It’s finally here: the first game of the 2020 season for the Houston Cougars. It only took six weeks and four in-season cancellations/postponements for the Cougars to finally see the field thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Now the question is what kind of team will we see in Year 2 under coach Dana Holgorsen. In some ways, it’s almost like a re-do of Year 1. The Cougars tanked in 2019 to get a free swing at 2020. As such, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect out of this group. Are they rusty from all the delays and lack of cohesion? Or do they show a new, reinvented look?
We also don’t know how good Tulane really is. The Green Wave are 2-1 but their victories are against South Alabama and Southern Miss, neither of which is particularly good. Tulane probably should be 3-0, but suffered a second-half collapse against Navy back in September. There are a lot of unknown variables in this game, which feels weird to say in mid-October. At the same time, that’s par for the course in 2020. After all, some teams won’t be starting their seasons until later this month or in November.
College football is back on Thursday night and that provides some sense of normalcy during these uncertain times. So let’s break down what to expect from Tulane and Houston — if we can realistically have any expectations at all.
Houston: What does the offense look like? Quarterback Clayton Tune is back and cemented as the starter. He certainly has his pick of weapons around him. Receiver Marquez Stevenson can be lightning in a bottle. If this thing gets into a shootout, Houston certainly has the tools to keep up on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, the Cougars had one of the worst defenses in the country in 2019, surrendering 34 points per game. Houston was particularly bad against the run, allowing more than five yards per carry. That’s going to have to improve if it’s going to get off the field against Tulane. This team is a whole bunch of unknowns, but on paper this seems like a bad matchup for the Houston defense. That may not matter if the Cougars are able to score at will.
Tulane: We know the Green Wave love to run the ball, as they do so more than 45 times a game. Few teams are better at it than them, too, with the offense averaging 6.44 yards per rush. That ranks fourth nationally. Don’t expect a lot of balance from this offense, but that’s not what it’s designed to do. The question is whether Tulane can get 60 minutes of good football against an opponent that, on paper, is superior. The collapse against Navy was truly stunning and Willie Fritz is too good of a coach to allow something like that to happen again.
Date: Thursday, Oct. 8 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: TDECU Stadium — Houston, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
Normally, a team that’s run heavy facing a team playing its first game of the season would be a sure bet for the under. I’m not positive that’s the case here. Houston has weapons and Tulane can move the rock. If anything, the over might be the more interesting play. As for the spread, Houston is -6.5. The Cougars might end up winning this game; however, you’re not going to find me laying points with a team that not only hasn’t played, but faced more disruptions than just about any other team this year. Pick: Tulane +6.5
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