Armed Forces Bowl – Amon Carter Stadium in
Friday, January 2, 2015 @ 12:00 PM EST (ESPN)
Houston Cougars (7-5, American Athletic) vs Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6, Atlantic Coast)
Current Line: Pittsburgh -3, O/U: 53.5
Houston Cougars (Interim Head Coach David Gibbs): Three years removed from a brilliant 14-1 season that included a Cotton Bowl win, the Cougars are clawing its way back to respectability. This season was a mirror image of last season when the Cougars went 7-5 in the regular season and won its bowl game. This year's schedule wasn't very challenging, but the Cougars played well enough to earn its way back into the postseason.
In past years, the Cougars had been known for having a high-flying offensive attack that racked up spectacular numbers. They now have a more balanced and conservative attack. The offense used a QB platooning approach that saw the running option Soph QB Greg Ward Jr. passing for 1,736 yards a 9 TDs while adding 481 yards and 6 TDs on the ground. The other QB, Soph John O'Korn threw for 951 yards and 6 TDs. When they wanted to run, they found Jr RB Kenneth Farrow to be a reliable option. He gained 934 yards while scoring 12 TDs.
The Cougars are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game and are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games on grass.
Pittsburgh Panthers (Interim Head Coach Joe Rudolph): It has been more than a decade since the Panthers have put together a spectacular season. In typical fashion, they grinded out another so-so season that was good enough to get an invite into the postseason, but nothing that would cause fans to feel any real sense of excitement. Problematic for the Panthers was the fact they played better on the road (3-2) than they did at home.
One important plus for this year's Panther offense was a rushing attack that averaged 251.3 YPG. Leading the way in the backfield was Second Team All-American Soph James Conner who lit up the scoreboard with 24 TDs and 1,675 yards rushing. The passing combination of Soph QB Chad Voytik (2,011 yards passing and 15 TDs) and Soph WR Tyler Boyd (69 catches, 1,149 yards receiving and 8 TDs) provided enough of a threat to keep offenses from loading the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop Conner.
The Panthers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games following a ATS win. The under is 6-2 in Panthers last 8 Bowl games.
Major Injuries: None to Report
Preview: These types of match-ups don't always make for an exciting game, but this one figures to be close right down to the wire. The Panthers are going to issue a solid dose of Conner and challenge the Cougars' defense to stop him. If they do, they will still have to find a way to put points on the board. In a close game, the edge usually goes to the team with the best player. In this case, that team is the Panthers. Both teams coaches that started the year are gone. Tough to see what team will be motivated to play in this one.