First look: Washington State versus Houston

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What is it? Washington State (2-0) returns to the Lonestar State for the first time since the 2018 Alamo Bowl to face Houston (1-1) in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff game.

Where is it? NRG Stadium in Houston.

When is it? Kickoff is 6:15 p.m. PT Friday.

Where can I watch it? ESPN will broadcast the game.

Who is favored? The Cougars opened as 10-point favorites.

How did they fare last week? Both teams made short work of FCS opponents. Washington State cruised past Northern Colorado, 59-17, while Houston beat up on Prarie View A&M, winning 37-17.

Why WSU will win: In 2018, Houston went 8-5 but most of the time the Cougars were a team that needed to put lots of points on the boards to secure a victory. Houston’s defense ranked 10th in the American Athletic Conference last season, allowing 45.7 points per game and the Cougars conceded more than 50 points in four separate games, giving up 63 to Texas Tech, 59 to Temple, 52 to Memphis and 70 to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. Houston allowed Oklahoma 49 points in the season opener and the Cougars surrendered 17 points in week two against Prairie View A&M. In a 63-49 loss to the Red Raiders last season, Houston gave up 605 passing yards to Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.

Why Houston will win: Even with the defensive shortfalls, Houston was still able to rack up eight wins and outscore the majority of opponents. The Cougars averaged 40.3 ppg in their final season under Major Applewhite and return the signal-caller who was responsible for much of that, 5-11, 195-pound senior D’Eriq King. WSU will have to account for King’s abilities as a runner and passer after the quarterback set an AAC record with 50 touchdowns last season despite missing 2 1/2 games with an injury. King’s accounted for six touchdowns in two games this season -- three in the air and three more on the ground. WSU encountered some struggles in stopping the run Saturday against Northern Colorado and now face a Houston bunch that’s rushed for 477 yards in two games against Oklahoma and Prairie View.

What happened last time? The schools have met three other times in history, most recently in the 1988 Aloha Bowl played in Honolulu. The Cougars didn’t score in the first, third or fourth quarter, but their effort in a 24-point second quarter was barely enough to squeeze out the 24-22 win. Senior Victor Wood scooped a fumble to score WSU’s first touchdown in the second quarter, then caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Timm Rosenbach to put the Cougars on top 14-3. Jason Hanson kicked a 33-yard field goal and Rosenbach scooted into the end zone for a 1-yard scoring run to make it 24-9 at the break. WSU forced a handful of turnovers -- none more consequential than Tuineau Alipate’s forced fumble in the fourth quarter to seal the Cougar win.

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