SMU Mustangs at Houston Cougars Pick 10/24/19
SMU Mustangs (7-0) at Houston Cougars (3-4)
When: Thursday, October 24, 7:30 p.m EDT
Where: TDECU Stadium, Houston
Point Spread: SMU -13.5 (Bovada)
Total: O/U Off
Outlook For Week 9
The last time that SMU had reached these kinds of heights, the Star Wars franchise consisted of two movies. The Mustangs haven’t started 7-0 since 1982, and they are two wins short of reaching their best season since before the program got hit with the death penalty in 1987. The Mustangs are lighting up scoreboards as they used to years ago, and they’ve got a reasonable shot to host the American Athletic Conference title game, which would be a massive shot in the arm for their program.
Houston, on the other hand, is heading in the wrong direction for 2019 and has essentially waved the white flag on its season. D’Eriq King opted to redshirt and try again next year after the Cougars struggled to start the season, and the Cougars are not the same team without him. That was evident by how it needed to survive against Connecticut, usually a pushover opponent. A seven-point win wasn’t as bad as a loss would have been, but it’s still the kind of game that the Cougars could live without.
How the Public is Betting the SMU/Houston Game
The numbers for the total aren’t out yet, but the public is backing the Mustangs here, taking them from a spread 13 up to 13.5.
More Picks: USC at Colorado Spread Pick
Defensive tackle Harrison Loveless and linebacker Richard Moore are both out for the season with knee injuries.
Linebacker Terrance Edgeston is questionable with an ankle injury. Running back Patrick Carr missed the Cougars’ win over Connecticut with an undisclosed injury and is questionable, while quarterback Clayton Tune is questionable with a hamstring injury.
When SMU Has the Ball
This is not your grandfather’s Pony Express. SMU was a running team in the 1980s, but this version of SMU is a pass-first team that rides the arm of Shane Buechele to success. Buechele has two potent weapons at his disposal in Reggie Roberson and James Proche. Roberson is more of the big-play threat for the Mustangs, with 795 receiving yards, while Proche has caught 54 balls and eight touchdowns on the season. Either one is liable to take over the game, which is always within reach for the Mustangs’ offense. SMU has come back from a massive deficit before against Tulsa, and could easily do the same should it get off to a bad start here.
The run game is also a potent weapon for the Mustangs, as Xavier Jones has accounted for 12 touchdowns on the ground this season. He’s more likely to punch it in after a long pass than build a drive on his own, however.
When Houston Has the Ball
The loss of King to a redshirt might pay off down the road for Houston, but for the time being, it’s left the Cougars in a mess. Houston has to win three of its final five games just to make a bowl game, and it’s down to only one real option at quarterback in the coach’s son, Logan Holgorsen. The good news for the Cougars is that Holgorsen sees the game much better than the typical freshman given his experience as a coach’s son, but the bad news is that the Cougars are down to one real running threat at this point. With Patrick Carr banged up and King on the sidelines all season, Kyle Porter is the only real option the Cougars have on the ground, which made them much easier to defend for a weak Connecticut defense. With their lack of weapons at the moment, Houston is going to have a difficult time keeping up with the SMU offense. The Cougars are either going to have to string together a few long drives or get a lot of help from the defense.
SMU has been a cover machine this season, posting a 5-1 record ATS this year. The Mustangs also have a fine history on Thursday nights, having covered in five of their past six when playing on the non-traditional evening. But SMU has played the majority of those games as an underdog, as opposed to the favorite that traditionally struggles in these kinds of games. However, the Cougars might be the right opponent for this contest. They’re only 1-5 in their past six games against league foes, and they’ve failed to cover in six of their past seven against a team that’s above .500.
When they post the total, there’s a good chance it’s going to be high, as SMU has hit the over in its past six games. However, that might mean that it gets set too high, as Houston’s offense is likely to have trouble moving the ball, and the under has hit in five of the teams’ past six meetings in southeastern Texas.
Temperatures will hit around 79 degrees on Thursday, but a thunderstorm in the area could give the teams an additional challenge.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
SMU is liable to get picked off in a game that it shouldn’t lose, given that these are new heights for the Mustangs. But I just don’t see it against this Cougar team. If King were still calling signals for Houston, absolutely, but if King was calling signals, this line wouldn’t be 13.5 points. The Mustangs’ offense is potent, while the Cougars appear to be playing for next year.
The one worry I have with SMU is that a potential thunderstorm could slow down the offense. But as long as the weather stays decent, the Mustangs shouldn’t have any problems with a Houston defense that gives up 30.9 points per game. Give me SMU to win comfortably here.
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