Las Vegas Bowl prediction roundtable with the Campus Insiders staff. Breaking down what will happen between Houston and San Diego State.
If you don’t know about Donnel Pumphrey yet – first, go watch highlights ASAP – and second enjoy his grand finale. Tom Herman is out the door. Todd Orlando has one foot out the door. And Major Applewhite has a whoooooole lot more on his plate. With the prolonged coaching search, one tends to forget that Houston actually has another football game. How dialed in will players be? Not nearly as much as they were last year against FSU in the Peach Bowl. Aztecs win, and it’s not particularly close.
Houston is in an interesting position trying, as the Cougars work to motivate themselves after a somewhat underwhelming year and Tom Herman departing for Texas. San Diego State, on the other hand, has one thing in particular to play for… force feeding Donnel Pumphrey the ball so he can get the 108 yards he needs to break Ron Dayne’s FBS career rushing record. San Diego State puts this one out of reach on a long, record-breaking run by Pumphrey late in the game (coaches then pull him out so he doesn’t lose any yards).
I foolishly picked Louisville to beat Houston, and clearly that didn’t work out for me. Although, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one to bet against the Cougars there. However, the loss of Tom Herman is a big one. And there’s a reason why San Diego State was able to secure its second straight Mountain West title. Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny will both go off and lead the Aztecs to a win.
Major Applewhite is looking to start off his head-coaching tenure at UH with a win. The Cougars have the third-best rushing defense in the country, but it will be tough to stop the Aztecs’ efficient ground game, led by star Donnel Pumphrey. He’s explosive and was a workhorse once again this year, rushing for 2,018 yards and 16 touchdowns. Rashaad Penny added 995 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Juwan Washington chipped in 433 yards and five scores on the ground. Houston will be able to connect on some big plays, but Pumphrey and this rushing attack will be a bit too much. UH has played very well in big games this season, but will focus be an issue after the loss of Tom Herman?
This isn’t exactly where Houston wanted to be, especially considering how the season started with a win over Oklahoma. The Cougars will have their hands full with Donnel Pumphrey, and a letdown could be in the stars for them – Tom Herman left, expectations unfulfilled – so I will go with the Aztecs in this one.