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Donnel Pumphrey 50 yards short of record as Houston leads SDSU in Vegas Bowl

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San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey stands 50 yards short of the FBS all-time rushing record as his Aztecs trail Houston 10-6 at the half in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Houston’s Ty Cummings opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter. The Cougars’ next drive moved 74 yards in 10 plays, culminating in a 2-yard Greg Ward, Jr., plunge to give Houston a 10-0 lead through one quarter.

After four consecutive punts and three three-and-outs to open the game, San Diego State finally mounted a substantive drive midway through the second quarter, moving to the Houston 5-yard line before settling for a 23-yard John Baron II chip shot at the 6:28 mark of the frame. Baron added another field goal, this one a 28-yarder, at the 1:29 mark to pull the Aztecs within four.

More important historically than the outcome of a single bowl game is Pumphrey’s march toward history. He entered the game needing 108 yards to break Ron Dayne‘s FBS all-time rushing record of 6,397 yards and at the break has notched 58 yards on 13 carries. (It should be noted the records are a bit funky, as Dayne did so in 47 official games since bowl statistics did not count toward season stats until Dayne’s senior season of 1999; the Las Vegas Bowl is Pumphrey’s 53rd career game.)

For Houston, Ward has completed 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards while the Cougars have mustered only 26 yards on 18 total carries. Houston is playing without second-leading receiver Chance Allen, serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.

Houston out-gained San Diego State 102-5 in the first quarter, while SDUS returned the favor with a 94-5 margin in the second quarter.

Houston suspends WR Chance Allen for Las Vegas Bowl for violating curfew

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Houston has suspended senior wide receiver Chance Allen for the Las Vegas Bowl for a violation of team rules. AS reported by Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, via Twitter, the violation was related to the team’s curfew.

Allen was Houston’s second-leading receiver this season with 815 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. With Allen now suspended, Houston will bump sophomore Isaiah Johnson into his spot on the field. Johnson appeared in 10 games this season, in which he accounted for 11 receptions and 134 yards.

Houston takes on Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl later today.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Greg Ward Jr.’s shoulder is banged up again ahead of Houston-Louisville Thursday night clash

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Two months ago, this was supposed to be one of the games of the season: Houston, the group of five’s best shot at reaching the playoff, hosting a Louisville side quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson.

One of those things is still true: Lamar Jackson remains the Heisman Trophy front-runner and can probably wrap up his candidacy in primetime Thursday night. But Houston has slumped since its 5-0 start, with losses to Navy (which wasn’t bad) and SMU (which was) and narrow-ish wins over Tulsa (by seven), UCF (by seven) and Tulane (by 12).

But if Tom Herman is going to shock the world again on Thursday night in Houston, he’ll have to do it with his star quarterback again dealing with a banged-up right shoulder.

Ward injured his shoulder diving for a spiked ball late in the first half of Houston’s win over Tulane:

Kyle Postma replaced Ward in the second half, but then broke his left arm. Ward was forced back into the game for the fourth quarter, during which Houston only gained nine yards (not counting two end-of-game kneel-downs).

Ward dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the season and was held out of Houston’s win over FCS-level Lamar in September due to it. While Houston certainly could take down Louisville with an inspired defensive performance, its chances of a season-shattering upset certainly appear lower if Ward’s shoulder remains a problem on Thursday.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.