This game will pit two first time head coaches with only a few games under their belt with Houston Cougars trying to replace Art Briles who left for Baylor at the end of the season, and is being replaced by Oklahoma’s co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin. Last year these two teams faced off in Houston and the Rams let a 17-3 before fading fast and ultimately losing the game. The Cougars lost a lot of fire power in the form of running back Anthony Alridge and wide receivers Donnie Avery and Jeron Harvey. So, the main question is if the Cougars have enough offensive fire power to keep up what they have achieved in the past.
Offense: The Houston Cougars return six starters on the offensive side of the ball, and will be lead by WR MIke Hafner who had 445 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Those are modest stats, but when playing behind Donnie Avery and Jeron Harvey who are no longer with the program because they graduated those are pretty good stats for a third wideout. With the new coach Kevin Sumlin he has improved the offensive output at each stop he has made, but his biggest improvement was with Texas A&M where Sumlin was moved into the offensive coordinator role, and the Aggies averaged 33.0 points per game after posting just 16.0 per game before he took control. He is an innovator on offense and should keep the recent tradition from Art Briles of being able to score bunches of points. The QB position is one that is muddled, but whoever gets the position should thrive in. The two quarterbacks are currently listed as number one on the depth chart which should be figured out in fall camp. The two are Case Keenum and Blake Joseph who split time last with Keenum playing in every game and starting eight, while Joseph played in eleven and started in five games. Keenum has more mobility and rushed for 412 yards and nine touchdowns which is solid for a quarterback. As for passing Keenum had 2,259 yards, 68 completion percentage, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. While Blake Joseph in less time threw a comparable percentage, however Joseph’s touchdown to interception ratio was 2.25 to 1.5 but that could be inflated due to playing time. Whoever is at the quarterback position they should be able to thrive.
The key lose at running back is Anthony Alridge who will be replaced by Terrance Ganaway who as a back up had 550 yards, six touchdowns, and an average of 5.0 per carry and should be able to put up similar numbers as Alridge who rushed just under 1,600 yards.
If these new players who are taking over starting spots and a quarterback is chosen Houston’s offense should not skip a beat from last year.
Defense: The defense will need to help carry the offense while it finds its way and becomes acquainted with the new offense. There are eight returning starters on defense from a team who did give up 27 points per game, which needs to improve to help out this team. Last year the offense was able to just out score teams and the defense was called upon to make timely stops when it counted.
Returning start on defense are defensive end Phillip Hunt who had 10.5 sacks and 18 for loss, and will see a lot of double teams and free up another player to make the play, but Hunt is the leader of the front seven. In the secondary the Cougars return Kenneth Fontenette and Ernest Miller and these had four picks and eleven passes broken up, and will only get better.
The defense should improve over last years defense with the eight starters returning, and they will need to take charge for the offense to gel together.
Early Prediction: This game should be a close and competitive game, and I could see either team winning this game. With both teams having new coaches, but the edge has to go to Colorado State, because they are at home and have more of their offense returning then the Cougars. As of now look for the Rams to win by 3, because of the home field.