College Football Odds: UTEP visits Houston

By: Jimmy Sirody | Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Case Keenum

Case Keenum and the Cougars are favored by 16 ½ points at home.

Immediately after toppling Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to surge into the national spotlight, Houston was a sieve against UTEP last year, giving up 58 points and 305 yards on the ground. (The Miners had tallied nine total rushing yards against Texas one week earlier).

Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin contends that Friday night’s rematch between these Conference USA rivals at Robertson Stadium has nothing to do with revenge. Be that as it may, Houston sure has a penchant for winning games against teams that beat them within the last season.

The Cougars have won their past five ‘payback’ games by an average score of 52.6-26.2 in the Sumlin era.

Most offshore books opened Houston as 16 ½-point college football spread favorites, with the ‘total’ set at 75.

There are two sides to every college football game, and Houston pretty much has the offensive part figured out. Led by Case Keenum’s 70 percent completion rate and a blistering tempo that prefers to snap the ball with 20 seconds left on the play clock, the Cougars ranked first last season in several major offensive categories: points per game (42), total yards per game (563), touchdowns (77) and first downs per game (30).

Houston didn’t have too many kinks to work out in their 68-28 season opening win last week over FBS foe Texas State.

Keenum played just one half but still managed 274 passing yards and threw five touchdown passes, and the Cougars were up 68-7 before Texas State tacked on three touchdowns at the end of the game to cut the final margin to a deceiving 40 points.

The offense is still what makes the Miners a dangerous team. However, that danger is lessened without Donald Buckram. The senior running back missed the season opener and is listed as questionable for Friday night’s showdown.

Houston won’t soon forget that Buckram went off for 262 yards rushing and four touchdowns to key the upset last year and is preparing for UTEP to be at full strength, including having the services of Buckram.

Without their star running back, the Miners rushed for 234 yards in a 31-10 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Between the tackles slasher Joe Banyard picked up 94 yards in 19 carries. Scatback Vernon Frazier broke off TD runs of 35 and 28 yards on the way to finishing with 89 in only six carries.

Senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe played a significant role against the Cougars a year ago, completing 19 of 30 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Vittatoe averaged 3,228 yards in his first three seasons at UTEP, which puts him on a pace to finish ninth in NCAA history.

The Miners have an all-senior starting offensive line that averages 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds. Are the Cougars better equipped up front with their new 3-4 defense to handle UTEP’s running game?

Houston fans know the Cougars do not need to be on the field long to score 50 points and it is unlikely that the Miners can keep up offensively and find a way to stop Keenum defensively.

UH has outgained UTEP by 162 yards per game the last four years. However, the Cougars are just 12-16 as double-digit conference favorites, while the Miners have cashed 15 of 24 in that role and 14 of 21 as road dogs overall under coach Mike Price.

UTEP has come up short in four of its last five ATS on the highway and it is just 10-24-1 ATS away from home in August/September since 1991. Houston has grabbed the cheese in nine of its last dozen at Robertson Stadium.

These schools have averaged 76 points per game in conference meetings.

The Miners have topped the college football betting 'total in nine of their last 12 on the road and in 10 of 13 off a SU win. The Cougars have jumped the number in seven of their last nine in September and in eight of nine following a SU win by 20 points or more.

 
 
 
 
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