Houston -27.5 over Rice
While quarterback Case Keenum continues to set records, Houston quietly remains undefeated. Keenum and the No. 18 Cougars look to match the best start in school history with an eighth consecutive victory Thursday night in a Conference USA matchup against crosstown rival Rice. One of eight remaining undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Houston (7-0, 3-0) has not won its first eight games since 1990. With Keenum guiding the nation's top-ranked offense, matching that start appears likely against a Rice team that has lost 10 straight conference road games since a 49-44 victory at UTEP on Nov. 1, 2008. The Owls (2-5, 1-3) have also been outscored 212-94 during a four-game road skid against Houston since a 21-14 win there Sept. 1, 2001. The Cougars have lost two of the last three overall meetings with Rice, but Keenum did not play in last year's 34-31 road defeat to the Owls.
Keenum is 70 of 103 for 973 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions in three career games versus Rice, posting a 2-1 record. The senior became the FBS career leader in total offense - breaking the record of 16,910 yards set by Hawaii's Timmy Chang from 2000-04 - when he threw for 376 yards and tied a career high with six TD passes in a 63-28 victory over Marshall on Saturday. The nation's leader in passing yards (2,685), Keenum guides an offense that ranks first in the nation with 606.1 total yards and 49.3 points per game. The Cougars have scored at least 56 in three of their last four contests. Keenum and the Houston offense may be too much to handle for a Rice defense that ranks near the bottom of the league giving up 472.4 yards and 32.6 points per game. They have a balanced yet dangerous running game as well with Michael Hayes (66-384 5.8 6 TD), Charles Sims (44-330 7.5 6 TD) and Bryce Beall (50-286 5.7 6 TD) carrying the load of the touches.
Houston native Tyron Carrier is one of Keenum's favorite targets. The senior leads the Cougars with 46 receptions to go along with 553 yards. He's caught a pass in 46 straight games - the longest active streak in the nation. Carrier, however, has a pedestrian six receptions for 66 yards and no touchdowns in his last two games versus Rice. While Houston seems able to score at will, Rice is tied for 95th in the nation averaging 22.3 points per game. Bailiff has yet to decide who will start at quarterback after senior Nick Fanuzzi replaced starter Taylor McHargue, who threw two interceptions and fumbled on the team's first three possessions during a 38-20 loss to Tulsa on Saturday. Rice has dropped 19 straight games against Top 25 opponents dating to a 27-14 win over then-No. 21 BYU on Oct. 11, 1997.
You don't see me very often take a team for two consecutive weeks as a best bet, but since the line here is set at 4 TDs and Houston has been scoring at will, it has taken their lesser of their Conference USA competition out of games early. Keenum continues to be one of the most accurate and efficient QB's in D1, and the last few weeks the Cougars defense has been inspired only yielding renegade points when the game is out of reach. Rice will not be able to stop Keenum and company, and Houston rolls to a gargantuan 8th straight victory in a track meetish style offense. Best of luck however you play!
Back with another game for Saturday