Thursday NCAA Football: Houston/Tulane Preview

by Big Al Staff

After experiencing five opening-game cancellations already this season, the Houston Cougars hope to kick off their season on Thursday night.

Houston had their second game of the season at Washington State canceled in July when Pac-12 postponed their season. Their opener against Rice was canceled in August. COVID issues led to their games with Baylor and Rice postponed with the fifth game against Memphis rescheduled for December 5th.

The Cougars will be anxious to get on the field again after experiencing their worst season in 15 years with their 4-8 campaign last year. Dana Holgorsen became perhaps the first college football program to embrace a soft tanking job with a handful of his players' redshirting. Holgorsen claimed his scout team on defense was the “greatest” in college football history by the end of the season, given its collection of redshirt and transfer talent awaiting eligibility. This Cougars team returns 19 starters from last year, along with another 33 new transfers from junior college, FCS, and FBS programs.

One of the players who redshirted last season was senior quarterback D’Eriq King who later decided to transfer programs. King finds himself now playing in a Saturday night prime-time showdown on national television with his Miami Hurricanes playing the Clemson Tigers. Houston moved on at quarterback with sophomore Clayton Tune who passed for 1533 yards while completing 59% of his passes in his seven starts. Tune begins his junior as the leader of Holgorsen’s Air Raid offense this season.

Bettors will need to consider how much of an advantage Tulane has with having three games already under their belts. The Green Wave have two wins on the road already at South Alabama and Southern Mississippi ,with their lone loss at home to Navy by a 27-24 score in the middle of those two games. Head coach Willie Fritz has a balanced team in his fifth year with the program. Their 441.0 yards-per-game average on offense is the fourth-best mark of American Athletic Conference teams while their 368.3 YPG total defense mark is third-best in the AAC.

They have had a week off after defeating Southern Miss on the road by a 66-24 score in a game that was a transitional point in their season. Fritz benched senior quarterback Keon Howard in the first quarter after falling behind by a 14-0 score. True freshman Michael Pratt came on in relief to spark the team to outscore the Golden Eagles by a 66-10 margin the rest way of the way. Pratt completed only 8 of 18 passes, but those completions went for 142 yards with two touchdowns. He added another 40 yards with his legs. Tulane rushed for 472 yards in that game and averaged 7.9 yards-per-carry with seven of their runs reaching the end zone for a touchdown.

The Green Wave lost their leading rusher, Tyjae Springs, in that game in a season-ending ACL injury, but Fritz has assembled a deep roster of capable rushers for his run-first spread offensive attack with the program. Cameron Carroll and Stephon Huderson combined to rush for 283 yards on 26 carries with four of those seven rushing touchdowns in that game with each topping the 100 rushing yard marker.

Tulane won the meeting last year between these two teams by at home in New Orleans by 38-31 score. That game was the last time that King played for the Cougars as their quarterback, with Houston dropping to 1-3 with the loss.

BetOnline has the Cougars as a -6.5-point favorite for the rematch on Thursday night with the total set at 59.5. ESPN has the broadcast. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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