Houston vs. San Diego State prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the Las Vegas Bowl between the Cougars and Aztecs.
When: Saturday, Dec. 17 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV Broadcast: ABC
It’ll be Todd Orlando who coaches the Cougars into the Las Vegas Bowl, but it was Tom Herman who led them for the past two seasons. Houston (9-3) was riding a three-game winning streak before it went toe-to-toe with Memphis on the road and lost, 48-44, to close the regular season. The Cougars’ other two losses were also on the road, to Navy and SMU.
As for San Diego State (10-3), Rocky Long has done an unbelievable job with his team. A six-game winning streak for the Aztecs was cut short with a loss on the road to Wyoming. And after it fell to Colorado State, San Diego State had a shot at revenge against the Cowboys in the Mountain West Championship Game. The Aztecs took advantage and claimed the conference title for the second straight year with a 27-24 win.
The Cougars and Aztecs have only met twice in history, and Houston has won both meetings. The last time they played, the Cougars won in San Diego, 14-9, in 1973.
What To Know About Houston
Greg Ward Jr. has really shown this season what he’s capable of doing as a passer. Ward completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,328 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He hooked up with Linell Bonner 93 times for 1,076 yards and three touchdowns. Chance Allen leads the team with six receiving touchdowns, though, and he has 56 grabs for 815 yards.
But as mentioned, Ward can do damage with his legs, too. He leads the Cougars with 518 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns on 175 carries. Right behind him is Duke Catalon, who took 131 carries for 510 yards and four touchdowns.
What to Know About San Diego State
The Aztecs have a star of their own, though. Donnel Pumphrey is one of the most explosive players in all of college football, and he put San Diego State on his back this season. Pumphrey took 330 carries for 2,018 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 205 yards.
Along with Pumphrey, though, San Diego State also has Rashaad Penny in the backfield. He rushed for 995 yards and 11 touchdowns on 126 carries this season. And Juwan Washington added five rushing touchdowns and 433 yards on 52 touches.
Offense: Houston – Ward has been dynamic for Houston. He can do it all.
Defense: San Diego State – Both defenses have been stout, but the Aztecs get the edge for being No. 19 in scoring defense (21 points/game).
Special Teams: San Diego State – John Baron II has hit 52-of-54 extra points and 19-of-21 field goals. Plus, Penny can make magic in the return game.
Coaching: San Diego State – Long led the Aztecs to another conference title, and Houston just lost its head coach.
Matchup To Watch
Houston running game vs. San Diego State running game
Both teams have an ability to run the ball with an incredibly high amount of success. The key will be for one of them to have a particularly better time on the ground than the other. If Ward and Catalon can come up big for the Cougars, they’ll be in a solid position to win. But Pumphrey and Penny can do damage in a hurry, and things could get away quickly for Houston if they do.
Spread: No line as of publication
Over/Under: No line as of publication
Houston vs. San Diego State Prediction
Typically, the play-for-your coach stuff doesn’t really hold as much weight as one might think. But Houston is legitimately missing its head coach, and it seems as though there is a question mark hanging over the Cougars’ heads. Ward will play well, but San Diego State is going to get a huge game from Penny and a great game from Pumphrey. They’ll combine for more than 300 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Aztecs will claim a win over Houston.
Houston vs. San Diego State Score Prediction: San Diego State 35, Houston 31
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: San Diego State
Jeff Bartl: San Diego State
Rich Cirminiello: San Diego State
Robert Judin: San Diego State
Pete Fiutak: San Diego State