Orlando, FL – One of the worst defenses in the country hasn't prevented Houston from winning eight of its first nine games.

It may actually be helping quarterback Case Keenum's unlikely candidacy for the Heisman Trophy.

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Keenum has needed more than 500 yards passing in each of the last two games to lead the 13th-ranked Cougars to last-second victories, and he'll try for another prolific performance as Houston visits Central Florida on Saturday for its toughest remaining test.

Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL have made Houston -5.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston -5.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

The Cougars' success has been especially impressive considering they rank 115th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense, allowing 469.8 yards and more than 30 points per game.

But the defensive problems for Houston (8-1, 4-1 Conference USA) have only gotten Keenum back on the field quickly, allowing the junior to compile almost surreal numbers to lead the nation in passing yards (3,815) and touchdowns (28). He has been the driving force behind the country's most productive offense, which averages more than 42 points and 575 yards.

"Our team believes in him," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Offensively, defensively, everybody does, that no matter what the score is, we're never out of the game."

It required a dramatic comeback for the Cougars to notch their fifth straight victory last Saturday after they trailed by eight at Tulsa in the final minute.

Keenum was sacked on the potential game-tying 2-point conversion attempt after finding James Cleveland for a touchdown with 21 seconds left, but Houston recovered the onside kick and Keenum completed two quick passes to set up freshman Matt Hogan's winning 51-yard field goal at the gun.

The quarterback finished 40 for 60 for 522 yards and three touchdowns in the 46-45 win, one week after he was 44 of 54 for 559 yards and five TDs in a 50-43 victory over Southern Miss. He threw for the winning score in that game with 21 seconds remaining.

"I don't know what the Heisman voters are thinking," Keenum said. "My goal right now is to beat UCF. My goal is not to win the Heisman or break records. Any individual award is a team award. If you're not being successful and winning games, those team accolades are not going to come your way."

Keenum is trying to lead the Cougars back to the conference title game for the first time since they won it in 2006 behind another standout quarterback, current Philadelphia Eagles backup Kevin Kolb.

While Houston remains tied with SMU atop the West division, the Cougars hold the tiebreaker, meaning they'd lock up the division by winning their final three games. They close the regular season by facing Memphis and Rice, a combined 1-9 in conference play.

UCF (5-4, 3-2) appears to be Houston's most challenging remaining opponent, but the Knights have already suffered lopsided losses to a pair of ranked teams, falling 35-3 at No. 2 Texas last Saturday.

After Longhorns star Colt McCoy threw for 470 yards, UCF will almost certainly have to improve its defense against Keenum. This will be the first time the Knights have seen him - the teams haven't met since Oct. 28, 2006, when Kolb led Houston to a 51-31 home win.

"Our defense is going to have to work hard," coach George O'Leary said. "It is not going to be the plays as much as it is the conditioning. Houston runs a very fast-paced offense, and as soon as the play is dead they are right back up there ready to go again."

The Knights have also been hampered by injuries lately. Quarterback Brett Hodges and running back Brynn Harvey both missed the game against Texas, and it's unclear if either will suit up Saturday.

Rob Calabrese started at quarterback, going 10 of 19 for 76 yards and getting sacked six times. Harvey's replacement, freshman Jonathan Davis, managed 71 yards on 22 carries.

O'Leary called Hodges a "game-time decision," but said he's hoping his offense won't have to get involved in a shootout.

"I think the key with ( Houston) is field position for one, and being able to produce a lot of three and outs to secure that field position," O'Leary said.

The Knights' biggest strength may be its pass rush, with ends Jarvis Geathers and Bruce Miller each having nine sacks.

Bet College Football Week 11

Posted: 11/10/09 8:31PM ET

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