In this series we will look at the Mids football opponents for the 2016 season. Today the school we are looking at is Houston.
Date/time/location/TV: October 8, 3:30pm EST, Navy-Marine Corps Mem. Stadium, Annapolis, MD., CBS SN.
2015 Record: 13-1 (7-1 The American). Won the AAC Championship. Beat Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.
Head Coach: Tom Herman. Second year at Houston (13-1).
Series History: Houston leads 2-0.
Last Meeting: In the game that decided the AAC West last fall the Houston offense dominated the game in a 52-31 Cougars victory.
Top Returners: QB Greg Ward Jr. (Sr.) 2,828 yards passing with 17 TDs & 1,253 yards rushing with 21 TDs. DE Cameron Malveaux (Sr.) 8.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 2015. OLB Steven Taylor (Sr.) 76.5 tackles, 18.5 TFLs and 10 sacks.
Key Losses: RB Kenneth Farrow, 958 yards rushing and 12 TDs in 2015. WR Demarcus Ayers, 98 catches and 1,222 yards receiving in 2015. Cameron Malveaux (Sr.) 8.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 2015. ILB Elandon Roberts 115 tackles, 19 TFLs and 6 sacks in 2015.
What You Need To Know: Houston had a monster season in 2015 that few could have predicted heading into the season. While many expected them to challenge for, and win, the AAC crown, few would have had them beating Florida State in a major bowl game to cap perhaps the best season in program history. The question then is pretty simple. Where do the Cougars go from here?
Taking that next step forward will require replacing some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The running game is an obvious question mark given that the Cougars have lost their top four rushers (minus their quarterback) from a year ago. In addition, the Cougars lose four linemen who finished the season with at least 12 starts.Look for Texas transfer, and former four-star recruit, Duke Catalon to immediately become the go-to guy here.
The passing game also loses its primary threat as Demarcus Ayers has graduated. There are plenty of young receivers to carry the load here though. Being brutally honest the offense will (again) go as far as QB Greg Ward Jr. takes the team. Thankfully for Houston fans,f Ward is one of the top players in the entire country and his explosiveness could see him pushing for 4,500 total yards this fall.
On defense, the Cougars are in a similar position to many of the Group of Five teams. The front seven was fantastic last year, and could realistically be even better in 2016. Teams generally stopped trying to run on Houston early in games, both because the Cougars were stout against the run and because they were bad against the pass. The secondary loses both its safeties (and their combined 139 tackles and eight INTs) so expect Houston to gamble early and often in games bringing pressure. Whether it works or not the Cougars will be a blast to watch this fall.
2015 Stats That Matter: Field position margin, 17th; Offensive points per game, 10th.
Fun Fact: There are over 41,000 students at the University of Houston.
Famous Alumni: Carl Lewis (Olympic sprinter and jumper), Hakeem Olajuwon (NBA Hall of Famer), Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory actor).