Houston vs SMU Odds & Prediction: The Moneyline Bet to Make
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Image. Pictured: Clayton Tune (Houston)
- The Houston Cougars head to Dallas on Saturday night to take on the SMU Mustangs in an AAC clash.
- Odds are moving toward the Mustangs, who enter this matchup as a short 3.5-point favorite.
- Read on for Dan Keegan's top betting pick and preview for Houston vs SMU.
Houston vs SMU Odds
Houston heads to SMU as slight underdogs with a chance to continue its recent hot streak. After a few early-season hiccups, the Cougars have dominated Navy and USF after their bye week, but now face a stiffer test.
The Mustangs have taken care of business against weaker foes and have fallen to their better opponents. This represents their first true test against a team playing at a very similar level.
And these two teams are similar, indeed. Both rely on veteran quarterbacks to sling the ball around and both have forgiving defenses. This game could be an all-out shootout.
Should you take the over, or is there a side with an advantage in this in-state matchup? Let’s dive into the numbers.
The theme for Houston this season has been slow starts and then furious rallies. This is how the Cougars won games over UTSA, Rice and Memphis, but their slow starts couldn’t be overcome in losses to Texas Tech, Kansas and Tulane.
So, one of the preseason favorites for the American hit the bye week with a disappointing 3-3 record, and searched for answers after that slow start.
And you guessed it, the answer has been a furious rally, as the Cougars crushed Navy and USF in back-to-back weeks after the break.
They’ll look to keep that rally going and climb back into the AAC picture.
Quarterback Clayton Tune has been the man of the hour during this hot streak, throwing nine touchdowns and no picks in the two wins after the break. On the season, he has completed 68% of his passes for 2,208 yards and 21 touchdowns to four interceptions.
His receiver corps was a one-man show earlier in the year — slot receiver Tank Dell is a bona fide star — but the offense has reached a new gear with the midseason emergence of other weapons (KeSean Carter and Sam Brown).
Houston is much stronger passing the ball (18th in EPA/Pass) than rushing (62nd). As such, the Cougars have a very low Rush Rate and will sling the ball all over the yard against an SMU defense that ranks 110th in EPA.
The Houston defense is mostly middle of the pack in FBS, but it has one great area — it has a ferocious pass rush. This gives the Cougars a huge Havoc advantage in this game; they rank 21st in creating Havoc, while SMU is 66th in preventing it.
A few big plays or turnovers will go a long way in a close matchup.
SMU has good pass protection, but like most college quarterbacks, Tanner Mordecai struggles when pressured. His completion percentage drops from 65% to 39%, his Turnover-Worthy-Play rate doubles and his NFL-style passer rating drops from 103 to 59.
Mordecai missed last week due to a concussion, and Houston’s pass rush will be the difference-maker in this game.
This will be SMU’s first game of the season against a peer.
The Mustangs sit at 4-4, with four wins over teams they clear by at least 25 SP+ spots. Meanwhile, they have lost four games to teams that are all at least 24 spots better than them.
Houston is the opposite — five of its eight games have been against teams within 10 spots in SP+.
Like Houston, the Mustangs have a veteran gunslinger and rely heavily on passing the ball to cover up for a mediocre run game. Mordecai has completed 61% of his passes for 2,121 yards and 16 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
He practiced this week and is expected to play on Saturday night, but obviously his effectiveness remains in question.
If Mordecai can’t go or has to leave the game, he would be replaced by third-stringer true freshman Kevin Jennings, as backup Preston Stone was lost for the season last week against Tulsa.
Unlike Houston, the Mustangs have not seen added threats emerge to join their star receiver. Rashee Rice is a stud and is one of the best receivers in the country, leading the FBS with 982 yards receiving. But it’s a one-man band out wide for the Mustangs.
The SMU defense has struggled against aerial assaults this season, ranking 88th in EPA/Pass. The Mustangs create very little Havoc (110th) and grade poorly in PFF’s pass rush charting (108th).
It might be a long day for both defenses against these passers, but in particular, it’s hard to find where SMU matches up well with what Houston wants to do.
SMU’s defense has struggled to keep drives from finishing in touchdowns. It ranks 90th in Parker Fleming’s Points per ECKEL stat, meaning on ECKELs (quality possessions), teams are converting at a high clip.
Houston’s offense is good at capitalizing on its opportunities, ranking 29th in points per ECKEL.
Houston vs SMU Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Houston and SMU match up statistically:
Houston Offense vs. SMU Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
SMU Offense vs. Houston Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||58||34|
|Seconds per Play||25.5 (44)||20.9 (4)|
|Rush Rate||48.8% (93)||46.0% (109)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Houston vs SMU Betting Pick
I believe the wrong team is favored in this game — even though SMU has home-field advantage and has hung tough against good opponents like Maryland and TCU.
Both teams prefer to pass the ball, but Houston’s passing attack is on fire right now and getting better. SMU’s is not at its best, especially if Mordecai is limited.
Houston has a better defense — it has two matchup advantages with its pass rush creating Havoc and SMU’s struggles when it comes to finishing drives.
I’ll take the team that’s rallying to the finish right now, and bet Houston moneyline.