Houston boasts an impressive schedule for a Group of Five team. The Coogs had the highest ranked strength-of-schedule (SOS) in 2016 out of all possible Group of Five teams, according to TeamRankings.com.
Not having Oklahoma or Louisville on their non-conference schedule will certainly cause a dip in this year’s projections. But with the chance to repeat their successes against Power Five teams in 2017, this time the possible victims being Arizona and Texas Tech, Houston is on track to another possible New Year’s Six Bowl game. In order to get there, they must first complete these three road blocks:
1) Arizona, Sept. 9 (Week 2)
I’ll be the first to say that NO ONE wants to be the projected underdog in a
contest against a team that is supposed to go 6-6 in the regular season. That being said, the disparity in a team like Houston being casted down like so is because of their conference membership. The Cougars return with a defense that ranked 26th in the nation last year, along with studs such as DT Ed Oliver.
What makes this game interesting to watch, besides the obvious Power Five/Group of Five intrigue, is that Houston won’t have another close matchup until…
2) Tulsa, Oct. 14 (Week 7)
…after the halfway point in the season, in which then Houston travels to Tulsa.
In case you don’t remember, Houston beat the Golden Hurricanes 38-31 at TDECU Stadium, due in large part to luck and bad officiating. Tulsa should’ve won that game last year and will be looking to uproot any hopes that Houston has to win the American West Division. Houston has to be able to stop the run game and prevent Tulsa running back D’Angelo Brewer – who rushed for over 1,400 yards last season— to dictate the pace of play.
3) Southern Florida, Nov. 4 (Week 10)
It’s intriguing to watch the Greek tragedy that is college football. So many ups. So many downs. So many college football teams in the state of Florida all vying for the same exact same recruits. Yet, albeit a small state, the South Florida Bulls have made the most of it. Understandably so, teams like USF, FIU, and FIU aren’t going to be reeling in the four and five-star recruits like they’re upstate neighbors in Tallahassee and Gainesville. All too often, we, the media, fail to account for the Cinderella players; smaller, slower, and/or not highly sought-after recruits who we assume will turn into a decent depth player. We fail to account for players like Bulls senior quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers, a Miami native, accounted for just over 4,100 total yards on offense last year, and outrushing the backfield with 1,500 yards on the ground. Having coached dual-threat QB’s like Teddy Bridgewater, it’s a wonder what Coach Strong has cooking up for the Bulls. This spells trouble for the Cougars.
If the Houston defense can find a way to encapsulate Flowers and pressure him to make ill-advised throws while also accounting for his danger on the ground, there’s a solid chance they pull out with a ‘dub. Now yes, this is a tall task and a lot to ask for from a defense that rarely sees potent offenses quite like this. Somehow, someway, Houston has always found a way (i.e. Oklahoma and
The Houston Cougars face off against the University of South Florida Bulls on November 4th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.