The American Athletic Conference isn’t one of the college football’s Power Five, and the members of the conference aren’t happy about it. So when one of the top teams in the AAC, No. 21 Houston, gets a chance to make a statement against a big name from the SEC like Auburn, it will jump at it.
The Cougars are getting ready to make the move to the Power Five, joining the Big 12 soon, but until then, they’ll settle for a win in the Birmingham Bowl. Keep reading to check the college football odds, get some expert betting advice, and cash out at the top-rated books!
Houston Cougars vs. Auburn Tigers
Tuesday, December 28, 2021 – 12:00 PM EST at Protective Stadium
The team Cincinnati beat in the American championship game, No. 21 Houston, would also like to make a statement that it belongs with the big boys. The Cougars will get that chance in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 28. At 11-2, Houston will face a big name from the SEC in the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn enters the game at 6-6 and is likely unhappy about its bowl assignment. The Tigers will be looking to avoid their first losing season since 2012, while the Cougars will try to make a statement for themselves and the AAC, before they, along with Cincinnati, leave the conference for the Power Five Big 12.
Season Takes a Downturn
Auburn looked like it might be headed for bigger things this year, after opening 4-1 with only a loss to No. 10 Penn State. The Tigers pushed the record to 6-2, with wins over ranked Arkansas (17) and Ole Miss (10).
Then the calendar turned to November and, like the leaves, things changed. Auburn hasn’t won since, dropping four straight to finish the regular season. The Tigers were blown out by Texas A&M and lost by a total of 15 points to Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Alabama.
The Tigers will rely on their defense to get a Birmingham Bowl to win. Auburn is 12th nationally and second in the SEC in tackles for loss. They are led by All-American cornerback Roger McCreary and all-SEC defensive players linebacker Zakoby McClain and edge rusher Derick Hall.
Auburn also leans on a two-headed running attack in freshman Jarquez Hunter, 12th in FBS with a 7.1 yards per carrying average, and 1,000-yard rusher Tank Bigsby.
They’ll need to run the ball, since starting quarterback Bo Nix entered the transfer portal, as did start guard Tashawn Manning. Center Nick Brahms is out after getting surgery, and there are rumors that McCreary might opt out to prepare for the draft.
Houston leads the nation in third-down conversion defense and shut Cincinnati out in eight third-down attempts in the AAC title game. The Cougars held four opponents to 10 points or less this season and had an 11-game winning streak snapped by the Bearcats.
The defense is also fifth in the nation in sacks, sixth in total defense, seventh in fewest first downs allowed and in the top 15 in red-zone D, rushing defense, and turnovers forced.
Unlike many strong defensive teams, the Cougars also have a productive offense. Quarterback Clayton Tune is in the top 15 nationally in passer rating, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns. True freshman running back Alton McCaskill is also close to a school record for rushing touchdowns, with 16.
The Cougars are one of six teams in FBS to be ranked in the top 15 in total offense and total defense. They also have four return touchdowns on special teams and have blocked a total of 10 kicks and punts.
Keep in mind for your college football picks that this is the quintessential “nothing to play for” bowl appearance for Auburn. The Tigers are looking ahead, with six players already in the transfer portal.
Houston, meanwhile, is looking to put a bow on one of the most successful seasons in program history and will want to make a statement against a team that, while 6-6, still has a name that will attract attention. Getting Houston as a dog is a bonus.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.