• Allowing an FBS-worst 314.1 passing yards per game to opponents, Houston has lost two straight games because of its defense. So why are the Cougars double-digit favorites over Tulane?
By Zachary Cohen
November 13, 2018

Tulane at Houston (-10.5)

Thu. 11/15, 8:00 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Tulane-Houston:

1. Since taking over for Tulane in 2016, head coach Willie Fritz is 2-0 against the spread against Houston. Last year, the Green Wave beat the Cougars 20-17 as 9.5-point home underdogs. That victory helped Tulane improve to 3-1 against the spread versus Houston over the last four years, and two of those games were in Houston. Over the last three seasons, Tulane is now 7-4 against the spread when facing a team that averages 250 or more passing yards per game. The Green Wave are also 4-1 against the spread when facing teams that average 5.25 or more yards per carry in that span. Both of those numbers apply to what has been an explosive Houston offense throughout the course of the season. Houston also happens to be 0-6 against the spread when coming off back-to-back overs since the start of the 2016 season.

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2. While head coach Major Applewhite’s team is as good as it gets offensively, Houston's defense has disappointed each of the last two weeks. The Cougars have lost back-to-back games coming into this one, and they allowed 52.0 points per game over those losses. It’s not as if Houston was playing the class of the American Athletic Conference either: Those losses came at the hands of SMU and Temple, and it’s going to continue to be a struggle if the Cougars can’t fix things fast.

Unfortunately for Houston, such a rebound may not come against Tulane. The one thing the Green Wave haven't done well this season is throw the ball, but grad transfer Justin McMillan looked much more comfortable last week than he had in his previous starts this season. Against East Carolina, McMillan threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns, with Darnell Mooney hauling in six of the senior’s passes for 217 yards and two scores. The chemistry between those two could not have looked better and they now get to face the worst passing defense in the nation (314.1 yards allowed per game). Another big performance through the air is likely.

3. Balance is critical to Houston's excellent offense. The Cougars are particularly explosive in the passing game, but the running game is a big part of that. Houston is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the year, which is the 16th-best mark in the nation. But Tulane has the 43rd-ranked rushing defense in FBS (141.6 yards YAPG), and the Green Wave are going to be confident in their ability to slow down the Cougars on the ground. If they can do that, it could throw off quarterback D’Eriq King and this Houston passing offense. King has been ridiculous this season, throwing for 2,900 yards with 35 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also a threat to use his legs, as he has rushed for 592 yards and 13 touchdowns this year. But King has also been able to do that because his running backs are normally making things easy for him. It’s hard to imagine him being that lucky in this one. The Cougars should win this game, but it’d be surprising if the Green Wave didn’t keep it close.

Pick: Tulane (+10.5)

Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)