West Virginia vs Houston Odds, Picks, and Predictions: Mountaineers Run All Over Cougars

Dana Holgorsen will face his former team for the first time when West Virginia comes to Houston to do battle with the Cougars. Holgorsen's team is off to a rough start and our college football picks don't expect it to get better this week.

Douglas Farmer - Betting Analyst at Covers
Douglas Farmer • Betting Analyst
Oct 12, 2023 • 16:09 ET • 4 min read
CJ Donaldson WVU NCAAF
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Does revenge have a statute of limitations? And when Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen faces his old employer — the West Virginia Mountaineers — who is seeking revenge?

Holgorsen wasn't forced out, he chose to leave West Virginia for Houston after the 2018 season. While he had taken a step back in Morgantown, five straight winning seasons did not have Holgorsen’s job in particular jeopardy. In their first of many Big 12 meetings, will the Cougars defy college football odds as home underdogs?

Find out in my free college football picks for West Virginia vs Houston on October 12.

West Virginia vs Houston best odds

West Virginia vs Houston picks and predictions

Entering the season, both Holgorsen and West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown were perceived to be on the hot seat. Brown responded by going 4-1 to open the season, including 2-0 in Big 12 play and a win against West Virginia’s biggest rival. Holgorsen, meanwhile, has gone 0-2 in conference play and could be teetering on scalding his rear end.

If Houston does not find an upset win on Thursday as a 3-point underdog, it will be all but guaranteed a losing season. A loss to the Mountaineers would leave the Cougars 2-4 with matchups against Texas and Kansas State looming. Assume Houston loses those, too, and it would need to win out in November to reach a bowl game.

So yes, Holgorsen should be desperate. Is desperation enough? Probably not.

The Cougars don't do enough competently to be considered an upset threat anytime soon, and in a game with a spread of a field goal, covering without an upset is obviously unlikely.

Houston’s rush defense, most pertinently, is woeful. The Cougars give up 4.57 yards per rush, No. 103 in the country. To make that deficiency more discouraging, realize three of Houston’s five opponents struggle running the ball. UTSA ranks No. 92 in the country at 3.94 yards per rush, Rice sits at No. 125 at 2.82 ypr and Sam Houston State is dead last in the country, No. 133 overall, with 2.14.

The BearKats were not the ones to run up Houston’s rushing defense troubles, but they did help lessen the optics of how bad it is. The Cougars’ three most worthwhile opponents — so excluding Rice and Sam Houston State, no offense intended, just stating facts — averaged 6.1 ypr (sacks adjusted) against Houston on 39.3 carries per game.

To sum up those two previous paragraphs in one metric: Houston ranks No. 102 in the country in expected points added per rush against.

Enter West Virginia, which runs 45 times per game, No. 10 in the country in that gross number and No. 11 if considering game state (down, distance, time, score, field position). That kind of ground dependence may not set up the Mountaineers for glory this season, but it does raise their floor.

West Virginia’s strength fits in seamlessly with Houston’s greatest weakness, and the Cougars have no offensive strength designed to keep up with that worry, making a field-goal spread a comfortable Mountaineers edge, even if Holgorsen has his contract as motivation.

My best bet: West Virginia -3 (-110 at Caesars)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.

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West Virginia vs Houston same-game parlay

West Virginia -3

Under 51.5

West Virginia TT Over 27.5

The Mountaineers have rattled off three straight Unders to go with their three wins against the spread against FBS opponents. That is not a coincidence. Time of possession is largely a meaningless stat, but it can explain the effect of West Virginia’s ground game pretty concisely here: The Mountaineers have averaged 33:50 in those three wins.

Their ground game chews away the clock, and the pregame totals have not dropped far enough to compensate for that. This 51.5 is only a half tick down from two weeks ago before West Virginia’s idle week and a full point off the 52.5 that started the Mountaineers’ conference play.

Three of Houston’s five games went Under this number, but more notably, the Cougars offense ranks No. 53 in the country in EPA per play... hardly anything to boast about, and it is going against a Mountaineers defense that gives up just 1.67 points per quality possession — further dragging down this final score.

Threading the needle of West Virginia hitting its team total Over despite the game going Under creates value in the same-game parlay. The Mountaineers rushing attack should create enough scoring opportunities — remember how bad Houston is against the rush — to threaten 30 points.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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West Virginia vs Houston spread and Over/Under analysis

The market opened with West Virginia as a 2-point favorite on Sunday, a number that climbed to a full field goal by the end of the afternoon and has hung there all week, with some dalliances at -2.5. The Mountaineers have won both outright and ATS in their last four games, including as 2.5-point favorites against Pittsburgh a month ago. Houston has gone 1-3 ATS in its last four, losing those three by 12.3 points compared to bookmakers’ expectations.

The total opened at 54.5 and nearly immediately fell to 52.5, dropping another point on Monday.

West Virginia vs Houston betting trend to know

The four Big 12 newcomers — BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston — have gone 0-7 straight-up and ATS against Big 12 veterans thus far this season. Find more college football betting trends for West Virginia vs Houston.

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West Virginia vs Houston game info

Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET

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