Thursday’s College Football Betting Odds & Picks for New Mexico Bowl: Hawaii vs. Houston (Dec. 24)

Thursday’s College Football Betting Odds & Picks for New Mexico Bowl: Hawaii vs. Houston (Dec. 24) article feature image
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Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Marquez Stevenson.

  • Quarterback Clayton Tune and the Houston Cougars battle the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in Thusday's New Mexico Bowl.
  • This game will be played in Frisco, Texas, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Albuquerque.
  • Collin Wilson breaks it all down and explains why he's backing the Cougars below.

Hawaii vs. Houston Odds

Hawaii Odds
+11 (-113)
Houston Odds
-11 (-108)
Moneyline
+295/-500
Over/Under
60
TV
3:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Odds updated Wednesday evening and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today.

The New Mexico Bowl will come live from Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Thursday, thanks to a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Albuquerque.

The site is the home of the FCS National Championship each year and has a surface relatable to golf. The field was designed and constructed as a two-acre golf green, with a fairway variety grade.

Winds of at least 15 miles per hour are expected, but with the stadium orientation, a pattern of sideline-to-sideline is expected, per SportsInsights.

Houston and Hawaii have played each other just once before in a Christmas classic. The Rainbow Warriors were victorious in three overtimes for a final score of 54-48 in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl.

The current version of Hawaii had issues scoring points, going over the total just twice and posting three road unders.

Houston started the season with a handful of cancelations due to COVID-19 issues and ended the season with a loss to Memphis off a one-month break.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

The Rainbow Warriors were able to make it back to bowl season despite losing quarterback Cole McDonald and head coach Nick Rolovich in the offseason.

Todd Graham took over the reigns as head coach but immediately leaned on offensive coordinator GJ Kinne and assistant Brennan Marion to run the offense.

The ‘GoGo’ offense changed from a 10 to 20 personnel, but in reality, the 2020 season has been all about quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. The sophomore accounts for all of the team’s 1,947 passing yards and 36% of the team’s total rushing yards.

The Rainbow Warriors’ rushing attack is top-10 in the nation in explosiveness while maintaining a Line Yards rank of 26th. Passing downs have been the biggest issue for this offense, as it ranks 65th on third downs and 70th in Success Rate.

On the defensive side of the ball, Hawaii owns a rank in the top 30 for Success Rate. That number masks how bad the Warriors have been against the big play, as they sit 102nd in defending passing downs explosiveness.


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Houston Cougars

The Cougars have been the definition of flexible through 2020, with eight games postponed, canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19. Even in-game, the Cougars have shown an ability to go hot and cold from drive to drive. Houston scored 23 unanswered in a 17-point loss to BYU early in the season.

The regular-season finale was much of the same, as it trailed Memphis with a 27-6 score to start the fourth quarter before generating 21 unanswered points.

Quarterback Clayton Tune has excelled in replacing D’Eriq King since the middle of the 2019 season. Tune has thrown for more than 1,800 yards for 13 touchdowns, with an additional five touchdowns on the ground.

The junior’s legs must be held accountable, as 32 rushes have been by design and gained 189 yards on the year. The Houston signal-caller has been just as deadly in busted play scramble attempts.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Both defenses love to give up the explosive play, making the primary handicap come in two parts.

First is the ability of the Hawaii defense to contain a number of skill position players for the Cougars. That task became a bit easier with Marquez Stevenson opting out of the New Mexico Bowl. However, Keith Corbin and Nathaniel Dell had more targets and avoided tackles than Stevenson for the season. All-American cornerback Marcus Jones took over Stevenson’s duties as the primary punt and kick returner.

While the Warriors’ special teams do nothing to suggest Houston won’t have great field position, the defense will rely on safety Eugene Ford. The senior ranks 49th in Pro Football Focus of all defensive players to defend the slot, and will be assigned to Corbin.

Ford has just four missed tackles in 655 defensive plays but has allowed opposing quarterbacks a 62% completion percentage when targeted.

As for Houston, putting a spy on Cordeiro is the primary concern. Hawaii has had an even distribution of run versus pass in the play calling, but the Cougars have been abysmal in allowing explosive plays. Houston is 90th in pass coverage and 124th in defending rush explosiveness.


Hawaii vs. Houston Matchup Matrix


In conclusion, there will be explosive plays at an inconsistent rate. Despite its inability to stop the big play, Houston is the side to play. Stevenson had just 28 targets on the season, while 7 other Cougars had at least 15. Houston also has a big advantage in special teams, which should translate to excellent field position.

While The Action Network’s projected total is shy of the market, the scoring will come in flurries. The best way to invest in the total is to take an over after a quarter of no scoring and an under after five consecutive possessions of scores.

Our Power Ratings make this game Houston -8, as we will wait for the Cougars’ number to continue to fall through dead numbers upon news of Stevenson before ultimately backing the Cougars.

Pick: Houston -10.5 or better.

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