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Houston vs Louisiana Odds & Prediction: How to Bet Independence Bowl

Houston vs Louisiana Odds & Prediction: How to Bet Independence Bowl article feature image
Credit:

James Gilbert & Bob Levey/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Chandler Fields (18) of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and Ta’Zhawn Henry (4) of the Houston Cougars.

Houston vs Louisiana Odds

Friday, Dec. 23
3 p.m. ET
ESPN
Houston Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-6.5
-110
56.5
-110o / -110u
-250
Louisiana Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+6.5
-110
56.5
-110o / -110u
+200
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Friday afternoon’s Independence Bowl features two teams that are looking for one final positive to take away from disappointing seasons.

Houston, which was picked by many to win the American in the preseason, finished the year at 7-5. Its underperformance is reflected in a 1-7 against-the-spread record as a favorite.

Louisiana comes into this game riding high after a 41-13 dismantling of Texas State that earned it bowl eligibility.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams since 2006 when Louisiana picked up a 31-28 victory in Houston.

As is the case with any bowl game, motivation will be a huge factor in this Independence Bowl matchup.

Motivation will not be lacking for a Louisiana team that will be thrilled to be playing in its home state after securing a bowl berth in their final game of the season.

For Houston, this motivation is less apparent after a disappointing 2022 campaign.

Additionally, head coach Dana Holgorsen has been historically poor in the postseason, covering the spread in just two of his last nine bowl game appearances.

If Houston can’t match Louisiana’s motivation, we could be in store for an Independence Bowl upset.


Houston Cougars

The biggest storyline for the Cougars coming into Friday is the status of their NFL duo in quarterback Clayton Tune and wide receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell.

As of writing, it appears that both will compete in the bowl game, which is significant for Houston’s Air Raid offense.

Houston is here.

Dana Holgorsen, QB Clayton Tune and WR Nathaniel “Tank” Dell. pic.twitter.com/Lms8sE1A0n

— Cory Diaz (@ByCoryDiaz) December 22, 2022

Given the availability of the two passing game stars, it’s safe to say that Holgorsen will not shy away from the high passing rate the Cougars have implemented all season (12th-highest nationally).

During the regular season, Houston generated consistent success through the air. The Cougars posted the 10th-highest Success Rate when passing (47.2%) as a result of being ranked 13th nationally in EPA/Pass (.230).

In addition, Houston recorded an explosiveness ranking of 1.55 on passing downs, which was crucial for a team that couldn’t generate any explosiveness on the ground (1.01).

Because the Cougars run an Air Raid attack, there will be a spotlight on the Louisiana secondary on Friday afternoon.

Fortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, their secondary has been their strongest unit all season. They rank 21st nationally in Defensive Passing Success Rate (35.3%) and 17th in EPA/Pass Allowed at -0.136.

These high-level numbers against the pass ended with Louisiana finishing the season ranked 12th nationally in PFF coverage grade.

Lastly, the Ragin’ Cajuns defense outpaced the Cougars defense in Finishing Drives this season, ranking 45th nationally — a full 38 spots above Houston.

Look for Houston to attack Louisiana where it’s strongest: in the secondary.

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Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Louisiana will travel up Interstate 49 to play its 12th bowl game in program history on Friday. The Ragin’ Cajuns have a 7-3 record in bowls and should be highly motivated to build on this winning tradition.

Louisiana brings a lot of momentum into the Independence Bowl. The Ragin’ Cajuns put up their highest point total of the season in their finale against Texas State.

They’re led by sophomore quarterback Chandler Fields, who has appeared in seven games this year after suffering an injury midseason. Fields will have every opportunity to be successful against a Houston defense that has been suspect, particularly against the pass.

The Cougars rank 87th nationally in Passing Success Rate, allowing teams a 41.7% Success Rate through the air. This inability to stop the pass has resulted in Houston giving up 2.92 net points per drive, which is good for 119th nationally.

Creating a consistent passing game will be crucial for a Louisiana team that has struggled through the air.

The Ragin’ Cajuns rank 104th nationally in Passing Success Rate at just 35.1%. With additional time to prepare for a struggling Houston secondary, I expect these numbers to improve.

If Louisiana can find success through the air, it will also open up opportunities for its successful ground attack. The Cajuns rank inside the top 50 in Rushing Success Rate at 41.5%, averaging 3.2 Line Yards per Rush.

Its ability to keep Houston honest through this rushing attack will put further pressure on the secondary to make plays in one-on-one coverage.

What may be most important against the Cougars will be Louisiana’s ability to evade Houston’s pass rush. The Cougars have one of the most effective pass rushes in the country, racking up 30 sacks this season.

Luckily for Louisiana, Fields has shown an ability to create outside the pocket. Against Texas State, Fields scrambled five times for an average of 5.6 yards per carry, including a long of 21 yards. This mobility will be crucial in negating Houston’s ability to create negative plays.

Overall, the blueprint is there for Louisiana’s offense to keep pace with Houston.


Houston vs Louisiana Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Houston and Louisiana match up statistically:

Houston Offense vs. Louisiana Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 40 93
Line Yards 22 98
Pass Success 12 33
Pass Blocking** 3 76
Havoc 53 73
Finishing Drives 3 45
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Louisiana Offense vs. Houston Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 70 56
Line Yards 24 17
Pass Success 107 84
Pass Blocking** 92 1
Havoc 48 25
Finishing Drives 84 83
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 113 68
PFF Coverage 65 12
SP+ Special Teams 74 42
Seconds per Play 25.5 (44) 25.5 (45)
Rush Rate 43.5% (119) 50.7% (89)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Houston vs Louisiana Betting Pick

Facing Houston’s Air Raid offense just miles north of its home stadium is a perfect scenario for Louisiana.

I expect Fields to put up one of his best performances against a Houston defense that has been a dream matchup for opposing quarterbacks.

Additionally, the forecast in Shreveport calls for temperatures in the mid-20s with wind gusts of 13-14 MPH at the time of writing.

These conditions heavily favor a Louisiana secondary that has already proven it can find success against pass-heavy offenses such as Houston.

I will gladly take the points in what will be a home atmosphere for Louisiana.

Pick: Louisiana +7 (Play to +5.5)

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