When I started to write this blog, I wanted to title it 'Hawaii Bowl Gambling Preview' due to knowing Hawaii is in it and it's on Christmas Eve. The Hawaii Bowl featuring the Fighting Rainbows against a random G5 team on the TV after Christmas Eve mass is a tradition unlike any other. Who can forget Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate taking down Hawaii?
Unfortunately, today's bowl is not the Hawaii Bowl, instead, it's the New Mexico Bowl in Texas. Here is where we stand as of 10:47 AM:
As noted above, losing your leader in sacks, tackles, and receptions isn't great news. Payton Turner has the highest PFF grade of any Houston defender, while Stuard ranks 7th. Stevenson is the top-graded receiver on the team, but he was only targeted the 3rd most on Houston this season.
Hawaii Explosive Offense:
Hawaii has the 36th most explosive offense this season thanks to their rushing attack, which ranks 17th in explosiveness. This is not great news for Houston, who has the 4th worst defense defending against explosive plays. This stays true when looking at defending explosive rushing plays, where Houston ranks 5th worst. I can only assume this will get worse without Turner and Stuard.
The good news for Houston is they have a pretty stout run defense outside of the stats mentioned above. Over at Pro Football Focus, they rank 9th in run defense. In line yards they rank 40th, while also having a top 20 ranking in stuff & opportunity rate. As long as they keep Hawaii in front of them, specifically their mobile QB Chevan Cordeiro, they could have a great day.
Houston Pass Offense:
Clayton Tune is one of the better college QBs you probably haven't heard about. Turns out that Clayton Tune isn't as good as I thought he was…he ranks 44th in QBR behind Tanner Morgan, Bo Nix, Hendon Hooker, and Sean Clifford. Pro Football Focus has been kinder to him, ranking him 20th. Maybe the first sentence I wrote (and then crossed out) was correct? Who knows. He'll be tasked to throw and beat the Hawaii defense today without his top WR.
Let's take a look at Hawaii's pass defense:
Not awful, but certainly not great!
When you think Houston, you think passing. You wouldn't be wrong as they pass the ball the 37th most in the country (51% of the time). The other 49%? Houston is pretty good at running the ball. They rank 30th in EPA/rush, which could come in handy against a Hawaii defense that ranks 104th in line yards.
I see Houston controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball which will force Hawaii QB Chevan Cordeiro to beat them. I don't see that happening…I've never been impressed by Cordeiro and the stats back that up. His rankings:
After beating Hawaii on the line of scrimmage, Houston will be able to exploit Hawaii through the air with Clayton Tune. Missing WR Marquez Stevens hurts, but Tune has been more than comfortable throwing to his other options all season.
We have seen the line drop from Hawaii +10.5 to +8.5, but I'm going against the steam. Houston is a more talented team (50th in 247sports team talent composite vs. Hawaii's 100th). I don't see any massive motivational or coaching edge either. I personally believe Dana Holgorsen is a better coach than Todd Graham.
If you don't love this play, I'd suggest looking for a live total after a slow or fast start. If we see a 14-7 start, you could grab a nice live under. The opposite is true too…if we start 0-0 or 3-0, you could grab an over in the 40s. I'll be looking for both! Best of luck.
Play: Houston -8.5
Bowl SZN: 4-3, +0.7 units.
2020: 149-138, +5.02u