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Houston Season Preview 2016: ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

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Coach Herman is master cliche dispenser; the X-Factors of 2016; and an off-kilter schedule breakdown

NCAA Football: Mid-American Conference-Temple at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Tom Herman is a certified madman — in the best way — and we love it. There is chaos brewing in the Big 12 and Houston is neck deep in it — and we love it.

And the season is almost here. That Pavlovian twitch is kicking in that forces us to start grilling brats and reaching for beers. And there’s this...

So let’s get to it. But let’s dispense with the obvious stuff right away.

Houston was one of the most talked about programs of the offseason. Every publication and outlet has produced their season previews for every team. Likely, you’ve read several about the Cougars already.

At this point, we know all the major players. We’re pretty confident Greg Ward, Chance Allen and Duke Catalon can keep last season’s 10th ranked offense rocking and rolling.

Cameron Malveaux, Steven Adams, Tyus Bowser and Brandon Wilson will lead a defense that is stocked with athleticism in 2016.

So let’s focus on some different topics in this primer for the season…

The Stakes

Is it a make-or-break year for the Cougars? No.

Is there a lot riding on the outcome? Absolutely.

We might know by game time of the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Classic if Houston will be a member of the Big 12, so that particular carrot may not be dangling in front of the team all year, but the stakes are high regardless.

What’s on the line? New levels of long-term sustainability and success. And Tom Herman. We all know every program that even thinks about replacing its coach next season will be hounding athletic director Hunter Yurachek for Herman’s services.

The recent eras of Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin were good, but the future earnings under Coach Herman could be unprecedented.

And if you need another reason to believe in Herman, keep reading…

Tom Herman — Cliché Master

Herman has all but solidified his reputation as a quality coach. But to truly ascend to the ranks of the top-tier commanders, he must master the art of the cliché. And not just its occasional employ — no no no. A master must be able to effortlessly and seamlessly string together several clichés that have no apparent commonalities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A from UH Media Day on Aug. 3 when the coach answered a question about how his players are dealing with the expectations of the upcoming season:

“Our culture will smack them in the face if they come in and start talking about expectations because it’s fourth-and-inches every single second of every day when they walk into that door to train. If they don’t have their foot firmly on the gas pedal, and they let up just a smidgen, they are going to get hit in the face with a shovel.”

Seriously, that’s next-level. The program is in good hands.

X-FACTORS

The X factor is the unknown quantity in an equation. There are pieces you know and there are forces you can count on to be consistently true, but here are two that we hope the opposition is unprepared for…

Offensive X Factor: WR Isaiah Johnson. I’ve been trumpeting the call of Johnson since the spring game. He was a monster in that game. Yes, it was just the spring game, but if he can perform during the season the way he did in April, he will quickly go from an unknown quantity to a dangerous weapon.

Defensive X Factor: Ed Oliver. Yeah yeah, I know. It’s an obvious choice, but it fits the description. What if Oliver is as good as advertised? He’ll get playing time, that’s for sure. He would have been redshirted at Alabama but at Houston he could make a difference right away.

Schedule Breakdown

I’m not doing the traditional up-or-down picks here. I’m not going to spoon-feed you the answers. Here are some hints … you’ll get it.

Oklahoma — Picture Rocky Balboa fighting Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Lamar — Sorry Cardinals, here’s your check. Thanks for coming.

At Cincinnati — Tricky, but talent and maturity shine.

At Texas State — Yep, moving on.

UConn — comes to TDECU Stadium. Done and done.

At Navy — No Keenan Reynolds.

Tulsa — Most points wins.

At SMU — Mustangs are still a year away … since 1984.

UCF — hasn’t won a game since Dec. 4, 2014.

Tulane — At least the Green Wave have new uniforms.

Louisville — I’ll be honest, this one scares me like that super creepy scene in the first Paranormal Activity where the girlfriend gets out of bed and stands next to her boyfriend and stares at him for three hours while he sleeps. I’ll give UH the win, but this one is going to be a back-and-forth slugfest that will come down to the last second.

Memphis — No Paxton Lynch. No Justin Fuentes.

We are a precious few days away from opening weekend. There will be no warm-up matches for the Cougars. They have to gel quickly and provide a peak performance in Week One to have any hope of busting into the playoffs. Here we go...

The End Result

What’s the fun in NOT picking Houston to go undefeated?