Houston vs. Louisiana: 2022 College Football Independence Bowl Odds, Picks & Predictions (12/23)

Here are Thor Nystrom’s best bets for the 2022 College Football Bowl Game: Independence Bowl.

2022 regular season: 82-66-3ATS (55.4%)
2022 bowls (through Dec. 18): 8-2ATS (80%)
2022 combined: 90-68-3ATS (56.9%)
2014-2021: 706-620-17ATS (53.2%)

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Houston vs. Louisiana: 2022 College Football Independence Bowl Odds, Picks & Predictions

Friday, December 23 | 2:00 PM
Houston (-7) vs Louisiana | Total: 58
ATL: Houston -3.3 | AT: 63

Houston

  • QB Holman Edwards (Transfer portal)
  • WR Joseph Manjack IV (Injury)
  • EN Derek Parish (Injury)

WR Tank Dell declared for the NFL Draft but announced he would stick around to play in this game. Dell’s decision is huge for the Cougars – he’ll be the best player on the field. Houston also got good news when QB Clayton Tune affirmed he would play.

WR Manjack is out for the year with a hand injury. Star DE Parish is also out for the year with a torn bicep suffered in Week 4. At the conclusion of that week, he was tied for No. 3 in the nation with five sacks and also tied for No. 3 with 8.5 TFL. His loss was cataclysmic, but the Cougs had time to adjust to life without him. QB2 Edwards is a backup who likely wouldn’t have played anyway.

Louisiana

  • QB Ben Wooldridge (Injury)
  • RB Terrence Williams (Injury)
  • WR Michael Jefferson (opt out)
  • WR Dontae Fleming (Transfer portal)
  • DE Andre Jones (opt out)

QB1 Wooldridge was knocked out for the season with an injury in mid-November. QB2 Chandler Fields started the last two regular season games and will draw the start here, too. RB Williams is questionable with an undisclosed injury.

WR Jefferson, easily Louisiana’s leading receiver, opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. He finished the regular season with 810 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. WR Fleming finished the regular season with the fourth-most catches on the team. Louisiana did get good news when RB1 Chris Smith, who declared for the NFL Draft, announced he would play in the bowl game.

DE Jones, who opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft, was easily the team’s best edge defender with a strong 78.8 PFF grade. Louisiana has decent depth at this spot, but the replacements are an undisputed qualitative drop-off.

handicap

The Cougars’ high-octane offense got great news with the opt-ins of QB Tune and WR Dell. Houston scored 30 or more points in 11 of 12 games. They scored 24 in the other (Tulane). The Tune/Dell connection strikes fear in the heart of opponents.

The pass-happy Cougars ranked No. 5 in standard down passing rate during the regular season. WR Dell has posted 103 catches for 1,354 yards and 15 TD, while QB Tune has thrown for 3,845 yards and a 37/10 TD/INT ratio.

To beat the Cougars – or stay close to them – you must slow down that passing attack. That part of it isn’t optional. Louisiana is equipped to potentially do that, as UL’s strong pass defense ranks No. 35 in success rate and no. 23 in efficiency.

Where you can nick the Ragin’ Cajuns is on the ground. But Houston HC Dana Holgorsen is not interested in that. Louisiana’s No. 29 SP+ defense should be up to the task of at least preventing Tune/Dell from going ballistic.

Louisiana’s offense isn’t great (No. 95 SP+), but it’s better than Houston’s pitiful defense (No. 115 SP+). UL RB Smith, who opted-in for one last NFL Draft showcase, should have a big game.

Holgorsen is 2-7 ATS in his career (3-6 SU) in bowl games, and his teams have lost by 14+ points in four of its last five bowl appearances. Holgo is notorious for treating bowl practices for general work as opposed to opponent-specific plans of attack, and for his belief that bowls are exhibitions.

Houston also didn’t exactly finish strong, going 1-4 ATS in the last five regular-season games. Both of these teams were “sell” programs for us during the regular season, but our preference to fade Houston is stronger, particularly in this matchup, which on paper doesn’t appear strong enough for them to be laying a touchdown.

The pick: Louisiana +7


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