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The Big Houston Cougars Preview

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At least there will be cool helmets tonight

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Navy at Houston Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Opponent: No. 20/19 Houston Cougars

2021 Record: 7-1 (5-0 AAC)

Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen (14-14 in three years at Houston)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, November 6, 7:30 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES.

How To Watch/Listen: ESPNU, 95.3 WDAE, Bulls Unlimited

Series History: Houston leads series 5-2. Last: Houston won 56-21 in 2020.

The South Florida Bulls got to spend 10 days licking their wounds from a sloppy 29-14 loss at ECU in what could be one of their last winnable games of the year, and now they must welcome in the Houston Cougars who are fresh off beating SMU last week, and are looking to take full control of the AAC West. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES.

The Bulls are expected to get quarterback Timmy McClain back this week after he sat out last week’s loss due to an ankle injury. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. That should help the offense quite a bit as they look to score with a solid Cougars offense who has scored 40+ points five times this year.

Let’s take a look at the Cougars offense.

Led by quarterback Clayton Tune (161-231, 1,839 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 69.7% completions), the Cougars have had a lot of success through the air which doesn’t bode well for the Bulls defensively. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell (48 catches, 675 yards, 7 TD) was once a USF target under head coach Charlie Strong, but according to sources close to the situation, he was too small for the Bulls, and ended up going to Houston where he’s tearing it up for the Cougars. Wide outs Christian Trahan (27 catches, 301 yards, 2 TD), and KeSean Carter (20 catches, 208 yards, 1 TD) round out the potent trio.

While they aren’t usually explosive, the Cougars do convert 42% of their third downs which helps extend drives. That will be another issue for a USF defense who’s been lackluster in that department for the better part of three years. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will need to figure something out on the “money down” because what he’s been doing hasn’t worked, and there needs to be some sort of progress in that area before the season is out.

Running back Alton McCaskill leads a fairly pedestrian runnning back room led by former USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell. McCaskill has 478 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground while averaging 4.7 YPC. No other Cougar running back is averaging more that 3.7 YPC. So, naturally it will be a big day for the running backs. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES

[Insert Bernie Sanders “Once again I’m asking you...” meme”

The Bulls need to create havoc, force turnovers, and get off the damn field to have a remote shot to win this game. The defense has been bad all year, so it will be surprising to see them turn it around during the toughest part of the conference slate. But, why not?

Now for the Houston defense..

They get after the quarterback. They’ve registered 32 sacks through eight games already. Six different defenders have at least 3.5 sacks, and six different defenders have at least five TFL. They create havoc, they force turnovers, and make other teams very uncomfortable. They’re allowing under 20 points per game this year so a fast start is paramount for the Bulls.

Houston’s allowed just two touchdowns on opening drives this year (first half and second half), and the Bulls have struggled mightily in that area all year. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. McClain needs to be able to hit some of the deep shots he hit earlier in the season otherwise Houston will stack the box, and make Jaren Mangham’s day next to impossible.

I don’t see a way where USF wins this game due to how poorly they match up against the Cougars. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES. DON’T KICK TO MARCUS JONES.

Houston 45, USF 20