Conference USA Championship Pick: Southern Mississippi vs. Houston
NCAA Football Betting Favorite: Houston -14
The Conference USA crown will be on the line Saturday afternoon inside Robertson Stadium. For Houston, a whole lot more than just a Conference USA title is on the line. If the Cougars are able to win this one, they’ll be going to a BCS bowl. It won’t be easy for Houston, as they must take on Southern Mississippi, who was won nine of their last ten games.
Southern Mississippi is led by senior quarterback Austin Davis. Davis doesn’t get much national attention, but he is a very good quarterback. He has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in three seasons in his career with the Golden Eagles. Davis knows the system extremely well, and his mobility gives the team an extra threat. Southern Mississippi has been very good offensively this year because of their tremendous balance. The Golden Eagles average 262 yards through the air and 208 on the ground. Southern Mississippi has five running backs with at least 49 carries this season. Their depth allows them to use different players with unique strengths on a constant basis. The offense averages 37 points per contest.
This is not your typical Conference USA team that can’t play any defense. Southern Mississippi’s defense is ranked 26th in the nation in total defense. The front seven is very stout against the run. The Golden Eagles have a ton of team speed, especially at the linebacker positions. Can this talented defense do anything to slow down the powerful Houston Cougars offense?
Case Keenum came back for one final season with the Houston Cougars, and he has definitely made it a very special one. Keenum has had a tremendous career, but he is having his best season this year. Keenum has racked up 43 touchdown passes against just three interceptions. He is completing 73% of his passes, and he has racked up 4,726 passing yards in 2011. Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier, and Justin Johnson are a special trio of wide receivers. Edwards is the big play receiver on the outside. He is averaging 20 yards per reception, and he has caught 18 touchdown passes this year. The Cougars have a solid running game that can keep the opposition honest as well. Charles Sims and Michael Hays have both put up some big numbers in the backfield at times this year.
Houston’s defense has improved quite a bit from a year ago. The Cougars have done a great job keeping their opponent out of the end zone by forcing turnovers and field goal attempts. This unit still gives up big chunks of yards on the ground, and that could be a concern this week. Last year against Southern Mississippi, the Cougars defense allowed 59 points in a loss. They’ll have to be better if they hope to earn that BCS berth this season.
Both of these offenses are absolutely stacked with talent. The Golden Eagles secondary has held up against most passing attacks, but this is the best in the country. Expect Houston to pile up the yardage through the air. At the same time, Southern Mississippi should be able to move the ball with its balanced offense. This is a high total, but I like the over.
Free College Football Pick: Over 72
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