College Football Predictions: Houston at Central Florida Odds and Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 11/7/2013
It isn’t getting nearly the attention of the big three games this week — Oklahoma at Baylor and Oregon at Stanford on Thursday night, and LSU at Alabama on Saturday — but in terms of intrigue and potential, Houston’s trip to Central Florida ranks right up there with the best of the week. It’s not just a potentially exciting game, either — it’s a very important one. Thanks to all of the conference overhauling the last couple of years, these teams are now in the AAC, and with Louisville’s stumble against these same Knights earlier in the season the winner of this game will be firmly in the driver’s seat for the conference’s BCS bowl bid. You can easily argue that the conference doesn’t deserve a bid, but they have one, and it’s on the line here.
Central Florida comes into this game off of a bye week. We know that they can be dangerous in these situations — they beat Louisville off of their last bye this year. In both cases the opponent has had a game, so Knights have been able to rest and study fresh game tape. The scheduling gods are clearly in Central Florida’s corner this year. Houston played a week ago Thursday, though, so they have had more than the standard week to rest and prepare.
Houston at Central Florida Betting Storylines
Houston has the top offense in the AAC, but that’s not what stands out when you watch this team play. They are stunningly aggressive on defense. That aggressiveness can lead to trouble at times, and it means that they aren’t the toughest defense in the conference by any means. Where it pays off, though, is in takeaways — they are tops in the country with 29 on the year. Combine that with their consistency when it comes to taking advantage offensively of the opportunities their defense gives them — they are the only team in the country to have scored in every quarter they have played this year — and you have a very challenging team to play against. Central Florida has been working very hard on protecting the ball in practice this week, but added focus on that could take away from the focus on the more productive parts of playing offense. The Knight have a solid offense, but it’s clearly the second best one here, so they can’t afford to let protecting the ball distract them from their jobs too much.
Remember when playing quarterback in college football used to be hard, and it took a while for players to grow into the role? Houston is yet another team with a freshman QB playing at an incredibly high level. If John O’Korn played in a conference that anyone actually cared about, he would be getting a ton of attention. He is completing more than 65 percent of his passes with 22 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. His last two outings — against Rutgers and South Florida — have been his best. He has completed more than 80 percent of his passes, averaged more than 310 yards per game, and has eight touchdowns without a pick. He’s an obvious talent, but UCF QB Blake Bortles, a redshirt junior in his third year as a starter, has the clear edge in experience — and that could factor in here since this is the brightest stage Houston has played on by far this year. Bortles is having a heck of a year as well. He has completed more than two-thirds of his passes on the year, and last time out against UConn he completed 83 percent of his attempts with four touchdowns and no interceptions. In short, this is a QB battle that could be more than a little fun to watch.
Houston at Central Florida College Football Odds and Betting Trends
The line in this one opened at 10 points and has risen only slightly to 11. Central Florida is favored at home. Action is split almost evenly between the two teams, so it is unlikely that we will see dramatic line movement barring an injury or other major development. The total sits at 64 points.
Houston is 5-0 ATS in their last five road games. Central Florida is 5-0 ATS in their last five home games. One of those trends has to end. The teams have met four times in their history — all since 2005. All four games have gone “over” the total, and UCF has the 3-1 ATS edge, including covers in the last two games. The last meeting was in 2010, though, so plenty has changed since then.
College Football Predictions: Houston at Central Florida Betting Picks
I have a lot of respect for this Central Florida team. As the game has climbed over the key number of 10, though, Houston has become more and more attractive. The Knights play solid defense, but it isn’t insurmountable. Houston has a potent offense, and they are very confident coming into this one. They will be able to score a lot of points, and it will be tough for the Knights to outpace them by enough to cover this spread. The Cougars are the play.
Doc’s Sports has been a leader in college football handicapping for more than four decades, and we are offering new clients $60 in free college football picks from Doc’s Sports or any Advisory Board handicapper of your choosing. Click here to get your no-obligation $60 in picks now.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham