2011 College Football Preview – Houston vs UTEP

BetOnline.comThe Houston Cougars will roll into the Lone Star State on Thursday looking to remain unbeaten, but they will first have to get by a El Paso Miners team that are a perfect 1-0 at home.

Cougars v Miners
Venue/Stadium: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Time/Date: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, September 29, 2011
NFL Odds From: Betonline.com
Spread (ATS): Houston -16
Over/Under: 64.6

But that shouldn’t be too hard of a task for Houston who are 2-0 while away from John O’Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium this season, and are fresh off a 56-0 drubbing of Georgia State their last time out.

The Cougars rebounded with a vengence after barely surviving their 35-34 bout with Louisiana Tech on the road just one week earlier, scoring 21 fourth quarter points to take away a big Bulldog home win.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the charge was not spearheaded by senior quarterback Case Keenum, as it was senior running back Bryce Beall who punched in two of the Cougars late touchdowns.

Keenun however did throw for two prior TDs, including a pair of 50+ yard passes, one to Patrick Edwards and the other to Michael Hayes. Edwards was also was the recipient of the game-winner with just 1:36 to go.

Although the Cougars walked away unscathed, they did a poor job of converting on third downs, going just 5-of-16 for the day. They also mishandled the ball resulting in three turnovers.

Sure, they looked better against Georgia State, but who wouldn’t? It was just the second time the Panthers have ever played against an FBS opponent.

Before exiting the game in the third quarter after suffering an injury while trying to make a tackle on UTEP’s Travaun Nixon after being intercepted, Keenum completed 29 of 34 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns against GSU, helping the Cougars to roll up 732 yards of offense, including 561 yards in the air and 171 on the ground, while 14 different Houston receivers caught passes.

So does UTEP stand a chance?

In all four of the Cougars’ contests this year at least 56 points have been scored. Meanwhile, UTEP on the other hand has struggled to score in all four of their games, with the Miners winning in Week 1 at home 31-24 over Stony Brook in overtime, and then losing to No. 14 South Florida Bulls 52-24.

The Miners have had three different starting quarterbacks in four games this season. On Saturday at USF, it was sophomore Carson Meger’s turn to see significant action. The sophomore, who had thrown just a single career pass coming in, shined in place of injured starter Nick Lamaison until getting picked off twice in the fourth quarter.

He completed the game going 26-of-40 for 240 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, as the Miners dropped to 0-21 against schools from BCS conferences since 1998.

But El Paso is expected to get a much-needed boost against Houston, as four injured starters could be returning to the Miner lineup, including Lamaison who was under center for the season opener against Stony Brook, but has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.

Matt’s Prediction: Houston 41, UTEP 28- While the Miners’ run stoppers were not at all impressive against the Bulls, Houston’s rushing attack should be able to generate enough steam to help keep the Cougars offensive attack two-dimensional, giving Keenum a chance to make some big plays. However, Keenum threw two picks at Louisiana Tech, and if he does that again, the Cougars could very well lose.

However, Houston is ranked third on offense, averaging 585.0 yards per game The defense conversely is suspect, and is one of the worst in the FBS.

This one should have plenty of scoring, and while I think the home team loses, I don’t think it will be by 16 points.