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UConn Football vs. Houston: How to Watch, By The Numbers, Key Matchups

Everything you need to be properly informed going into tonight’s game!

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

KICKOFF: 8:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN; WatchESPN (mobile/online)

ANNOUNCERS: Dave Fleming (play-by-play), Jesse Palmer (color analyst), Laura Rutledge (sideline)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network (WTIC 1080 AM, WILI 1400 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WGCH 1490 AM), SIRIUS 108, XM 201, XM 954 (Internet), TuneIn Radio app

ANNOUNCERS: Joe D'Ambrosio (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Ken Sweitzer (sideline)

POINT SPREAD: Houston -29.5

SERIES HISTORY: UConn and Houston have only met once on the gridiron with UConn winning 20-17 in 2015. Garrett Anderson had the winning TD pass to Noel Thomas on a halfback option play. The win made the Huskies bowl-eligible.

DEPTH CHART FOR HOUSTON GAME

Projections

Football Study Hall’s numbers like Houston a bit less than the polls do, as they have the Cougars ranked 17th in the country. The Huskies are currently ranked 88th, moving slightly down after hovering around 80 for most of the season.

The FSH model is predicting a 21-point Houston win, and giving the Huskies an 11% chance of victory. These are slightly better than the spread that we’re seeing from the oddsmakers, but still nobody is expecting UConn to keep it close tonight.

In projecting the rest of the season, FSH is giving UConn a 37.1% chance of reaching bowl eligibility. The record with the highest probability right now is 5-7, which has a 30% chance.

Takeaways from Last Week’s Game

Fun with Numbers

4 - Senior wide receiver Noel Thomas is fourth in the nation in receptions per game, averaging 10.0 per contest. He’s also 23rd in the country with 388 yards and also has over 100 yards from scrimmage per game. Despite other offensive woes, the Huskies have done a great job of getting Thomas involved, as he has been targeted on 45.2% of passing attempts.

62 - The S&P+ ranking for UConn’s defense. For the most part Diaco and Poindexter have held up their end of the bargain. The offense, ranked 106th in the nation at the moment, lags behind.

8 - Receptions for junior tight ends Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom combined. Redshirt freshman Tyler Davis has nine on the season, but still the position group is being tragically underused through four games given the talent on hand.

52 vs. 40 - The split in rushing attempts between Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson, respectively. It’s fairly close a quarter of the way through the season, but Newsome has been the more efficient runner with 4.1 yards per carry. Overall, the rushing attack has left much to be desired, with Bryant Shirreffs leading the team in rushing yards before this past Saturday.

46.5% - Success Rate for the UConn passing attack, good for 36th in the country. It has been harped on over and over through casual observation, but we now have numeric evidence to confidently say that the passing game is where the UConn offense is at its best. The coaches need to flip the script by using the pass to set up the run and spreading targets around their vast array of playmakers to keep defenses guessing.

Success rate is measured by the number of plays which reach a success marker divided by the number of plays. For this metric, “success” on a play means gaining 50% of the necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down.

Q&A with Houston Internet Friends

Key Matchups

Ed Oliver vs. UConn interior line

Oliver, a 5-star recruit from the class of 2016 who chose Houston over a slew of elite programs, has been a terror as a true freshman. He joined an already disruptive Cougar defensive front that is going to give UConn’s beleaguered offensive line trouble.

Greg Ward’s arm vs. UConn Secondary

Houston likes to run the ball a lot and will test UConn’s run defense horizontally with Greg Ward’s legs. Still, the Huskies have proven themselves to be well-suited to stopping the run. Where the UConn defense has been most vulnerable is in the secondary and it’s the area Houston will need to attack successfully to win this game.

Arkeel Newsome vs. The World

We know we can’t count on the O-line to create very much space. But Newsome has proven time and time again that he can make something out of nothing, and can occasionally break a big play. If he can break a long run or find some space on a screen or swing pass tonight, it would be a great boost for the Huskies’ struggling offense.

UConn Coaching Staff vs. Self

There were a lot of believers in the UConn offense going into this season but so far the results have been underwhelming. What is particularly vexing about this offensive ineptitude is that it has been interrupted by streaks of competence clearly brought on by a shift in strategy. Unfortunately, the coaching staff insists on reverting to a more conservative approach when the game is close.

The staff need to look no further than within our own division at South Florida to see the potential of getting with the times offensively. The Bulls finally opened up their offense three and a half games into last season despite Willie Taggart’s initial goal of running a pro-style offense and it sparked the team to a fiery hot finish. This year they are on the cusp of being ranked. If UConn’s offense can finally come close to matching the quality of its defense, we can see a similar trajectory for the Huskies.