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Watching Film: Houston Cougars

The Bulls head to Space City (not Oviedo) for a winnable conference clash

NCAA Football: Houston at Cincinnati Jim Owens-USA TODAY Sports

USF is still searching for the first conference win of the Jeff Scott era. Their search leads them to Houston to take on the Cougars and their all-everything quarterback coming off a nice easy redshirt year, D’Eriq King. What? He transferred after redshirting last year? Are you saying that move may have backfired immensely? Oh…Regardless, Houston has a talented offense and an aggressive defense.

While it seemed like Dana Holgerson and co. would thrive in a year where every player gets a redshirt, Houston has actually struggled this season. They came out of the gates strong with a win against a decent Tulane team and went on the road to beat Navy. They have been waxed by the better teams on their schedule (BYU, UCF, & Cincinnati), but those three have waxed a lot of teams this season. Due to this strength of schedule, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Houston is. We can look to the numbers for a little more clarification.

The Numbers

Looking at the numbers it would appear that Houston is somewhat similar to last week’s opponent, Memphis. The Cougars offense is carrying the team, while the defense lags behind.

USF doesn’t measure up to Houston in any statistical category outside of turnover margin. Houston has turned the ball over 10 times in five games. The Cougars have yet to win the turnover battle in any game this season. This is a trend USF would like to see continue.

Houston isn’t as good as Memphis is on offense, but they do have some talent. In fact, Houston is the most talented team in the AAC according to the 247 team talent composite. Let’s take a look at the film to see how Houston deploys that talent.

Houston Offense

The Houston offense flashes on film. When they get rolling, they are tough to stop. They have a skilled receiving corps and a quarterback who can make all the throws. Clayton Tune (3) spreads the ball around to a bunch of different receivers in Dana Holgerson’s version of the Air Raid. Holgerson typically runs the ball more effectively than your average Air Raid team, but this season has been the exception. Houston averages less than four yards a carry, ranking 100th in the nation. The Cougars still have a well-designed offense and talented playmakers. Let’s check out their version of the Air Raid.

The USF defense will definitely have the tougher task this week. They played pretty well for 55 minutes against Memphis. The Bulls will need a similar performance for the full 60 minutes this week.

Houston Defense

The Cougar defense isn’t great. They are 92nd against the run and 103rd against the pass in terms of yard per attempt. To their credit, they have played some good offenses this season, but their numbers are terrible. To add to those poor numbers, the Houston defense has only forced three turnovers this entire season. I believe Houston will try to mask its deficiencies through aggressiveness. Let’s see how they may plan to do that.

Houston is bad on defense. USF has been bad on offense, but they showed some signs of life last weekend. This game will present a great opportunity for the USF offense to continue the growth they showed last week.


This game is winnable for the Bulls, but it won’t be easy. The USF defense is going to have to play one of their better games of the year. The Cougars have averaged 43 points in their two victories. In their three losses the Cougars have been held to 19 points a game. Their offense makes the team go. If the USF defense can replicate their performance from last week, they will have great chance to win. Houston isn’t as explosive as Memphis, especially if Marquez Stevenson is out (it appears that he will be).

The USF offense will have opportunities to score. If the defense can create some turnovers and generate some short fields for the offense, the Bulls will have a great chance to get their first conference win.