The Army Black Knights (10-2) are set to take on the Houston Cougars (8-4) in the 2018 Armed Forces Bowl. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, December 22nd at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers opened this thing up at Army -3, but that number is up to the Black Knights -4.5 and even -5 at some places. The total for this matchup is currently set at 60.5 points.
Houston vs Army Vegas Game Odds & Betting Preview
The Cougars looked well on their way to playing for the American Athletic title, as they opened up the year 7-1 and at the time were a perfect 4-0 in conference play. Then came an upset loss at SMU as a 14-point favorite, which the followed with a 10-point loss at Temple. Still this team had a chance to win the division by winning at Memphis in the finale, but they didn’t have star quarterback D’Erig King and wound up losing to the Tigers 52-31.
Despite this only being Major Applewhite’s second full season as head coach, it will be the third time he will lead the Cougars in a bowl game, as he replaced Tom Herman in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl. Houston lost that game 34-10 as a 4-point favorite to San Diego State. Last year they fell 33-27 to Fresno State as a 2-point favorite in the Hawaii Bowl.
Army has to be one of the more remarkable stories in college football. From 2011 to 2015, the Black Knights were a combined 14-46, failing to win more than 4 games in any of those seasons. Counting their 10-2 record for this year, Army is 28-13 over the last 3 seasons. With a win over Houston they can become the first team in school history to win 11-games. Keep in mind their only two losses were road games against Duke and Oklahoma and they took the Sooners to OT.
They can also set a new school-record with a third straight bowl win. Each of the previous two have come in the Black Knight’s first two bowl games under head coach Jeff Monken. Just last year they upset San Diego State in this exact bowl game, defeating the Aztecs 42-35 as a 6-point dog.
2018 Armed Forces Bowl Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Army -4.5
My early lean here would be to lay the points with Army. I just think there’s something special about this year’s Army team and I just don’t see them losing this game. With a win this Black Knight’s team has the right to be considered one of, if not, the best teams in school history. Not to mention I think they feel obligated to play well in a bowl that’s basically name after them.
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I’m sure there will be some that think Army is at a disadvantage here, because they haven’t had the same amount of time off. This game will be just two week after the Black Knights faced off against Navy. Houston on the other hand hasn’t played since the day after Thanksgiving. I think if you have two weeks to get ready for a game, that’s more than enough. In fact, I actually think they are at an advantage having just payed, as there’s going to be some rust with Houston.
I get that extra time to prepare for Army and the triple-option is a big deal, but this will not be the Cougars defensive front that everyone was raving about coming into the year. Star defensive tackle, Ed Oliver is not going to play and he’s really the guy that made this unit great. They also lost starting defensive ends Jerad Carter and Isaiah Chambers to season ending injuries. Same thing with one of their top backups in Payton Turner.
We’re also talking about a Houston defense that did a complete 180 in terms of stopping the run this year. In the Cougars first 6 games of the season they allowed a mere 116 yards/game. Over their final 6 games they gave up 278.2 yards/game. Note that one of those was against Navy, who basically runs the same offense and the Midshipmen had 344 rushing yards.
Army’s rushing attack is better than Navy. In fact, the only team that averaged more rushing yards than the Black Knights was Georgia Tech, as Army came in 2nd at 296.3 yards/game.
Not only does Army figure to be able to move the ball, but Houston’s offense will still be without star quarterback D’Erig King, who basically did it all for this team. King had just under 3,000 yards passing with a 36-6 TD-INT ratio. He was also second on the team with 674 rushing yards and his 14 rushing touchdowns were as many as the rest of the team had combined. Give me Army -4.5