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New Mexico Bowl: Hawaii vs. Houston odds, preview, and pick

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December 21st, 2020

The Mountain West’s Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (4-4) and the AAC’s Houston Cougars (3-4) will square off in the 15th annual New Mexico Bowl on Thursday afternoon.

The Christmas Eve fixture will have a new wrinkle in 2020, as the game was relocated from its traditional home of Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas because of COVID-19 issues.

Which program will come out on top? Here’s our wagering preview.

Thu, December 24 2020, 8:30 PM

Houston Cougars

Moneyline

-455

Spread

-13.5

Total

O 60.5

Hawaii Warriors

Moneyline

+340

Spread

+13.5

Total

U 60.5

Both teams seek a rare quality win

Both Hawaii and Houston have just one win against opponents with winning records this season.

The Rainbow Warriors topped 6-2 Nevada, 24-21, at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 28. The Cougars earned their quality win over a 6-5 Tulane in their first game of the season Oct. 8, when they prevailed 49-31.

Houston appeared to have the harder schedule in 2020. In addition to enduring numerous postponements or cancellations related to COVID-19 issues, the Cougars played two ranked teams — No. 14 BYU and No. 6 Cincinnati. Hawaii did not face a ranked opponent and played all eight its scheduled games in 2020 without interruption.

Comparing the dual-threat quarterbacks

Hawaii and Houston each have a quarterback who can pass or run at any given moment in Thursday’s New Mexico Bowl.

Sophomore Chevan Cordeiro calls the shots for the Rainbow Warriors. His passing stats are modest (62.1% completion rate, 6.7 yards per attempt, 11 touchdowns, six interceptions), but he is the program’s leading rusher this year. Cordeiro has carried the rock 108 times for 450 yards and seven touchdowns.

Junior Clayton Tune lines up behind center for the Cougars. His passing stats could be better (60.7% completion rate, 7.4 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions), but he has played without wide receivers Tre’von Bradley and Marquez Stevenson most of the year. They are expected to suit up for the New Mexico Bowl.

Tune has 62 carries for 269 yards and five touchdowns in 2020.

Hawaii and Houston statistics and rankings

TeamPassing yardsRushing yardsPassing yards allowedRushing yards allowed
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
243.4, 48th
155.5, 73rd
190.6, 23rd
231.5, 120th
Houston Cougars
268.1, 31st
155.3, 74th
244.6, 78th
172.7, 77th

Houston should exploit Hawaii’s porous run defense

Houston’s best bet on offense, especially with significant winds expected for Thursday’s game, appears to be the ground game.

Hawaii is 23rd at stopping the pass in 2020, but only 120th preventing the run. Look for Houston senior tailback Kyle Porter to get plenty of carries in the New Mexico Bowl.

Will Houston cover in the New Mexico Bowl?

Trends say take the favorite

Several negative trends are working against Hawaii.

The Rainbow Warriors are 15-36 against the spread in their last 51 games against teams with losing records. They’ve also failed to cover in five of their last seven overall, and four of their last five December games.

The Cougars have covered in 20 of their last 28 outdoor games.

Score prediction: Houston 38, Hawaii 21

NCAAF Pick: Houston -13.5


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