NCAAF Game of the Day: Connecticut at Houston

Connecticut Huskies at No. 7 Houston Cougars (-28, 51)

Seventh-ranked Houston gets a chance to avenge its only loss from last year when it hosts Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference game Thursday night. Both starting quarterbacks missed the majority of last year’s meeting – a 20-17 UConn home victory- but return healthy for the rematch.

Houston’s Greg Ward Jr., who didn’t play at UConn because of an ankle injury until backup Kyle Postma was injured late in the fourth quarter, has won 17 straight as the Cougars’ starter. The Cougars, looking to begin 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history, recorded at least 40 points and 500 total yards in three straight games. Bryant Shirreffs, who left last year’s game with a concussion on the second series, helped the Huskies overcome slow starts in all four games. UConn has been outscored 31-0 in the first quarter this season before having all four games decided by seven or fewer points.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY:
Houston has drawn heavy chalk in this AAC matchup, hitting the board as 27.5-point home favorites and have been bet up to -28 since then. The total has also been bet up, going from its opening number of 50.5 to the current number of 51. Check out the complete line history here.

WHAT BOOKS SAY:
“The majority of action on Houston, where we have almost 80 percent of the wagers, is from the square contingent. But we’ve had a couple of sharps hit the Cougars as well, which prompted the bump two points to -30. It feels like this could come down before it goes up.” – Odds consultant Scott Cooley of Bookmaker.eu.

INJURY REPORT:

Connecticut – RB N. Hopkins (probable Thursday, leg), OL B. Vechery (probable Thursday, leg), OL T. Rutherford (probable Thursday, undisclosed), LB J. Hicks (questionable Thursday, leg), OL T. Hopkins (questionable Thursday, leg), LB O. Stephens (questionable Thursday, leg), OL D. Oak (out Thursday, undisclosed).

Houston – CB B. Wilson (questionable Thursday, leg), OL M. Long (questionable Thursday, undisclosed), OL A. Fontana (questionable Thursday, elbow), RB M. Car (out Thursday, knee).

WEATHER REPORT: It should be a beautiful night for football in Houston. The forecast is calling for clear skies with temperatures in the mid to low 70’s for the game. There could be a seven to eight mile per hour wind blowing across the field from north to south.

CHEERLEADER WAR:

ABOUT CONNECTICUT (2-2, 0-3-1 ATS, 2-2 O/U): Shirreffs threw for 819 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for another score. Noel Thomas Jr. (40 receptions, 388 yards, one TD) has nearly half of UConn’s catches (81) and receiving yards (861) after a 14-catch performance against Syracuse. The Huskies were stopped at the goal line in losses to Navy (as time expired) and Syracuse (late in the fourth quarter), and got late game-winning field goals from Bobby Puyol (5-of-5 in field goals and 10-of-10 on extra points) in their two wins.

ABOUT HOUSTON (4-0, 3-1 ATS, 1-3 O/U):
Ward (936 passing yards, five touchdowns and 113 rushing yards, three TDs) leads a balanced offense that’s averaging 44.8 points. Senior linebacker Steven Taylor (tied for second nationally with 5.5 total sacks) leads a unit that is ranked first in the nation in rushing defense (37 yards), fourth in scoring defense (10.5 points) and fifth in total defense (228.8 yards). The Cougars held six straight opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, including three straight (Texas State, 33; Cincinnati, 30; Lamar, 15) to 33 or fewer.

TWEET BEAT:

TRENDS:

* Connecticut is 1-4 ATS in its last five games versus a team with a winning record.
* Houston is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Under is 4-0 in Connecticut’s last four games following a SU loss.
* Under is 6-1 in Houston’s last seven home games.

COVERS CONSENSUS: Bettors are having no problem laying all those points with the home team, as a whopping 76 percent of wagers are backing Houston. As for the total, an even bigger majority is backing the Over, with 81 percent of wagers on it.

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