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12 Up, 12 Down: Houston Cougars

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Let’s see how the Bulls fare when heading on the road to meet the AAC West leader. Sh*t.

NCAA Football: Houston at Rice
Oh God, Ed Oliver and D’Eriq King are still here.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: University of Houston Cougars

2018 Record: 6-1, 3-0 AAC

Head Coach: Major Applewhite, 2nd Season (13-7)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, October 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET, TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX

How To Watch/Listen: ABC/ESPN2, 820 AM, Bulls Unlimited, iHeartRadio

Series History: Houston leads the series 3-2, USF defeated Houston in their first two match ups in 2001 and 2002. Since joining the American, Houston has defeated USF three times, in 2013, 2014, and last year in Tampa.

Background

After a less than convincing win against UConn, USF now faces its toughest opponent to date.

Last year, Houston defeated USF after converting a 4th and 24 pass on its last drive to end USF’s undefeated start to the season and the longest win streak in the nation at the time. Holding them to 24 points, Houston also ended a 35+ point consecutive game streak held by the Bulls.

The Bulls now have an opportunity to not only avenge last year’s loss, but silence a lot of doubters with a win over the Cougars this weekend.

Depth Chart

S&P+ Breakdown

Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs, Houston D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Houston O) S&P+ (ST)
Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs, Houston D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Houston O) S&P+ (ST)
USF 40 28 53 109
Houston 27 84 8 73

S&P+ looks to be pretty spread out this week, which should lead to a pretty fun matchup between the two schools. Houston boasts one of the best defensive players in Ed Oliver, who has 13.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks on the year, good for 6th in the nation.

Offensively, D’Eriq King, the kryptonite for USF, leads a Houston Cougar offense that is averaging 535.5 yards per game, good for third in the country. The team averages 7.3 yards per play and on the flip side, the defense is giving up 5.4 yards per play, 62nd in the country (we will get into why this is so low despite Ed Oliver).

When Houston Runs...

Team Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Team Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Houston Offense 20 9 22 27
USF Defense 109 43 100 72

Houston’s rush offense is extremely dynamic with the running ability of D’Eriq King. Patrick Carr is the leading rusher for the UH with 65 touches for 407 yards on 6.3 yards per rush and two touchdowns.

King has proved to be a stronger red zone threat, gaining 281 yards on 57 carries with nine touchdowns. His average ypr is 4.9, but when the Cougars are within the twent, he always finds a way in.

The third running back utilized is Mulbah Car, who has 42 carries for 236 yards and a touchdown. The Cougars also get their receivers involved by running plenty of screens and jet sweeps, with three of their four leading receivers having rushes under their belt this year.

Stopping the three in the backfield from running the ball, and stopping the receivers in screens and sweeps is going to be tough for USF this game. The Bulls are giving up five yards a rush so far this year, which is 101st in the country.

When Houston Passes...

Team Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Team Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Houston Offense 12 26 51 2
USF Defense 15 27 10 14

D’Eriq King was described to us as “a better passer than Quinton Flowers”, and with the stats he’s putting up this year, it’s hard to disagree.

King has completed 63.5% of his passes this year for 1,984 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’s only thrown three interceptions, which is only adding to the efficient year Houston is having on offense.

Between the five leading receivers for UH, they’re all averaging over 10 yards a reception, with favorite receiver Marquez Stevenson having 40 catches and 613 yards this year with six TD’s (he’s also totaled 19.3 yards per rush with two TD’s on the ground).

Other big receivers and their stats are as followed: Courtney Lark (28 catches, 424 yards, four TDs), Keith Corbin (26 catches, 498 yards, seven TDs), Bryson Smith (13 catches, 138 yards, one TD), Romeo Brooker (13 catches, 184 yards, four TD’s).

The USF secondary will have their hands full this game to say the least.

When USF Runs...

Team Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Team Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
USF Offense 18 11 35 53
Houston Defense 8 42 8 36

Run explosiveness will be key this week for USF, Houston has a very strong rush defense this year and the Bulls are going to look to establish an explosive run game early.

Oliver, a consensus top-five pick in the 2019 NFL draft has missed two straight days of practice due to an injury he sustained at Navy and his status for the game is uncertain. Without him anchoring the middle of the defensive line, USF may find more success rushing the ball than the numbers indicate.

Houston has 55.5 tackles per loss, which equates to about eight per game. USF on the other hand has one of the more efficient rush offenses, gaining 6.2 yards per rush as a team.

Johnny Ford is averaging 9.4 yards per carry and Jordan Cronkrite is averaging 7.8, so the Green and Gold run game will have an interesting matchup this week, especially with three freshmen starting on the offensive line

Reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Week, Austin Robinson, leads the team with 74 tackles on the year and was a one man workhorse against Navy last week, totaling 21 tackles against the Midshipmen. Next to him is Roman Brown, who is second on the team with 66 tackles this season.

When USF Passes...

Team Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Team Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
USF Offense 22 62 61 87
Houston Defense 76 54 52 93

This is where USF can keep up with Houston’s offense.

Statistically, UH is ranked 130th in passing yards per game on defense and 70th in passer rating. Look for USF to start the game throwing out routes and slants before unloading for a few deep shots. The sack rate shows that teams have been able to neutralize Ed Oliver and the Cougar D-Line effectively, so Matt Mattox and the rest of the offensive line had to have seen schemes on film to adjust for this game.

Notes:

  • With Nico Sawtelle being doubtful this game, the USF defense will have to adjust promptly to another running quarterback. UConn QB David Pindell rushed for nearly 200 yards against USF less than a week ago.
  • USF, oddly, hasn’t won their eighth game of the season since defeating Rutgerx 28-27 in 2010.
  • In back-to-back years, the Bulls have started the season 7-0 and facing Houston.
  • USF has won 35 of their last 41 games, which is tied with Ohio State and Oklahoma, and trailing Clemson and Alabama in that span.
  • Jordan Cronkrite needs 140 yards on Saturday to break 1,000 yards on the season, becoming the fifth player in program history to do so.
  • USF has rushed for 200+ yards in 31 of it’s last 37 games, and has rushed for 300+ yards twice this season.

Prediction:

In USF’s toughest test this season to date, USF claws their way back into this game in the second half, but it’s not enough.

USF 41, Houston 48