New Mexico Bowl Pick: Hawaii vs. Houston

by | Dec 22, 2020 | cfb

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (4-4 SU, 3-5 ATS) vs. Houston Cougars (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS)

When: Thursday, December 24, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

TV: ESPN

Point Spread: HAW +13/HOU -13 (GTBets - 100% Bonus up to $500! This is a REAL CASH bonus! Not a cheesy match play!)

Total: O/U 59.5

Outlook

COVID changes things up again, as the New Mexico Bowl won’t be played in New Mexico at all. Instead, it’s been moved to a soccer stadium in northern Texas as a replacement for the Frisco Bowl, which was canceled when SMU got COVID. So yeah, this game is about as 2020 as it gets.

It’s hard to find a team that’s been more affected by COVID than Houston, which saw its first five games of the season canceled by the virus and has lost eight games to the virus overall. It’s quite frankly a miracle that the Cougars even managed to play seven games this season, and it’s little wonder that they’ve struggled to find much in the way of consistency.

On the other hand, Hawaii got off to a bit of a slow start under first-year coach Todd Graham, but the Rainbow Warriors eventually figured things out and became a tough out over the final month of the season. Hawaii only went 2-2 in its last four games, but the two losses were to Boise State and San Jose State, the two teams who competed in the Mountain West championship game. The Rainbow Warriors played both teams close, and unlike Houston, they haven’t had any interruptions in their season. Can their progress lead them to an upset of a team that’s been known to disappear in bowl games?

How the Public is Betting the Hawaii/Houston Game

The public and the money isn’t buying any kind of improvement from Hawaii, as 65 percent of the tickets have come in on the Cougars. Houston’s also getting the money, which has pushed the line from -11.5 to -13.

Injury Concerns

Hawaii:
Defensive back Eugene Ford (undisclosed) and offensive lineman Kohl Levao (leg) are out.

Houston:
Offensive lineman Payton Turner (personal), wide receiver Khiyon Wafer (shoulder), and linebacker Terrance Edgeston (undisclosed) are out. Linebacker Donovan Mutin (undisclosed) is questionable.

When Hawaii Has the Ball

Forget what you know about Hawaii being a pass-happy team. The days of “June Would Throw” are long over in Honolulu, and under Graham, Hawaii has become more of a defensive outfit that can move the ball a little at a time. With Chevan Cordeiro at quarterback, Hawaii does have a solid dual-threat, as Cordeiro leads the Rainbow Warriors in both passing and rushing yards and has scored seven touchdowns on the ground. However, Cordeiro has shown a tendency to turn the ball over a little too frequently, as he’s only tossed 11 touchdowns against six interceptions.

With how well Houston can cash in off turnovers, Cordeiro has to make sure that he’s taking care of the ball, and in this game, the Rainbow Warriors might have to take to the air. Houston has struggled at times against the powerful ground games in the American, but the Cougars also completely shut down a run-heavy Tulane squad that has since found its footing. With Calvin Turner more of a pass-catching back than a traditional grind-it-out runner, Hawaii would likely be better served with short passes and runs from Cordeiro.

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When Houston Has the Ball

The biggest thing for the Cougars is whether they’re actually going to show up for a change. One of the reasons that Dana Holgorsen got the Houston job in the first place was because of Major Applewhite’s inability to get the Cougars to show up for their bowl games. Under Applewhite’s leadership, Houston lost three straight bowls, with the last being a 70-14 humiliation against Army that earned Applewhite a request that he seek employment elsewhere. Of course, Holgorsen has had his own problems in the postseason, as he’s only 2-5 in bowl games and has lost on three consecutive trips to the postseason.

To avoid another bowl game failure, Houston needs Kyle Porter to step up in a big way. Porter has been through a rather pedestrian season so far, averaging just 4.1 yards per game, but he’s a fifth-year senior going up against one of the worst run defenses in the nation. Hawaii ranks 116th against the run and gives up 230 yards per game, which means an open invite to Houston to keep the ball on the ground. If the Cougars opt to throw instead, Keith Corbin and Nathaniel Dell have been fairly reliable at catching passes, with both averaging above 13 yards per catch. But when it comes to touchdowns, Marquez Stevenson has been the main man, scoring four on the season.

Betting Trends

December has been disastrous for Houston, as the Cougars have failed to cover in each of their past four contests in the final month of the year. However, Hawaii has also really struggled to get anything done in December, as the Rainbow Warriors have covered in just one of their past five games in December. Hawaii has also had a severe success allergy, as they’ve failed to cover the week after a straight-up win in all three such situations this year.

These teams are well known for producing many points in the postseason, and their reputation is well deserved. The total has gone over in four of the past five Houston bowl games, while Hawaii has seen it go over in three of four. These teams also met in a bowl once before (granted, this was back in 2003), and the result was a 54-48 triple-overtime thriller.

Weather Report

Wind could play a factor here, as these teams will battle gusts of up to 21 miles per hour and a sustained wind of 10 miles per hour blowing west-northwest. Temperatures will be pleasant, hitting 57 degrees.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

Hawaii’s been getting better since the start of the year, and Houston’s got an annoying tendency to just forget to show up in a minor bowl game like this one. The Cougars should be more focused than usual because they actually get the chance to play this game as scheduled (and it’s in their home state), but Hawaii’s a better team than people think, and I think they can stay in this game. I’ll take the Rainbow Warriors to stick close. Did you know that you could be wagering on football at reduced odds -105? You’re wasting money if you’re still laying -110! Start betting smarter today by signing up at BetAnySports! A better bookie!