A Closer Look At The Cardinals at Cougars NCAA Football Winning PredictionsWhen: Thursday, November 17
Where: TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX
NCAAF Odds: Houston -2.5
Bet The Louisville Cardinals a +2.5 Because…Because they have a dangerous dual-threat signal-caller and a very good head coach even if he isn’t liked by all – or many – for that matter! Not only did Louisville Cardinals close out the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games, but the Cardinals also found out they have a seriously gifted dual-threat signal-caller in quarterback Lamar Jackson. A player that set a Music City Bowl record by rushing for a mind-boggling 226 yards while tossing two TD passes.
The Cardinals return a whopping 10 starters from last year’s squad ad have a ton of talent at the skill positions, not to mention a now experienced offensive line after relying on a pair of true freshmen last season. Louisville was also very god defensively in 2015 as the Cardinals ranked a stellar 17th in total defense and 39th in points allowed (24.0 ppg).
Three of Louisville’s top four tacklers a year ago are back, including linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields and hard-hitting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. Louisville recorded an impressive 26 turnovers last season and could force even more from their opponents in 2016.
Bet The Houston Cougars at -2.5 Because…The Cougars are as explosive as any team in the country offensively and way better than you might think defensively, not to mention, playing at home. Houston (13-1 SU, 9-5 ATS) was downright explosive on offense in Year 1 of the Tom Herman era as they ranked 20th in total offense (484.5 ypg) and 10th in scoring (40.4 ppg). The Cougars lost two starters on the offensive line and its leading receiver from a year ago, but Tom Herman has seven returning starters, including gifted dual-threat senior signal-caller Greg Ward Jr. Ward Jr. had an absolutely jaw-dropping campaign in 2015 and joined Clemson’s Watson as the only two quarterbacks in the country to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last season.
The Cougars should also get a big-time boost in the rushing attack as highly-rated recruit Duke Catalon takes the field for the first time after transferring from Texas. Despite losing two starters on the offensive line, the Cougars appear well capable of replacing them. Na’Ty Rodgers, a top-10 junior college recruit, takes over at the all-important left tackle while youngsters Josh Jones and Alex Fontana will battle for the starting spot at right tackle.
The Cougars ranked a respectable 53rd in total defense (383.5 ypg) and impressive 20th in points allowed (20.7 ppg) but have just six returning starters. Houston lost a whopping four defensive backs from their 2015 team, including talented cornerback William Jackson III and leading tackler Elandon Roberts, a player that Herman and many others believe was the heart and soul of the defense.
Safeties Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart and their 26 combined interceptions the past three seasons are all gone, so Herman has his work cut out in shoring up his secondary. At linebacker, Steven Taylor, (10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss) will be back lead a solid unit that lost just one starter.
As far as the defensive line is concerned, the Cougars return experience in the forms of Cameron Malveaux, B.J. Singleton and Nick Thurman, but it is top-10 national recruit Ed Oliver, a player that picked Houston over LSU and Texas, that the Cougars are hoping turn into a star. The Cougars also got some good news when defensive coordinator Todd Orlando agreed to a new deal to return after reportedly being wooed by Wisconsin in the offseason.
Expert Pick & Final Score PredictionWhile I really like Louisville and young quarterback Lamar Jackson heading into the 2016 season, I like David Ward Jr. and the Houston cougars even more and I genuinely believe they could reach the four-team CFB Playoff this coming season. The Cougars narrowly got past Louisville in its 34-31 road win as a 13.5-point road dog a year ago and look like a great pick to get the home win and ATS cover against a point spread that is perfectly set up for them to cover.
Tom Herman is making no secret about his desire to see his team get the same treatment as other elite programs and suddenly, he’s looking like he’s got a very legitimate point. The Cougars have covered the spread in two straight against the Cardinals while going 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games. Louisville went 3-3 ATS on the road in 2015 and a solid 3-1 ATS as an underdog, but I like Houston to bring home the bacon in a thriller!