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Houston Cougars

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Houston is coming off an ultimately disappointing nine-win season in which it beat both Oklahoma and Louisville, almost too easily. It was disappointing because the Cougars didn’t do more in late losses to SMU and then San Diego State in their bowl game. Expectations are still high this season, but with Major Applewhite in his first year as head coach and quarterback Kyle Allen in his first year at Houston, it’s going to take a lot for this team to be just as good as a year ago.

Allen is a high-end quarterback, but he never did quite enough in his time with Texas A&M throwing for 33 touchdowns and 14 picks in his two years (14 starts and numerous bench appearances) with the Aggies. Applewhite is known for producing top offenses, as seen with Houston last season, but he hasn’t been a head coach yet. At the least, Houston will have plenty of talent to work with. The offensive line has to get better with five starters returning from a group that gave up 37 sacks and didn’t produce much on the ground as they averaged 3.4 yards per carry (sacks included). As long as they can be a little better, running back Duke Catalon (528 yards, 4 TDs) should have better numbers as long as he can stay healthy. Allen will have top wide outs to work with as Linell Bonner (98 receptions, 1,118 yards) and Steven Dunbar (692 yards) both return. Allen may not come in and be Greg Ward, but as long the line improves, this offense could reach the 35.8 points per game it had a year ago.

But what pushes the Cougars to the next level is what they can do on the defensive side as seen when they shut down Lamar Jackson last year, returning nine starters from that group. Tackle Ed Oliver is the name to know after he was one of the best in the nation at tackles for loss in his freshman season. Surrounding him is enough experience to keep this group around last year’s numbers allowing 23.5 points per game. A couple linebackers and corners left, but leading tackler Matthew Adams returns with safeties Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams. They’ll hold the secondary down even with some new faces at corner. If the Cougars can show some kind of consistency defensively, they could easily challenge for the AAC title.

Once again, their non-conference slate is far from easy with early trips to UTSA and Arizona with Texas Tech visiting them near the end of September. Getting away from those games unscathed is possible, but it won’t be easy. Determining their place in the AAC will be decided fairly quickly with a trip to Temple in late September followed by Tulsa a couple weeks after that. Getting Memphis and Navy at home could prove useful, but a trip to USF almost negates both of those home games.

This defense will keep things interesting for Houston, but everything will depend on how the offense does with Allen in charge. The Cougars can’t afford to slip up in winnable games anymore and with losses at Temple and USF, their hopes of a West title could be dashed just like that. Eight wins are on the table with anything more meaning that Kyle Allen worked out perfectly as the team’s starting quarterback.


2017 Houston Cougars Football Schedule

Sept. 2 at UTSA
Sept. 9 at Arizona
Sept. 16 vs. Rice
Sept. 23 vs. Texas Tech

Sept. 30 at Temple
Oct. 7 vs. SMU
Oct. 14 at Tulsa

Oct. 19 vs. Memphis
Oct. 28 vs. East Carolina
Nov. 4 at South Florida
Nov. 18 at Tulane
Nov. 24 vs. Navy

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