Houston College Football Preview

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Houston Cougars

College Football

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Schedule and Odds

Things looked bleak for Houston last year after starting 2-3 with home losses to UTSA and UCF. However, a change at quarterback turned things around and the Cougars finished with an overall 8-5 record that includeda bowl win over Pittsburgh. With new coach Tom Herman, who comes over from Ohio State (offensive coor dinator), Houston is projected to contend for the AAC title. Their regular season over/under is set 8.5 wins (at 5Dimes), but according to the site’s championship odds (+50000), are the third-best team in the Conference behind Cincy and Memphis.

The quarterback that turned the team around last season was Greg Ward Jr., who actually played wide receiver for the first five Games of the season. Ward is a dual-threat QB (perfect for Herman) after rushing for 573 yards and 6 TDs in addition to his 12 TDs and 7 INTs through the air, completing 67.3% of his passes. The goal for Ward will be to improve his arm because he isn’t a normal bruiser as a dual-threat QB. His size at 5-11 and 180 pounds is closer to a slot receiver, which is why that’s his former position. Deontay Greenberry is gone at receiver and that hurts, as Demarcus Ayers (33 receptions) is the top returning wide out and he’ll be joined by a couple young guys.

Houston will have one of the best rushing attacks in the league, but they’ll need to improve the passing Game to surpass that 8.5-win mark. Kenneth Farrow (1,037 yards, 14 TDs) and Ryan Jackson lead the running Game in addition to Ward at quarterback. The offensive line features only two returning starters and that’ll be an area to keep an eye on.

Part of Houston’s success in 2014 can be attributed to a solid defense after allowing 20.6 points per Game. Reaching those levels may be tough, but in the AAC, shouldn’t be impossible.

The Cougars bring in Todd Orlando as the defensive coordinator, who comes over from Utah State. Along with Orlando comes in a new 3-4 scheme that could bring issues early in the season with only two returning starters in the front seven. Linebacker Steven Taylor and B.J. Singleton are solid, but those two will need to anchor a group that doesn’t have much starting experience.

The good news for the defense is that the secondary should easily be one of the best in the Conference with all starters returning. CB William Jackson and SS Adrian McDonald are both set for NFL futures, while the other two are no slouches. This group is good, but could be better if the defense gets pressure on the QB.

Houston’s Schedule is favorable, which is why their over/under is at 8.5 wins. A road Game at Louisville will be their toughest task out-of-conference, with Vanderbilt travelling to Houston in late October. The Cougars only really have one tough road Game in AAC play when they travel to UCF. A late homestretch against Memphis, Cincinnati and Navy will decide their season, though. Navy could especially be a problem with their triple-option if the Houston front seven is struggling at that point.

Considering the Cougars fired a coach that had back-to-back eight-win seasons, they are expecting something more than that from Herman. With a favorable Schedule, that seems possible, but it may fall upon Ward’s shoulder to reach nine wins, and that isn’t a given.

2015 Houston Football Schedule

Sept. 5 vs. Tennessee Tech
Sept. 12 at Louisville
Sept. 26 vs. Texas State
Oct. 3 at Tulsa
Oct. 8 vs. SMU
Oct. 16 at Tulane
Oct. 24 at UCF
Oct. 31 vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 7 vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 14 vs. Memphis
Nov. 21 at Connecticut
Nov. 27 vs. Navy

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