Week 9 - UTEP at Houston

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – UTEP at Houston

UTEP (2-6) at Houston (3-4) Oct. 27, 4:30, CSS

Here's The Deal: Just when it looked as if Houston might be getting to solid footing, it steps off a cliff in Dallas. The Cougars made a slew of mistakes on offense, defense and special teams, turning the ball over nine times in a hideous 72-42 loss to SMU. They're still in the West Division race, but first need to figure out what kind of a team it's going to be the rest of the way.

Has UTEP head coach Mike Price finally reached the end of the line in El Paso? He's had more lives than the cartoon roadrunner, but a seventh straight losing season might be impossible to overcome. The Miners eked by Tulane on homecoming, but will need to make last week the start of a five-game winning streak just to become eligible for the postseason.

Why UTEP Might Win: When the Miners have had success this fall, it's been because of the play of the defense. They'll have to play that card on Saturday afternoon. UTEP won't stop Houston as much as it'll create turnovers and disrupt the rhythm of the Cougars, who've given the ball away more than any other Conference USA team. The Miners will need to pressure QB David Piland, who's returning from a concussion, getting in his face with help from linemen Horace Miller and Germard Reed.

Why Houston Might Win: When it isn't turning the ball over, the Cougars offense is actually pretty good. And far better than the one on the other side of the field. Houston is led by the nation's No. 3 passing attack, a system that will spread the ball around to myriad different receivers. Piland's return is a big development, as is the presence of Charles Sims, one of the top backs in Conference USA. That mix of the run and the pass is going to cause headaches for an underrated UTEP D, but one that is also beatable when it fails to pressure the quarterback.

What To Watch Out For: The Cougars have the better O-line in this game … by far. The Houston defense will attempt to take advantage by getting in the face of QB Nick Lamaison. The senior has been ineffective throughout the year, but is especially erratic when forced from the pocket. The Cougars will employ their preponderance of speed in the front seven, unleashing ends Zeke Riser and Kelvin King, and linebackers Phillip Steward, Everett Daniels and Derrick Mathews.

What Will Happen: Now that Houston has gotten an awful game out of its system, it's poised to get back to playing winning football. Holding on to the ball will be less of a problem this week versus UTEP. And outscoring the feeble Miners won't be an issue either. Now that Piland has cleared the cobwebs, he and Sims will spark a balanced offense that'll keep the Cougars from suffering a second straight loss.

CFN Prediction: Houston 37 … UTEP 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Houston -13.5 O/U: 60.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 1.5