The Kevin Sumlin era in the desert got off to a rocky start with the Arizona Wildcats losing their opener last week to BYU. Looking to put the Rich Rodriguez scandal-laden tenure behind them, UA made a great hire getting the former Texas AM coach to come to Tucson. Sumlin actually began his head coaching career with the Houston Cougars in 2008, restoring that program back to national prominence. Sumlin returns to his old stomping grounds in Week 2 for the first time since leaving for College Station.
This matchup in Week 2 will take place on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at 12 p.m. ET at TDECU Stadium. You can watch the game live on ABC.
College Football Odds at BookMaker.eu
Arizona Wildcats +4.5
Houston Cougars -4.5
ver/Under (Check Back Later)
The line opened at Houston -3.5 and was wagered up a full point shortly after hitting the board. Arizona is getting nearly 62 percent of the early money with the betting public liking the points. Both teams are 0-1 ATS this year, however, Houston won and covered last year’s game with a 19-16 win in the desert. The total hasn’t hit the board as of this writing.
Player to Watch
BYU did a number on Khalil Tate in last week’s game and you can bet Houston’s Ed Oliver took notes. Widely regarded as the best defensive lineman in the college game and considered by many to be the best player period, Oliver got his season off to a monstrous start against Rice last week. The junior led the Cougars with 13 tackles, including 3.5 for loss in Houston’s 45-27 win over the Owls.
Last season Oliver became the first underclassman to win the Outland Trophy by collecting 73 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He also added two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Arizona had a hard time keeping BYU off its quarterback last week and those Cougars don’t have a guy like Oliver on their defense.
For the first time since leaving Houston after the 2011 season, Sumlin returns to where it all began to face his former team. After five years at Oklahoma, Sumlin was hired to be Houston’s coach in 2008, succeeding Art Briles, who left to take the job at Baylor. And just like Briles, Sumlin used his tenure at Houston to reach a bigger payday. The Cougars won eight games in Sumlin’s first year and had 10 victories in 2009, getting into the AP rankings for the first time since 1991.
In 2011, Houston won its first 12 games to reach the Conference USA Championship Game and a win over Southern Miss would have given the Cougars their first Bowl Championship Series bid. However, it wasn’t to be. Houston lost 49-28 and a week later Sumlin accepted the head coaching job at Texas AM. After winning 11 games his first season, the total declined before Sumlin was relieved of his duties following the final regular season game in 2017. He’s had just one losing season and boasts a career winning percentage of .662.
Contain Tate and you can slow down Arizona’s offense. After leading all FBS players with 9.2 yards per carry last season, the shifty quarterback was held to just 14 yards on eight rush attempts by BYU for an average of 1.8 yards per attempt. Tate isn’t as adept throwing the football and he was put in uncomfortable spots by BYU’s defense. Tate completed just 17 of 34 passes for 197 yards in last week’s game. Tate saw limited action in last year’s game spelling Brandon Dawkins and rushing for 24 yards on four carries while throwing for 41 yards on 5 of 8 passing.
Free ATS Pick
Getting Tate back in his comfort zone will help Arizona’s offense, but standing in his way are Oliver and Isaiah Chambers. Tate had a monster season in 2017 coming out of nowhere to make his mark on the college football world. But teams have a way of adjusting to fleet-footed quarterbacks, especially if they can’t throw the football. Tate was locked down by BYU last week and he couldn’t win the game with his arm.
There are more pressing concerns for the Wildcats, however. They were pushed around up front with BYU controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. This could be another disaster for Arizona, but I like Sumlin to make adjustments and he doesn’t want to lose in his return to Houston. And the Wildcats are still embarrassed about last year’s home loss to the Cougars which will give them added incentive to come out victorious.
College Football Odds: Arizona 30, Houston 24
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