Bowl season is here, and wouldn’t you know COVID is still screwing things up. In the case of the New Mexico Bowl, restrictions due to the pandemic means that the game will actually be played in Frisco, TX. What we do know is that this should be an exciting game if you like offense, because both teams are defensively challenged. We will get to that in a bit, but first, let’s take a look at the respective teams’ seasons.
Hawai’i (4-4) played a Mountain West Conference schedule this season and finished fifth out of 12 teams. The Warriors’ best win was against 6-2 Nevada (24-21). That win broke a two-game losing streak during a brutal stretch of the season that featured four games against the top four teams in the league. Their worst loss was a 31-7 defeat to a 2-5 Wyoming squad during week two.
Houston was affected heavily by COVID cancellations this season, with six games either postponed or cancelled. The Cougars went through two three week breaks during the season because of COVID outbreaks, and finished their season at 3-4, good enough for sixth place in the American Athletic Conference. All four of the teams that defeated Houston this season finished ahead of them in the AAC, and their best win was a 37-21 victory over 3-7 Navy.
The Cougars are heavily favored in this game, which will be an interesting comparison between members of the group of five conferences. Without non-conference games to gauge the strength of different conferences, it is a little more challenging to predict how these teams will fare in the postseason. Still, the Cougars have a talented roster capable of putting up big numbers against the Warriors defense.
(Late line movements and injury reports were updated on Wednesday evening.)
There hasn’t been a ton of movement in regards to the line in this contest. Houston opened as a 10.5-point favorite when the lines came out this week. As the week has gone on, the Cougars now stand as a 10, 10.5 or 11-point favorite as of Wednesday evening depending on the sportsbook you look at. 62 percent of the bets ATS are backing the Rainbow Warriors with the points here in the New Mexico Bowl.
The total has ticked down slightly for this contest as the week has worn on. After opening at 61.5 points, the total is now found at either 59 or 59.5 points, depending on the sportsbook. A slight majority, 53 percent, of the bets on the total are projecting that this game will end up going over the mark.
Game-time Weather: It’s going to be a breezy afternoon for this contest, which was moved from Albuquerque to Frisco, Texas due to the mandates handed down by the state government of New Mexico. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the low-50s under sunny skies with the real-feel temperature clocking in the low-40s. During the contest, the temperature will drop to around 50 degrees with no precipitation in the forecast to speak of here. The winds will be a factor as they are projected from the northwest at 22 miles per hour with the wind gusts kicking up to near 35 miles an hour during the contest.
Warriors Will Have to Outscore Houston to Win BowlHawai’i’s offense averaged 26 points per game this season, and the passing game was ranked 49th in the NCAA with 243.4 yards per game, while the running game ranked 77th (155.1 rush yards per game). The good news is the Warriors faced six defenses statistically ranked ahead of Houston with marginal success. Against Boise State (33rd), the Warriors put up 34 points and 394 yards of total offense, which shows the capabilities of this offense.
Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro has completed 62.1% of his passes this season for 1947 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Cordeiro was the leading Warrior rusher with 450 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Running back Calvin Turner led the team in receiving yards with 29 catches for 453 yards and five touchdowns, and also gained 5.6 yards per carry to go along with four rushing touchdowns. Receivers Jared Smart (33 rec., 287 yds, 1 TD) and Rico Bussey (31 rec., 271 yds, 1 TD) are Cordeiro’s top targets at wide receiver.
Defensively, Hawai’i’s unit allowed 29.3 points per game and gave up 190.6 passing yards per game (20th in the nation). The rush defense was porous, though, giving up an average of 230.9 yards per game, good enough for 116th in the country. The Warriors allowed opponents to convert third downs at a 42.9% rate, and the team was +2 in turnover margin.
Hawaii Injury Report:
OUT: DB Eugene Ford, OL Kohl Levao
Cougars Needing More Out of DefenseThe good news for the Houston Cougars is that their offense is one of the best in the AAC. The bad news is their defense is among the worst, which has led to a sub .500 season this year. Quarterback Clayton Tune led an explosive offense, averaging 261.7 passing yards per game and 38 rushing yards per game while having scored 17 total touchdowns on the season. Keith Corbin, who has hauled in 27 catches for 352 yards and a score, is Tune’s top target. Marquez Stevenson, who averages 15.4 yards per catch, led the team with four touchdown grabs. Running back Kyle Porter has averaged 4.1 yards per carry to go along with his four touchdowns on the season.
Houston’s defense has proven to be porous, which has put the pressure on the offense. The 71st ranked Cougars defense has forced just six turnovers in seven games this season while giving up 417.3 yards per game (172.7 on the ground). The Cougars are allowing opponents to get into the red zone a little over four times per game, and have allowed 19 touchdowns in 29 red zone trips. Making matters worse, defensive lineman Payton Turner (17 tackles, five sacks) has opted out of the remainder of the season.
Houston Injury Report:
OUT: RB Terrell Brown, LB Terrance Edgeston, RB Ta’Zhawn Henry, OL Patrick Paul, DL Payton Turner, WR Khiyon Wafer, DL Sedrick Williams
Questionable: LB Donavan Mutin
- Houston: N/A
- Houston: N/A
- Hawai’i: N/A
- Hawai’i: N/A