final college football game in his home town and down the road from Canyon Springs High School where he was Nevada’s Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year.  If this cat gets going, we could very well lose this bet.

Our analytics isolated a strong edge to the Houston Cougars rushing defense to negate Pumphrey.  This will be the best defense that the San Diego State Aztecs has faced in 2016.  We think the Cougars can make the Aztecs’ offense one dimensional and thereby limiting Pumphrey’s production.  Early points by Houston will be extremely important.  They must put SDSU in catch-up mode.  The Greg Ward, Jr. led offense of the Cougars should be able to move the ball and score on the Aztec defense.  This is another reason why maintaining Applewhite was pivotal to us betting large on Houston.

The blue print on how to defeat the Aztecs was drawn up by Colorado State a few weeks ago.  We think that Applewhite and Orlando will be applying a similar, albeit adjusted game plan, to defeat San Diego State.  Even though the game is closer in proximity to San Diego, we think that Houston fans might equal and possibly outnumber Aztec fans in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Add into the mix, Greg Ward, Jr.  The dynamic signal caller of the Houston Cougars is poised to have another solid game.  He has had time to heal the bumps and bruises of the regular season, plus he will be very motivated in his last college football game.  A stellar performance this Saturday and his draft stock will rise to place him in the 2nd round of next year’s NFL Draft.  Again, this is where maintaining the continuity of Applewhite on the sideline will benefit UH in this game.  Applewhite is the Offensive Coordinator of the Cougars and knows how to utilize the skill set of #1.

We like the fact that Orlando wanted to stay to coach his guys one last time.  He wanted the head coaching gig at Houston, but was 3rd on the list after Kiffin and Applewhite.  Kiffin was passed on for a few reasons, although he was still their top choice until the lawyers got involved.

Like we said, the Houston Cougars bolted to the top of the bowl list because Applewhite was chosen over all the other candidates for the job.  He had 2 days of recruiting distraction to deal with until being freed to prepare and focus on the Aztecs.

We like the Houston Cougars to win the game, but we don’t want to touch the -3 or -3.5 pointspread and get beat with the dreaded backdoor cover  We bet the Cougars -165 on the moneyline last Saturday afternoon at Westgate and Station Casinos.  The good news was that Station Casinos bumped the line to -170 right after we placed our bet.  We aren’t the largest gamblers in town, but we impact the betting line many times.  Plus, the staff at Vegas Sports loves seeing the line move right after our bet is placed.  This tends to be a positive indicator that we are on the winning side of the action.

#HTownTakeover has hit the Vegas Strip and our cash is going along for the ride.

Bet the Houston Cougars this Saturday to win over the San Diego State Aztecs in the 25th Las Vegas Bowl.