Armed Forces Bowl Picks 2018 – Houston vs. Army

Written by:
Phil Simon
Published on:

Compiling a third straight winning season and getting nationally ranked for the first time in years, the Army Black Knights seem like a team of destiny.


The following article is a special contribution from our friends at Bookmaker

Jeff Monken has turned the program around in just a few seasons and he has yet to lose a bowl game winning in each of the last two years. The Houston Cougars offense could be a problem for the Cadets in this one, the only problem is they might not possess the football long enough to score enough points. And with Ed Oliver sitting out to prepare for the NFL draft, can the Cougars stop Army’s potent ground game?

Houston Cougars vs. Army Black Knights

Date and Time: Saturday, December 22, 2018, 3:30 p.m. ET

Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX

Opening CFB Odds: Army -4.5, O/U 59.5

Houston vs. Army TV Coverage: ESPN

Odds Analysis

A blistering start to the season was doused by a cool finish as the Cougs managed just one victory in their final four games going 1-3 ATS. The slide cost them the AAC’s West Division and left them at 8-4 after a 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS start. Houston finished the year as the fourth-highest scoring team the FBS and cashed the over eight times despite playing with totals in the high 60s or 70s.

Army opened as a 4.5-point favorite and the line hasn’t budged. The Cadets have played as the favorite in their last seven games and nine times overall, and they are unbeaten with a 4-3-2 ATS record. The total hit the board at 64.5 and has been wagered down to its current 59.5


Ground Game

The Black Knights will run the football and then they will run it some more. That’s what they do and they’re successful at it. And that will be what decides this contest. The Cadets do best what the Cougars are worst at, and that’s not a good combo for Houston. Army had the second-best ground game in the nation with nearly 300 yards and they come at opponents from all different angles. Darnell Woolfolk led the team with only 885 yards, which shows just how balanced the attack is. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. ran for 847 yards and six different players had at least 270 rushing yards. And everyone that had a rush attempt averaged at 4.0 yards per carry.

It will be a chore for the Cougars defense to stop the run, especially since they were one of the worst teams at it during the season. Houston ranked 95th nationally in run defense giving up nearly 200 yards per game, and without Oliver in the trenches it could get ugly. Maybe not Memphis ugly when the Cougars surrendered 401 yards on the ground, but they aren’t going to have much success stopping the Cadets.

Houston Hopes

The Cougars were an absolute mess defensively all season and things got even worse down the stretch when they allowed an average of 52 points per game in three losses at the end of the season. And it’s not like they were facing offensive juggernauts in those outings. SMU piled on 45 points, Temple racked up 59 and Memphis dropped 52 on the Cougs in a pitiful display of defense. The performance cost defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio his job.

And believe it or not, the Cougars were worse defending the pass, giving up 291.4 yards per game through the air to rank last in the FBS. That probably won’t be much of a factor on Saturday considering Hopkins only threw 90 passes all season. But when he did throw he was effective with 10.6 yards per attempt and six touchdowns. The Cougars will need to respond to their new DC, but if you don’t have the players it’s hard to get the job done.

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Betting Houston vs. Army at BookMaker.eu

It’s not a total disaster and the Cougars do have some talented players on their side that will make this game one of the better bowls. While the Cougars defense was bad, the offense was able to rack up yards and points relatively easily. The group suffered a big blow when quarterback D’Eriq King was lost, but new starter Clayton Tune showed glimpses in his brief time throwing for 565 yards and seven touchdowns.

And with additional time to prepare, the Cougars need that aspect of their game working to have a chance. They won’t have the ball that often with Army’s ability to chew up clock and convert third downs, so scoring when they do have it is imperative. And it’s not like the Cougars haven’t faced the triple option before. They face Navy every season and should at least have an idea of what’s coming. Stopping it is an entirely different matter, and one the Cougars won’t figure out.

College Football ATS Betting Pick: Army -4.5 at BookMaker.eu

College Football Score Prediction: Army 34, Houston 28

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