Houston Cougars Football Odds: Conference Realignment, Win Totals, Big 12 Betting
A new dawn breaks on the 74-year history of Houston football. UH transitions to a power five conference after 30 years outside the big stage. The Cougars are moving to the Big 12 in 2023. However, the transition comes with turnover. Most projections for Houston are bearish in their first year in the Big 12, but there’s longterm excitement aplenty in H-Town. Let’s dive into Houston Cougars odds for the 2023 college football season.
Houston Cougars Team Profile
*L/5 Recruit: Last five years recruiting average rank, national.
Last season, Houston failed to match lofty expectations coming off a 12-2 year. The Cougars sputtered to a 7-5 regular season finish thanks in part to a defense that fully collapsed from their standing as one of the nation’s best. They played in three overtime games – all to terrific teams in UTSA, Texas Tech, and Tulane – and five one-score games in their first six. However, wins over UTSA and East Carolina were juxtaposed by a loss to Tulsa.
Overall, the Cougs scored the 14th-most points per drive, but allowed the 26th-most. Their defensive season was perhaps highlighted by allowing 77 points to SMU, a game in which Houston scored 63 of their own. Not to say that they didn’t incur some unlucky bounces along the way – ESPN’s Bill Connelly lined Houston for -6 fumble recoveries over expected last season and the Cougs ranked 59th in TeamRankings’ luck metric.
But overall, their season was marred by blown leads. (Their Week 5 OT loss to Tulane featured an 81% postgame win expectancy for Houston!)
After a disappointing final season in the American, Houston lost a majority of its roster talent to the NFL, including veteran QB Clayton Tune and star receiver Tank Dell. Later in the offseason, talented running back Alton McCaskill and all-conference tackle Cam’Ron Johnson left in the transfer portal. Just 54% of their total roster production returns for 2023, 107th-most in the country.
The mass turnover couldn’t come at a worse time, as they now transition into the Big 12.
Houston Cougars Football Odds: Futures
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Houston Cougars Big 12 Odds Outlook
Sportsbooks line Houston with the longest odds to win the Big 12 Conference in Year 1, set at (0.79%). The combination of outbound players and moving up into a Power Five league suggests a difficult year for the Cougs inbound.
Under head coach Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia underwent a similar transition. The Mountaineers moved to the Big 12 in 2012, falling from 10-3 in their last year in the Big East to 4-8 after just two seasons. Holgorsen was able to rebound, going 10-3 in 2016, but the build took time and he was a new face in Morgantown. Outside of their 12-win 2021 season, the Cougars are just 15-18 (0.455) under Holgorsen since 2019.
The Cougars will benefit from Oklahoma and Texas departing the league. They stand in an excellent recruiting position, now being able to boast big-time football in one of the country’s hottest beds for recruiting. The move to the Big 12 in the long run will be a good one for Houston, but this year is a transition year worthy of lowered expectations.
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Win Total and Win Projection
This season, Houston plays the 55th-most difficult schedule, per preseason aggregate power ratings. They face Rice and Sam Houston State out of the conference, avoid Oklahoma in-league, and handle both TCU and Texas at home. The Cougars don’t travel outside the state of Texas until Halloween, and then not again until the final game of the year at UCF. Twice this year – against Sam Houston State and Texas – does the opponent have a rest advantage. (Note: Houston plays WVU on Thursday before the Texas game, which the Longhorns come off a full bye week.)
The bottom line is: Houston could have done much worse with their 2023 slate.
However, ranking 11th in the Big 12 in power ratings comes with a cost. This year, I project 5.0 wins for Houston, slightly above their win total of . Four games this year I project to be a toss-up (under 3.5 points), all of which come at home and three of which favor Houston. The Cougars project to be a double-digit underdog in every conference road game, as well.
While I did not place a bet on Houston’s regular season win total, I would lean under this season.
Houston Football Schedule 2023
Kickoff times below are in ET.
|9/2||UTSA||7:00 p.m.||HOU -2.5|
|9/8 OR 9/9||at Rice||7:00 p.m.|
|9/23||Sam Houston State||7:00 p.m.|
|9/30||at Texas Tech||TBA|
|10/28||at Kansas State||TBA|