Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners, Picks, Predictions (9/3/22)

UTSA is a proud football program. San Antonio is going to be bumping as they host Dana Holgerson and Houston in an interstate battle.

It’s probably why the line has already moved two points in UTSA’s direction since open.

But I’m starting to get weary about how low this line is. Houston is the clear-cut favorite to win the AAC, while UTSA has plenty of production to replace following a Conference-USA championship and a Frisco Bowl loss.

Which team has the edge?

Read on for our Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners odds, picks, and predictions.

Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners

As mentioned, UTSA opened around six-point home dogs but the line was quickly bet down. We’re getting close to a +3.5 popping up across the market.

Even more interesting, however, is that it’s all reverse line movement. Houston has taken all the money, including over 80% of the tickets and handle.

That means we’re getting smart money here. That, or books are begging you to take Houston.

The total feels high at 62, especially considering UTSA’s defensive prowess. That number has been bet way up, however, from the opener of 59.5.

Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners Prediction & Pick

There are a lot of different storylines to break down here. I’m just going to list them all in a knee-jerk reaction, bullet-point format until we get a better grip.

  • Houston has continuity, returning its head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator. All have held their position for at least three years. That’s a big bump.
  • Houston’s offensive line is an issue. They have just two returning starters with 65 career starts. They added Lance Robinson from Middle Tennessee and Tyler Johnson from Texas, but there still isn’t much depth. How will that affect Clayton Tune?
  • UTSA returns plenty in the front seven, including five of their top seven defensive lineman – including the addition of a Washington State transfer. Overall, UTSA brought back six of its top eight tacklers.
  • UTSA had tons of turnover in the secondary. They added true talent but are now much younger and less experienced. This group has a high upside but a low floor, but anything is better than last year’s group that finished 80th in Passing Success Rate allowed and 105th in Passing Explosiveness Allowed.
  • UTSA’s offensive line has a high ceiling, but how will they bounce back without Sincere McCormick? There are also two new names in the coaching room with co-offensive coordinators Matt Mattox and Will Stein. Although I expect the coaching turnover to be limited considering Jeff Traylor’s head coaching ability.

What does this all mean?

It means there’s a lot to learn. Tune will have the opportunity to cook UTSA’s secondary, especially with his biggest weapon back in Tank Dell. But the Houston offensive line will have to prove itself against an experienced and likely stout UTSA front seven. Remember, six of the top eight tacklers are back in San Antonio.

On the opposite side, where does UTSA go offensively? I doubt there’s a scheme change, but there has to be some kind of shift with McCormick gone and two new offensive coordinators.

Luckily, Frank Harris is back. He’s become Conference-USA’s best quarterback, combining his athleticism (700 rush yards, six rush TDs, 5.2 YPC) with an uber-accurate arm (66.1% completion, 3100 yards, 27:6 TD-to-INT ratio). He was PFF’s 27th-ranked FBS quarterback this season, and he could take a leap in his senior year.

Plus, Harris gets back six of his top seven pass-catchers from last season.

I think this game sets up perfectly for UTSA. A proud Group of Five school with a great run game catching a sharp number in a home opener, especially against a coach who can put up letdown games like no other.

But this line is too low. If UTSA was closer to a touchdown underdog, I’d be all over them. But Doug Belk’s defense is laying only four points against a Conference-USA team. The Cougars also return 10 of the top 12 defensive linemen from a group that’s being called “Sack Avenue”.

I project this number around Houston -7.5. I’m going to lay four points.

Houston Cougars vs UTSA Roadrunners Key Matchups

Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Houston vs UTSA below.

Key Matchup No. 1: Clayton Tune vs a Young UTSA Secondary

As mentioned, UTSA has a talent-filled secondary but they are all so inexperienced. There are some big-time transfers – post-hype buy guys – but how will the pieces all mesh?

Tune is an elite quarterback, finishing fifth in PFF’s quarterback grades last season. He also has elite weapons at his disposal. But can he overcome a lesser offensive line and cook in the season opener?

He did on this throw.

So, I’m leaning toward yes. But this matchup will tell us a lot about both sides.

Key Matchup No. 2: Houston’s Offensive Line vs UTSA’s Defensive Line

Adding on that, how will Houston’s mix-and-match line fare against UTSA’s defensive line?

It’s not the biggest test that Houston will face all season, but it’s an important one. Good football teams are built from the inside out, and Houston has holes in that basic dynamic.

If Houston can’t get a push here, it could be a long-and-disastrous season for Holgerson.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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