Temple at Houston
Saturday, 9 am PT - ABC
CRIS Opener: Houston -6.5 O/U 57
CRIS Current: Houston -5.5 O/U 54.5
Houston played a near perfect game last Friday against Navy; executing brilliantly on both sides of the football. QB Greg Ward, who had been banged up, on the field for only a single series the previous week in a loss at UConn, played the game of his life. Houston converted on 16 of their 19 third down tries, while going 2-for-2 on fourth down, thanks to one perfectly placed pass after the next from the junior converted wide receiver. Ward finished the game 26-for-35 for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and he scampered for 83 more yards on the ground. The Cougars didn’t commit a single turnover and they scored touchdowns on seven of their nine possessions.
That ain’t gonna happen this week; not against Temple’s stout stop unit. Navy’s effort was there last week, but their talent level, team speed and execution were not. Temple has no issues whatsoever in any of those three areas. The Owls have a Top 20 defense in both yards and points allowed. That stop unit has stepped up in class extremely well, shutting down the likes of Penn State, Cincinnati, Memphis and even Notre Dame.
The Owls defense got worn down following their tough, physical, spread covering four point loss to the Fighting Irish. Their next two games were their two worst defensive games of the season, torched by SMU’s passing game (Temple still won by 20) and USF’s power rushing attack. But in two games since that loss to South Florida, the Owls have bounced back strong. Temple allowed only 15 combined points while holding Memphis to 13 first downs and UConn – the same UConn team that beat Houston the previous week – to nine first downs; both completely dominating defensive efforts.
Houston hasn’t seen many good defenses this year. Don’t be fooled by the 34 points they hung on Vanderbilt. The Cougars four touchdowns came on an interception return and drives of five, twelve and 36 yards all following Vandy turnovers. It was a similar story against Memphis, the only other decent defense that Houston has seen all year, where the Cougars were held to 14 points into the fourth quarter until a wild, late rally against a tiring Tigers stop unit.
Temple’s defense hasn’t tired in the fourth quarter all year. And their offense has been consistently underrated following a sluggish start to the season. Junior QB PJ Walker has avoided mistakes like the plague, throwing only six interceptions all year. RB Jahad Thomas has 17 rushing TDs. Nine different receivers have caught at least one touchdown pass. This is a surprisingly potent attack, capable of trading points even with a good offensive team like the Cougs.
Matt Rhule’s team has been an undervalued commodity from Day 1 this year, going 9-3 against the spread including a 5-0 ATS mark when catching points as an underdog. Houston had a national TV win last week in which they looked fantastic from start to finish. Put those two factors together with the analysis above, and there’s a legitimate case to be made for Temple here in a game where my power rating pointspread has the Cougars favored by only a field goal.