Memphis Tigers (5-1 SU, 2-3-1 ATS) vs. Houston Cougars (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MEM +3/HOU -3
Over/Under Total: 61.5
The Memphis Tigers come to TDECU Stadium for a week 8 AAC matchup with the Houston Cougars. Memphis scored their second win over a ranked opponent this year when they were the first team to beat Navy on Saturday, 30-27. They look to carry that momentum to big things, but first face a tricky road challenge with a dangerous Houston bunch. On Saturday, Houston produced a dud, losing 45-17 to Tulsa as two-touchdown favorites. At 4-2, they look for a positive development and a win over Memphis would definitely help.
Houston is in a bit of a transition, trying to make up for the loss of longtime starting QB Greg Ward, Jr. They looked good getting off to a 2-0 start this season. A loss to Texas Tech cooled their jets, but two straight wins looked to have them in position to pounce on what looked like an easy win against the one-win Golden Hurricane. To lose is one thing, but to get manhandled in a 4-touchdown loss and make an utter mockery of the point spread was hard to watch. The offense turned the ball over, while the D gave up huge chunks of yardage on the ground in what qualifies as a really awful performance for the Cougars in week 7.
Houston quarterback Kyle Postma is no Ward, Jr., but he can get this offense moving more often than not. Turnovers have become a bigger part of his profile recently and he has more picks that TD throws. He is accurate, however, and can manage this offense pretty well when hes on. Coming out of the backfield is a nice RB-combo with Duke Catalon and Dillon Birden. The two have scored eight combined touchdowns this season. And some of the receiving talent from the recent past remains with DEriq King, Linell Bonner, and Steven Dunbar. Its not the offense we have seen in recent seasons, but there are still weapons that can be put to good use on this side of the ball.
The amount of offense that Houston yielded to Tulsa on Saturday was a bit out of character for this seasons squad, though they are a readily-exploitable group when facing talented offenses like the one they will see at home this week. They have been somewhat-robust, but against offenses that were mediocre at best. They can apply a decent pass-rush and on Sunday, Ed Oliver and Nick Thurman effectively rushed the passer. CB Jeremy Winchester had a pick and DJuan Hines was active on the second level. But when your team is favored by 14 points and you lose by 28, its not time to issue praise.
Memphis is a tough squad and on a given day, they can really be a handful. Both sides of the ball were key in beating an undefeated Navy team. Tigers QB Riley Ferguson tossed three touchdown passes, while the defense had five turnovers on the day. Their only setback on the season was a road loss to Central Florida. But they already beat UCLA this season and have become quite adept at scoring big wins the last few seasons. The offense looks to be hitting its high notes and after putting 70 points up the previous week to UConn, their offense was again on-point on Saturday. When the offense is clicking like this, it helps camouflage some of the issues on defense. At the same time, the porosity on that side of the ball looms as a constant threat to throw games and point spreads into a quandary.
Ferguson threw for three touchdowns on Saturday along with 279 yards. He has 19 TD passes on the season and his infusion into this offense over the last two seasons has helped take the Tigers offense to the next level. They have multiple dimensions and on Saturday, running back Darrell Henderson had a big game with 94 yards on the ground and a TD reception. WR Anthony Miller caught two touchdown passes and with guys like Phil Mayhue, Sean Dykes, and Tony Pollard, there are a lot of weapons with which Ferguson can put to good use. The line is pretty serviceable by AAC standards and did a good job keeping Navy defenders off of Ferguson on Saturday.
Again, the Memphis defense is the tipping point. When the offense is really cooking or against the right non-passing opponent like Navy, their shortcomings wont be so apparent. They made nice plays on Saturday. LB Austin Hall had two picks, including a key late one. Linebackers Genard Avery and Curtis Akins were big, as well. The 27 points given up to Navy was actually a low on the season for this D. And Houston has enough of an aerial flair to arouse concern for potential Memphis backers in this matchup. They are going to give up points, but to what extent is the key of getting this game right.
This is not an easy road spot for Memphis and in their only other demanding road spot this season, they were issued a sound beating by Central Florida. The win over Navy should energize them for the second-half of the season and I see their offense giving Houston a lot of issues. In last seasons matchup, Ferguson was able to lead the Tigers to a win after hitting top target Miller for a TD late to take the 48-44 win. On Thursday, I see Memphis getting some big things done again late to emerge with the cover.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Memphis Tigers plus 3 points. Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% bonus (Deposit $100, get $100 FREE!)at the web’s oldest sportsbook: Intertops!