This season, SMU will make a trip down I-45 to square off against the University of Houston Cougars. I shouldn’t have to tell you ow big of an interstate rivalry this is. Simply being a sports team from either city, a club is inherently disposed to dislike the other.
It makes for great games no matter what sport, no matter when they face each other on their schedules, or even how talented either team is.
Fortunately, this rivalry game is smack dab in the meaty portion of the schedule—early enough in conference play that either team can bounce back from a loss, but late enough in the general schedule that the winner could catapult themselves into a position to compete after week 12.
The addition of Tom Herman makes Houston even more interesting than they already were coming into the season. Now throw in that he and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will be spit balling new ideas to get the most out of the dynamic quarter back Greg Ward.
Sure, the QB position is up in the air and Herman isn’t giving much to go on, but with all else being equal, I’d put the ball in the hands of the most athletic guy—that’s Ward (above).
Last season Ward threw for over 2,000 yards and rushed for about 700 more. He does lose four of his top five receivers—including Deontay Greenberry who had 72 catches last season—but will have Demarcus Ayers, Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson to throw to.
Farrow should be a a very interesting player this season. He led the AAC with 15 rushing touchdowns last season and rushed for 1,037 yards. Expect him to get a lot of touches, and be heavily involved in the passing game.
Orlando has had top 12 defenses the past two season at Utah State, and he inherits a pretty solid group of ball hawking defensive backs to take the ball away from opposing offenses. His challenge comes with re-solidifying his front seven as the Coogs have lost almost their entire defensive front from a year ago. In fact, defensive end B.J. Singleton is the only returning starter on Orlando’s defensive line.
The more pressure they can create the easier it will be for the real teeth of this defense, the DBs, to rip passing attacks apart. Last season the Coogs forced 73 turnovers. William Jackson (above) is probably the biggest name in Houston’s secondary and is likely headed to the NFL after this season if things go according to plan.
Houston is a very interesting team. They are coming off an 8-5 season and a bowl win, but their coaching staff has been completely overhauled.
When teams are in this state of flux it can always be strange and it isn’t always clear what to expect from them.
But Herman and Applewhite should have the Coogs offense humming by the time SMU faces them and Orlando will probably have one of the sneakiest defenses to play against.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but Houston can be very strong team this season.