Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune had four passes picked off in Houston’s season opener against Texas Tech, and a hamstring issue sustained against Rice lingered against Grambling State.
However, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior appears to have no side issues now. For him, the timing could not be better since Tulane’s passing defense should allow him to throw for big numbers before a national ESPN television audience.
Houston Cougars (4-1)
Tune is completing 71.3% of his attempts, 11th in the nation, after three seasons in the 50s in his Houston career.
And along comes the Green Wave defense, which has been allowing opponents to complete 70.9% of their passes. Only eight defenses are more porous against the pass in college football.
Tulane yields 45.2 points (fifth-worst) and 547 yards (fourth-worst) a game, and foes’ 0.557 points per play is No. 122 among the 130 FBS programs.
Yards per pass, passing yard per game, and the other guys’ fourth-down success rate of 84.6% are additional Green Wave stats that rank in the game’s basement.
At this very second, Tune must be reviewing those figures and smiling. The Cougars are very balanced, running on 48.9% of their plays and passing 51.1% of the time.
At least on an end-of-summer depth chart, it appears true freshman Alton McCaskill (6-1, 200) was as low as sixth among Cougars tailbacks. But he has become a force, running 68 times for 310 yards and 7 TDs, and catching 11 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
McCaskill has provided immediate dividends to third-year coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. Kudos to them and their recruiting system.
These Cougars, however, like to fly. Fourth-year junior Nathaniel Dell—who covers 40 yards in a swift 4.46 seconds—has nabbed 31 of Tune’s passes for 424 yards, a 13.7 average that will be a regular threat to the Green Wave secondary.
Tight end Christian Trahan (15 receptions, 178 yards) is Tune’s next-favorite target. Jeremy Singleton (20.2-yard average), Peyton Sawyer (14.5), Jake Herglow (11) and converted cornerback Marcus Jones (10.9) will also test Tulane.
Houston At Tulane Full Sportsbook Odds
Tulane Green Wave (1-4)
The problems for the Wave are manifold. It’s going up against one of only six programs that is in the top 23 in both offensive and defensive scoring.
Houston averages 34.5 points on offense, 21st in the country. And it allows a paltry 18.8 on defense, No. 23 in the nation.
Tulane allowed 40 points at Oklahoma, 61 at Ole Miss and 52 at East Carolina, and none of them can boast of Houston’s credentials on both sides of the ball.
Worse, the Wave is sloppy, averaging 3 giveaways per game. Only three teams hand it over at a higher clip.
Sophomore quarterback Michael Pratt (6-2, 200) has had to scamper 10 times per game, averaging barely two yards a run—although he has scored four TDs by ground.
He’s thrown for 1,159 yards and 11 TDs, but five passes have been picked off and he has fumbled it away four times.
Senior tight end Tyrick James (6-2, 250) is a high-value target, with 19 receptions for 289 yards, a 15.2 average.
Tulane also features one of our favorite names in college sports, Phat Watts, who averages 13.7 yards a catch. Little brother Deuce averages 20 per reception. Jaetavian Toles has caught 14 passes for 214 yards, a 15.3 average.
Tulane, though, is destined for mediocrity. It last shined in 1998, under Tommy Bowden, when it went 12-0. With Shaun King at QB, it beat BYU, 41-27, in the Liberty Bowl to finish seventh in the nation.
This probably won’t be pretty, or quick. Houston and Tulane likely will have 10 penalties called on them apiece Thursday night. It’ll be a longer evening for the Green Wave, which is 1-4 against the number.
Houston is 3-2 ATS, covering once by 29.5 points and another by 38.
Sports Betting Recommendation
This one opened at Houston -3 and eked out to 6 within 24 hours. It caught our attention, during a thorough review of every game, with so much in the Cougars’ favor.
The two models we trust most have Houston winning 40-23 and 33-23. Do they bolt out to a big lead, then coast and win by more than a TD, allowing Tulane to at least make it respectable? Likely. Giving less than seven points appears to be wise.