Las Vegas Bowl Pick
San Diego State
After beating Oklahoma in the opener, this isn’t quite the bowl Game that Houston expected to be in. The Cougars get to face Mountain West champion San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Houston is a -3.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
Given the above information, this seems like the perfect spot for San Diego State. The Cougars not only finished with three losses in the AAC and didn’t even make the AAC title Game with multiple uninspiring road appearances, but they also won’t have their coach. Tom Herman is gone to Texas with defensive coordinator Todd Orlando stepping in to be the interim coach for the bowl Game. After having higher hopes this season and with a new coach, how motivated will the Cougars be after already beating higher ranked teams Oklahoma and Louisville?
On the other side of that, San Diego State has been a hard to read as well. The Aztecs were dominating the MWC before losing their final two Games of the regular season before beating Wyoming in the title Game. Their non-Conference slate wasn’t all that difficult and they also had a bad loss at South Alabama early on. While the Aztecs have allowed just 21 points per Game all season, most of that success has come against bad MWC offenses.
Houston does not have a bad offense. Even with Herman gone, the Cougars should still move the ball freely on the offensive side. However, it can’t be overlooked that they’ve lost their last three road Games.
Either way, SDSU hasn’t seen a quarterback like Greg Ward Jr. all season. Ward is completing 67.6% of his passes while also leading the team with 518 rushing yards and nine rushing TDs. But again, this team has been hit-and-miss. OUtside of that Louisville Game, Houston hasn’t done much to impress. They just lost at Memphis and in their previous wins, Ward threw three picks vs. UCF and finished with negative rushing yards against Tulane. Houston will Scorein this Game, but maybe not like some people think.
And on the other side, what defense will show up for the Cougars? The one that stopped Louisville to 10 points, or the one that allowed 48 to Memphis? They have one of the best run defenses in the country, but will they be able to stop one of the best running backs?
Donnel Pumphrey (2,018 yards, 16 TDs) is inching closer to the all-time FBS list in rushing yards, now just 107 yards behind Ron Dayne. Houston’s defense can be elite, but they can also give up points to mediocre teams. Will Todd Orlando as interim coach change things?
In addition to Pumphrey, the Aztecs also have Rashaad Penny, who’s averaging 7.9 yards per carry and is maybe more electric than Pumphrey. This offense works because Christian Chapman doesn’t turn the ball over often, only with six interceptions on the season. If Houston scores, he may be asked to do more and that could be an issue. Chapman hasn’t thrown for more than 215 yards since the opening Game against New Hampshire.
Motivation is a question for Houston with a new coach and disappointing bowl Game. Will that show up against the Aztecs, who should be plenty motivated to beat a team that took down Oklahoma and Louisville this season?
The Cougars are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 neutral-site Games, but 1-6 ATS in their last seven overall. The Aztecs are 4-1 ATS in their last five following a straight-up win, but just 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 non-Conference Games and 0-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Our Pick – San Diego St is the clear choice for us here. We mentioned the potential motivational issues above. Also, gotta love the Aztecs Turnover ratio of +10, among the best in the nation. But more importantly, when we run this Game through Our model using only the last 7 Games of the season, the model says flip a coin as far as the outcome. Add it all together and we’ll take any points available with the dog which in this case is +3.5. San Diego State +3.5