Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Venue: TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX
Where to watch: ESPN2
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Houston -8.5
BetMGM: Houston -8.5
Caesars: Houston -8.5
Memphis: 5-5 (2-4 AAC)
No. 24 Houston: 9-1 (7-0 AAC)
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Memphis - Houston preview and analysis
Memphis: lost 30-29 (OT) at East Carolina
Houston: won 37-8 at Temple
Destiny appears on the side of the Houston Cougars with weeks away from a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
But with two games before that, the Cougars need to focus on the present. It will be an observation of the future as well, because it’s Senior Day at TDECU Stadium on Friday when the Cougars host the Memphis Tigers.
The 17th-ranked Cougars are looking for their ninth 10-win season in program history and first since 2015. A far cry from only going 3-5 a season ago, the fifth-best turnaround in the country only behind Michigan, Michigan State, Northern Illinois and Utah State with seven.
Houston is coming off a dominant four-touchdown victory against the Temple Owls a week ago. Cougars running back Alton McCaskill ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns while also setting a single-season program record by a freshman with his 14th rushing touchdown this season.
Quarterback Clayton Tune threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, while backup running back Ta’Zhawn Henry chipped in with the other touchdown in the victory.
Defensively, never traditionally known as a powerhouse outside of a few talented players that went to the NFL, Houston has been at its strongest all season. The 99 rushing yards it allowed against Temple was the sixth time this season the Cougars have held teams to below 100 rushing yards. In addition, Houston has forced a turnover in all 10 games this season; the Cougars defense forced three against the Owls.
One has to wonder how crazy things would have gotten had Houston not laid an egg against Texas Tech in the season opener. This is a unit that averages second in the country in turnover margin (1.2).
The defense has allowed the offense to cook at the right times. Houston has scored 35 points or more in seven of its last nine games and has tallied at least 21 in every single game. While the running game can get most of the shine, Tune has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the past five games; his last interception came Oct. 1. Before that were the four he threw against the Red Raiders.
They’ll be taking on a Memphis team that has fallen far from expectations this season, not recovering since that 3-point loss to the undefeated UTSA Roadrunners back on Oct. 2. The Tigers are coming off a 30-29 overtime loss to the East Carolina Pirates, falling to 2-5 since their 3-0 start.
True freshman quarterback Seth Henigan continued his strong season with 233 yards and three touchdowns but threw an incompletion on a 2-point conversion in overtime to preserve the bowl eligibility-clinching victory for the Pirates.
The problem for Memphis has been the inability to run the ball and bring some much-needed balance in the life of Henigan. He ran for a team-high 61 yards but the rest of the Memphis ground game combined for 13 carries for 47 yards. Meanwhile, East Carolina got 189 yards on the ground while quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for 313 yards. Despite throwing two interceptions, Memphis couldn’t capitalize and is now in danger of losing bowl eligibility. After this week, the Tigers will face Tulane -- a winnable game -- but who knows anymore with this group?
The Cougars will be looking for revenge after last season’s 30-27 loss, and ironically, this has been a very even series. Houston leads it all-time 15-14 and has a narrow 7-6 edge at home. Memphis has won the last five of the series, but with how hot of a roll Houston is on, losing this game doesn’t seem plausible. I think Memphis keeps it close to cover, but Houston hangs on for the outright win in this matchup. Houston by 7
Memphis is 6-11 ATS the past three seasons after an under.
Memphis is 21-8 ATS in its last 29 off an upset loss to a conference opponent as a favorite.
Houston is 10-11 ATS following a conference game over the past three seasons.
The over is 28-14 in its last 42 Houston games following a win of 21 points or more over a conference opponent.
Passing: Seth Henigan -- 2,778 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Brandon Thomas -- 669 yards, 8 TD
Receiving: Calvin Austin III -- 1,026 yards, 8 TD
Passing: Clayton Tune -- 2,448 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Alton McCaskill -- 732 yards, 14 TD
Receiving: Nathaniel Dell -- 865 yards, 8 TD
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