Start Time: 7:00 PM Central
Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX
Radio: UH: Here. Texas State: 103.1 FM (Austin), 89.9 FM KTSW (San Marcos), 930 AM (San Antonio).
Records: TXST 1-2, Houston 2-0. TXST won last meeting, 30-17 (2012)
Live Stats: Here
Betting Line: Houston -16.5, O/U 72.5
just did a google image search for houston cougar and whoooooaaaa god no why how much purple drank got consumed here pic.twitter.com/8jALckQzk4— Will Butler (@THETXSTUniv) September 21, 2015
The Houston Cougars come into the game at 2-0 riding high after a clutch win at Louisville in Week 2. The defense comes in allowing a little more than 350 yards and 27 points per game on the season while the offense continues to impress.
In two games this season, UH quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has run for 199 yards and thrown for another 511. He's also completing passes at a high rate (73.3%), and not turning the ball over (just 1 INT). He hurts the defense in so many ways, the defense has to just pick its poison. If he takes care of the football, Houston will be just fine.
Running back Kenneth Farrow is also vital to Houston's offense. As good as Ward was in the Louisville game, Houston would have lost without the fifth-year senior. Farrow is a bruiser that also adds speed in the backfield, averaging 4.2 ypc and taking a ton of weight off of the QB's shoulders. With Farrow playing well, Ward gets the opportunity to take advantage of the defense, pull some of those handoffs and run or throw on his own.
Ward and Farrow running will be important, but the Bobcat defense is giving up more than 300 passing ypg, and a little more than 200 ypg on the ground. Texas State also has yet to record an interception while allowing passes to be completed at a 70% clip. Just like a good running game opens up the passing, the opposite is also true. Houston will need to keep the Bobcats off-balance with a strong passing attack to keep those lanes open for Farrow and Ward.
In order to win, Houston needs to contain Texas State QB Tyler Jones. He's accounted for more than 900 yards over the first three games of the season (229 ypg passing, 82 ypg rushing). Jones is also yet to throw an interception in three games (59-85-0), so Houston needs to contain him with the d-line and make him throw into small windows on the back end. As for the front seven, they'll need to continue containing the run, as they've only allowed 49.5 yards per game on the ground thus far.
Texas State Outlook
Texas State is more balanced than last year's rush-first approach (59% rushing/41% passing in 2014, 52%/48% in 2015), although the efficacy of that passing attack is primarily predicated on short routes that isolate defenders in space and give receivers room to run. Whether that'll work against a Houston defense that's a significant step up from Southern Miss--although they're nowhere near Florida State, obviously--remains to be seen.
As for the rushing game, expect the usual misdirection/option attack with Jones, Robert Lowe as the workhorse, and Chris Nutall as the potential big play threat. The Bobcats need to improve their execution and/or playcalling on third down, because 37% conversion isn't going to get it done this week. Calling routes that go beyond the first down marker should help with that. Receivers not dropping balls thrown right into their chest would also be helpful.
As for the other side of the ball, there's no point in sugarcoating it: Texas State's defense is a massive liability. As in, only Idaho's and Wyoming's defenses are worse in all of FBS. Advanced stats bear out this sad portrait of a depleted defense as well. Although the Bobcats aren't adept at defending any type of play at this point, they at least occasionally step up and make a few stops in the run game.
But that doesn't matter if the pass defense can't stop anyone, and it hasn't. Even Prairie View A&M threw for 300+ yards on them, and that was after they couldn't crack 200 yards against Texas Southern. Make no mistake, the secondary isn't great, but it's hard to put too much blame on them when the defensive line has generated zero pass rush and the linebackers have been woefully inadequate at patrolling the middle of the field in pass coverage.
If Texas State wants to have a chance at getting even a couple of stops, they're going to need to roll the dice and blitz early and often. As we saw against Southern Miss, rushing 3 or 4 against an FBS-caliber o-line just isn't going to work. They also need to fix their issues setting the edge when defending the run, as Houston will have speed to burn.
Scott: In the end, Houston is too powerful on both sides of the ball to be stopped by Texas State on Saturday. Ward and Farrow will each have big games and I think the Cougar defense continues to show some improvement from two weeks ago against the Louisville Cardinals.
UH 42 Texas State 17
Will: Texas State is finding their stride on offense and should be able to put up some points. This game also seems like a potential candidate for the annual "Texas State plays way above their head against a more talented team" performance, especially against an in-state rival that many Bobcat fans are desperate to beat.
But it's hard to see this defense stopping Farrow or Ward. Texas State's predictable third down playcalling will likely give Houston's defense a few stops when it really matters. Prove me wrong, Coach Fran. You already did once in 2012.
UH 56, Texas State 38