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Houston Cougars Football Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 08/23/2008

No. 77 Houston Cougars

2007 Record ~ 8-5 SU ~ 4-8 ATS

Starters Returning ~ Offense (4) Defense (7)

Coach Art Briles took his spread offense to Baylor but don’t expect the Cougars to change their offensive philosophies. New hire Kevin Sumlin has said that things won’t change and will actually be more complex once things settle into place. Briles did a wonderful job for the program by taking the Cougars to four bowls in his five years and now it will be a maintainable goal to get back. However, there is not the same talent in place and playmakers need to emerge for Houston to make a run at the West title.

Sumlin hired former Texas Tech Red Raiders offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to help implement the Cougars’ new attack. Now the staff needs to find players to run it. The starting quarterback position is still up for grabs between sophomore Case Keenum and junior Blake Joseph. Keenum was the starter last season and was superb as a freshman but Joseph had a fantastic spring to hang around. The departure of running back Anthony Alridge will be the toughest one to replace.

The Cougars defense was adequate last season but it needs to step up in order for the offense to have time to come together. With seven starters coming back including All-C-USA defensive tackle Philip Hunt, there should be no reason it doesn’t step up. Houston finished 46th in the country in total defense and this is a unit capable of moving into the top 20. The Cougars have all four players from the secondary coming back and that is important as passing defense was the weakness last season.

The schedule is fairly tame for Houston to be able to stay within reach. The Cougars start off with four non-conference games as it hosts Southern followed by a game at Oklahoma St. They then play two games against MWC teams Air Force and Colorado St., the latter on the road. The C-USA season starts with a tough game at East Carolina and then it is smooth sailing until hosting Tulsa five games later. With a solid defense early on and with the offense catching up later, the Cougars could be a solid play later in the season.

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