Houston vs. UTSA Picks, Odds, Predictions for College Football Week 1 Matchup
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: UTSA quarterback Frank Harris
- In an in-state battle, Houston and UTSA go head-to-head at the Alamodome.
- The Cougars are coming off of a 12-2 season, but they lost a lot of bodies on defense.
- Meanwhile, UTSA just had their best season in program history.
Houston vs. UTSA Odds
Houston makes the short trip to take on in-state foe UTSA in the Alamodome.
Houston is coming off of a very quiet 12-2 season, where it ripped off 11 straight wins in the regular season before losing to Cincinnati in the AAC title game.
The Cougars get back a lot of weapons on offense, but have a lot of shoes to fill on the defensive side of the ball.
UTSA is coming off of the best year in program history, going 12-2 and winning the Conference USA title game in the Alamodome over Western Kentucky.
Head coach Jeff Traylor signed a 10-year extension to stay in San Antonio and has most of his offensive weapons coming back. That means UTSA will be on par with last year’s team.
Dana Holgerson has all of his main offensive weapons back, but I am not sure if that is a good thing.
Houston was only 50th in EPA/Play, 68th in Offensive Success Rate and only gained 5.8 yards per play (58th in FBS) a year ago. You also have to factor in that Houston did not play an overly difficult schedule in 2021 (67th in FBS)
Clayton Tune is back for his senior season at quarterback after an amazing junior year when he put up a 91.4 PFF passing grade, averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and threw for 30 touchdowns.
.@UHCougarFB QB Clayton Tune can SLING it.
Center Jack Freeman on Tune leading to the UTSA game: “That dude is locked in.”pic.twitter.com/P59cUHda6A
— Pawd Slama Jama (@PawdSlamaJama) August 31, 2022
Tune will get his No. 1 target back in Tank Dell, who had 90 catches, 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 88.8 PFF receiving grade was ninth-best in college football for wide receivers who saw more than 100 targets.
The problem is Houston is losing its No. 2 and 3 pass-catching options, so Dell is going to see a lot of double teams.
Houston’s run game was really the reason why it was 50th in EPA/Play. The Cougars averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and were 115th in Rushing Success Rate.
There is a massive concern for this Houston offense, and it’s on the offensive line. Last season, Houston was 113th in Offensive Line Yards, allowed 38 sacks and only has two starters coming back from last season.
Tune could be running for his life on far too often on Saturday.
Houston’s defense is the main reason why it went 12-2 last season. The Cougars finished the season ninth in EPA/Play, allowed only 4.9 yards per play (16th in FBS) and were fourth in Success Rate Allowed.
With that being said, they have a lot of shoes to fill.
On the defensive line, a pair of First Team All-AAC players in Logan Hall and David Anenih are gone, with 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss going out the door with them.
Houston does have two starters returning, but it won’t be able to put up being eighth in Defensive Line Yards and 17th in Havoc like it did last season.
The linebacking core has its top tackler, Donavan Mutin, back, but the No. 2 and 3 tacklers are gone and only the No. 9 tackler and some non-impact transfers replace them.
The front seven will not be what it was last season.
The secondary gets back First Team All-AAC safety Gervarrius Owens, but the superstar cornerback tandem that combined for more than 100 tackles, had six interceptions and 22 PBUs is gone. Houston is going to regress from having the 22nd-best coverage grade by PFF last season.
The UTSA offense was absolutely electric last season. The Roadrunners averaged 6.0 yards per play (38th in FBS), were 29th in EPA/Play and most importantly, were 26th in Finishing Drives.
A lot of that had to do with their dynamic dual-threat quarterback Frank Harris, who had a 80.3 PFF passing grade, averaged 7.9 yards per attempt and threw for 27 touchdowns.
Then as a runner, he ran for over 500 yards, averaged 5.2 yards per attempt and had 24 runs of 10+ yards.
11 days until @UTSAFTBL !!!
— Joel @ UTSA (@UTSARowdy) August 23, 2022
As a passer, Harris led UTSA to a ranking of 12 in college football in EPA/Pass, making it one of the most efficient passing attacks outside of the Power 5.
Guess what? All four of his top targets return, so Harris is poised for an incredible season.
UTSA does lose its top back, Sincere McCormick, who had more than 1,500 yards rushing for them last season. However, Jeff Traylor went out and got Trelon Smith from Arkansas, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his career in Fayetteville.
Plus, UTSA has four starters and 121 starts back on its offensive line, so this is going to once again be one of the best offenses outside of the Power Five.
Last season, the UTSA defensive line allowed only 3.3 yards per carry and was top-40 in stuff rate, Rushing Success Rate Allowed and Power Success Rate Allowed. The Roadrunners also had a combined 33 sacks and ranked 44th in Havoc.
Two starters are gone from the defensive line, but five of their top seven are back from last season, and all seven had at least double-digit tackles.
This unit isn’t going to drastically fall off.
UTSA loses First Team All-CUSA linebacker Clarence Hicks, but three starters are back, plus it added the No. 1-ranked JUCO OLB Martavius French to the roster. This unit is going to be just as good as last season.
The secondary has one of the best safeties outside of the Power Five in Rashad Wisdom. He led the Roadrunners with 88 tackles, had six PBUs and is a two-time, first team All-C-USA.
UTSA also added three Power Five transfers to its secondary, so it should improve from being 77th in EPA/Pass Allowed in 2021.
Houston vs. UTSA Betting Pick
With all of the Roadrunners’ weapons back on offense — and the fact they’re facing a thin Houston secondary — UTSA has the potential to light up the scoreboard.
Additionally, with UTSA being incredible stout in the front seven against a weak Houston offensive line, this has the makings of a potential upset on Saturday.
I have UTSA projected as a -2.1 favorite, so I like the value on the Roadrunners in the Alamodome at +5.5 (BetMGM) and would play it down to +3.