ULL Vs. Houston Predictions, Picks, Odds For Independence Bowl (12/23/22)
As we near the holidays, we are given another daytime bowl game to distract ourselves at work this Friday. With two games on deck, we start the day with the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns going against the Houston Cougars. ULL comes in as a sizable underdog, but they may be poised for a better shot at the upset than the number implies. Can Houston avoid the upset and end their season on a high note?
ULL Vs. Houston Odds
Oddsmakers lean towards Houston’s favor in ending the season with a win, opening the Cougars at -3.5. Bettors are in agreement, hammering Houston up to the key number of -7. This movement is heavily correlated with the rumors of stud receiver Nathaniel Dell opting in to play after initially indicating he would not play. This would give Houston’s offense an immediate boost as Dell nearly tripled the next man up in receptions.
As for the total, points were expected to be scored in a flash as oddsmakers opened the number at 59.5. Even with the rumors swirling towards Houston retaining their main offensive identity, bettors have been in disagreement by taking the under to as low as 57. Even with Bell back, ULL has an elite secondary that is more than capable of limiting the high-flying Houston Cougars offense.
ULL Vs. Houston Prediction & Pick
The Pick: ULL +7
It’s never easy to go against the heavy steam, but that is exactly what I am doing by backing ULL at the number. Especially since it hit the key number of +7, a number I did not think it would touch. Even with the potential return of Dell at wideout, ULL has the ability to slow down the Houston pass attack by ranking top-20 in Def Coverage and 33rd in Def Pass Success Rate.
Their ability to limit the pass is the key metric behind this wager as Houston’s offensive success has lived and died through the air. While it started off very sluggish at the start of the year, they turned it around and finished with impressive metrics that resulted in a 12th ranked Off Pass Success Rate.
Their elite Coverage rate will also be in the spotlight for when ULL is backed up past the 40 yard line. ULL will need every possession that they can get while minimizing Houston’s scoring opportunities. Even though Houston has the advantage in Finishing Drives, they lack a run game and will be proven tough to find gaps in the defense as the field shrinks for their wideouts to create space.
A bonus nugget worth noting as well, Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen has not fared well in bowl play as he has gone 2-7 ATS in postseason play. He has already been vocal about turning his attention to recruiting and the transfer portal, potentially hurting the team’s motivation and on field success for this matchup.
ULL Vs. Houston Key Matchups
Can ULL find offensive success to keep scoring pace with Houston? Can either team find success on the ground?
ULL pass attack vs Houston pass defense
It has been pretty by any means, but ULL’s pass attack has been just good enough to at least get them to the postseason. It’s a miracle they made it this far alone with their pass ranks, ranking 107th in Off Pass Success Rate and 109th in PPA.
Still, they lean towards the pass and it got them to this point. They are still without quarterback Ben Wooldridge, who has been ruled out for the season, and have been led by Chandler Fields during his absence.
Fields has been modest during his stint, throwing for 954 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He gets a prime opportunity to show out in the last game of the year as Houston ranks near dead last in Def Pass Success Rate and Def Pass Explosiveness.
Battle on the ground
With Bell potentially returning for Houston’s last game, and ULL failing to field any successful type of runner, we are in for an air-heavy game script.
ULL especially, as no one on their roster managed to crack 600 rushing yards on the season. They would be wise to try and find diversity on the ground, catching the second level by surprise as Houston already struggles to contain explosive plays.
If Chris Smith can carve a role into the offense, this will only help Fields find more success through the air for ULL to sustain drives down the field.
Take ULL at the key number of +7 or higher in what will be an ugly defensive slugfest.