Teams & Conferences

2016 Las Vegas Bowl, Houston vs. San Diego State Prediction, Game Preview, History, Scores

Las Vegas Bowl Prediction, Houston vs. San Diego State Game Preview, History, Scores


Three reasons why you should watch the Las Vegas Bowl between Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3), why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


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Date: Saturday, December 17th
Game Time: 3:30 pm
Venue: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Network: ABC

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Scroll down for the video preview and bowl history

The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness (1 best-40 worst): 10 out of 40

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Las Vegas Bowl

It’s the first game of the rest of The Major’s life. Tom Herman might be off to Austin getting his Longhorn on, but Major Applewhite is still around and Todd Orlando has been working in the interim to try keeping all the magic going. Applewhite will take over the head coaching duties right away, and now the pressure is on – this will set the tone for the entire offseason. He’ll be given a little bit of a break if the Cougars lose, but if they rock, get ready for the hype to get rolling.

Will the real San Diego State please show up? The Aztecs were good enough to be in the Cotton Bowl. They somehow didn’t show up at South Alabama – and probably would’ve played it in a rematch in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl if it lost the Mountain West title game – didn’t get off the bus against Colorado State, and lost to Wyoming in a tight late game a few weeks before the MWC Championship. The Cowboys, and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are the only two bowl teams the Aztecs beat – there’s a prove-it factor here.

Will the real Houston please show up? The Cougars were good enough to be in the Cotton Bowl – at least. Will these be the Cougars that came up with breathtaking performances against Louisville and Oklahoma, or the ones that got pantsed by SMU and didn’t bring the D against Memphis? There’s a prove-it factor here – and not just for Applewhite.

Here’s Why Houston Will Win The Las Vegas Bowl

The run defense is about to step up its game. Blow off the 306 yards allowed to Navy – the Cougars couldn’t hit the knuckleball in bad conditions. The run defense has dominated everyone else, finishing the season third in the nation against the run giving up a mere 1,175 yards and under three yards per pop. Navy is the only team to run for more than 200, and SMU is the only other team to run for more than 150. It’ll be helped because …

San Diego State can get stopped behind the line. The Aztec offensive front has been terrific at driving the ground game, and it’s been good in pass protection, but it’ll give up plenty of tackles for loss against defenses that tee off and sell-out against the run. San Diego State, welcome to Ed Oliver. Houston has 90 tackles for loss on the year, and the ultra-quick Oliver on the defensive front, and star linebacker Steven Taylor, have combined for 30 of them. The crushed Lamar Jackson and Louisville in front of the whole world, and they have the talent to do it again.

Greg Ward Jr. is about to end his fantastic career. The San Diego State defense has been terrific, and the secondary has been a wall, but this is the game for the Houston quarterback to close out his career with a bang. Ward ran for 1,108 yards and 21 scores last season and threw for close to 3,000 yards with 17 scores. This year he’s been a better passer – throwing for close to 3,400 yards with 22 touchdowns, with 487 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to Memphis – but he’s not running as much. As long as he’s keeping the offense moving, and now that his beaten up body is getting a few weeks off to rest up, watch out.

Here’s Why San Diego State Will Win The Las Vegas Bowl

Apparently, run well, beat Houston. The Cougars lost three games this season, and all three were the worst games this season by the run defense. Houston is 9-0 when allowing fewer than 145 yards on the ground, and 0-3 when allowing more. That’s a big deal, because …

The Aztecs are going to make sure Donnel Pumphrey gets to 108 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time official rushing leader. Of course, Ron Dayne is going to be the actual all-time leader because the NCAA – for some moronic reason – doesn’t count Dayne’s bowl stats. The former Badger star is 836 yards ahead of Pumphrey, but still, it’ll be a big deal if the SDSU main man comes up with 108 yards. San Diego State hasn’t rushed for fewer than 170 yards this year, and it’s not going to do it in Las Vegas.

The defense hasn’t been quite up to its potential, but … it’s still really, really good. The secondary has allowed 200 yards or more in each of its last four games and is getting beaten deep, and the run D was sketchy late, but when it has to, this defensive front is a rock. It allowed more than 100 yards rushing just four times, and in two of those games – the last two of the regular season – the Aztecs already had the West division locked up.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Las Vegas Bowl

Houston, run for scores. San Diego State has allowed just nine rushing touchdowns on the season, and seven of them came in the three losses. The Cougar running game went in the tank late in the year, and had just one multi-rushing score game over the last five. However, 22 of the touchdown runs came in a six-game stretch – the offense can run from time to time.

Here’s the concern … one way or another, one of these amazing defenses could completely and totally shut down the other’s offense. Houston was only slowed down once all season long – the loss to SMU – in the only game it didn’t put up 30 points or more. But the San Diego State has the ability to pitch a gem when the defense comes out frothing at the mouth.

This could come down to turnover margin. As good as Houston is, it’s not owning the turnover battle, going a -5 over the last seven games and losing the margin in five of those games. San Diego State was a +10 on the season and only lost the turnover margin three times. It’s telling that the Aztecs lost two of those three games, and was even in the third loss of the year. Over the last two years, when San Diego State wins the turnover margin, it’s 16-0.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Las Vegas Bowl?

Which defense is going to come up with the bigger and better performance?

San Diego State has the running game and the defense to control the game and control the clock if Houston isn’t jacked up, but …

Houston will be jacked up.

The Cougars are going to come out roaring in Applewhite’s first game, and after losing to Memphis to close things out. It’s not going to be a total wipeout – like the Oklahoma or Louisville games, or last year’s bowl win over Florida State – but it’ll be a great performance by Houston to make everyone fired up for the potential of the 2017 campaign.

Final Score

Houston 30, San Diego State 23

Line

Houston -4, o/u: 52

ATS Confidence: 0.5
5: Your New Year’s Eve chances to score in your favorite bar
0: Your New Year’s Eve chances to score after covering a College Football Playoff semifinal

Must See Rating: 4
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0: New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Special Co-Host Kathy Griffin

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Las Vegas Bowl History, Results

Dec. 19, 2015 Utah 35 BYU 28
Dec. 20, 2014 Utah 45 Colorado State 10
Dec. 21, 2013 USC 45 Fresno State 20
Dec. 22, 2012 Boise State 28 Washington 26
Dec. 22, 2011 Boise State 56 Arizona State 24
Dec. 22, 2010 Boise State 26 Utah 3
Dec. 22, 2009 BYU 44 Oregon State 20
Dec. 20, 2008 Arizona 31 BYU 21
Dec. 22, 2007 BYU 17 UCLA 16
Dec. 22, 2006 BYU 38 Oregon 8
Dec. 22, 2005 California 35 BYU 28
Dec. 23, 2004 Wyoming 24 UCLA 21
Dec. 24, 2003 Oregon State 55 New Mexico 14
Dec. 25, 2002 UCLA 27 New Mexico 13
Dec. 25, 2001 Utah 10 Southern California 6
Dec. 21, 2000 UNLV 31 Arkansas 14
Dec. 18, 1999 Utah 17 Fresno State 16
Dec. 19, 1998 North Carolina 20 San Diego State 13
Dec. 20, 1997 Oregon 41 Air Force 13
Dec. 18, 1996 Nevada 18 Ball State 15
Dec. 14, 1995 Toledo 40 Nevada 37 (OT)
Dec. 15, 1994 UNLV 52 Central Michigan 24
Dec. 17, 1993 Utah State 42 Ball State 33
Dec. 18, 1992 Bowling Green 35 Nevada 34