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Houston Cougars at Rice Owls Free Pick 9/21/13

Rice Owls (1-1) at Houston Cougars (2-0)

NCAAF Football: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Reliant Stadium)

The Line: Houston Cougars -4 -- Over/Under: See the Latest Odds

TV: Fox Sports

The 2-0 Houston Cougars face off against cross town rival Rice this Saturday in non conference action at 3PM.

Rice bounced back from a tough opening game in College Station to get their first win of the season this past Saturday over Kansas 23-14.  Rice got things going quickly when Michael Kutzler returned an interception 52 yards for a 7-0 lead.  The Owls and Jayhawks proceeded to trade points before Rice took the lead for good on a Chris Boswell field goal early in the 4th quarter. Charles Ross led the way for the Owls with 157 yards and a TD on 27 carries.  With Houston’s aerial attack coming to town, the Owls will need better production from quarterback Taylor McHargue who threw for just 168 yards and two costly picks.

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Houston Cougars at Rice Owls Free Pick 9/21/13

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Houston sits at 2-0 this season after a defeating Temple in week 2 in Philly 22-13.  The Cougars did not explode offensively as they did in week 1 but got just enough production from their defense in the second half and knocked down a whopping 5 field goals to hang on for the win.  Houston racked up 524 yards of total offense but consistently stalled out and were doomed by 77 costly penalty yards.  Ryan Jackson had a strong night on the ground with 109 yards and a TD and the Cougars are pleasantly surprised with a run game that was expected to see some road bumps given departure of Charles Simms.  Freshman John O’Korn got the majority of the snaps for the Cougars and racked up 233 yards on 23-31 passing.  Houston was able to stall the Owls multiple times in the second half and forced 3 turnovers for the game -- something they will need to build on if they want to make it 3-0 this weekend.

Some trends to consider -- Rice is 6-0 against the spread against a team with a winning record and Houston is 4-0 against the spread in their last 4 games overall.

These two teams both are capable of putting up points and I ultimately expect the team with the better defense to prevail.  I like the Cougars aggressive unit to have the edge here and expect their offense to get back on track and capitalize more through the air against a vulnerable Rice secondary.  Look for Ryan Jackson to put forth another strong effort and the Cougars to sneak away with the cover and city bragging rights this year.

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