Week 2 College Football Free Pick - Houston at Arizona
FREE PICK: Houston -1 at Arizona (Covers 57.2%)
The Cougars first game was cancelled due to Hurricane Harvey. So, their Week 2 matchup at Arizona kicks off their season. Former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite debuts as head coach after his predecessor, Tom Herman, left to take over the same position with the Longhorns. Applewhite inherits transfer quarterback and one-time top-rated recruit Kyle Allen, previously of Texas A&M. In his final season with the Aggies, back in 2015, Allen completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,210 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Allen's running back and two of his receivers are returning starters and upperclassmen – always a nice perk.
Houston is best known for that up-tempo offense and supported the notion in 2016 behind dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward. The Cougs averaged 35.8 points per game, which ranked 26th nationally. But contrary to trends, the team also ranked 13th in total defense last season (319 YAPG). Granted, the Cougars ranked 20th in total defense in 2014, but this is a program that ranked 118th in that category in 2012. It helps when you have a defensive tackle in Ed Oliver - who is drawing comparisons to Ndamukong Suh - hunting quarterbacks.
The Wildcats may have beat Northern Arizona 62-24 in Week 1, but they allowed the Lumberjacks to rack up 562 yards of offense. Rich Rodriguez's squad returned seven starters on defense, but as Week 1 indicated, that may not be the best thing. The Wildcats ranked 115 out of 128 FBS schools in total defense last season (469 YAPG).
Houston ranked fourth against the rush in 2016 (100.2 YPG). Arizona will put the Cougars nine returning starters to the test as run-first quarterback, Brandon Dawkins, picked up where he left off in 2016. He rushed seven times for 92 yards with two scores against N. Arizona, while only completing 7-12 passes for 89 yards. Army's offense may be taking notes.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Houston beats Arizona 59.1% of the time by an average score of 34.8 to 31.6. As a one-point favorite winning by an average margin of 3.2 points, the Cougars cover the spread 57.7% of the time, which would justify a $56 wager for an average $50 bettor.