Date: Thursday, October 19th
Kickoff Time: 7:00pm CT
Location: TDECU Stadium (Houston, TX)
Line: Houston -3
Series Record: Houston leads 15-10
All is not lost for the Houston Cougars season, and they are presented with an opportunity to take control of the AAC West. Memphis currently is in the driver seat, but Houston gets them at home. Despite all of the struggles they’ve endured so far this season, they are still in a great position to win this division.
Houston’s offensive struggles are well-documented, and change is needed if they want to fix those issues. Quarterback play has been average at best, and it’s safe to say that neither Kyle Allen or Kyle Postma have won the position battle. Playing behind inconsistent offensive line play hasn’t helped them either, and has limited Duke Catalon and Dillon Birden’s impact running the ball. There have been positives though, and we’ve seen flashes in every game of how good this offense can be when all the parts are functioning at a high level. They just need to consistently produce instead of in spurts.
The receivers have been the most consistent group, but they will take a hit with Ellis Jefferson and Derek McLemore sitting out because of injuries. Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar continue to play with purpose and determination, and they will continue to do what they can to get open for whoever is throwing them the ball. D’Eriq King is also a weapon at receiver and running the ball.
Defensively, it’s been a bend-don’t-break attitude for the Cougars, mostly because they’ve been given a short field. Houston’s allowing just 21 points per game, but that number could easily be smaller if they weren’t put in tough situations so frequently. The frequency in which this unit visits the field has more to do with their statistics being average more than anything else. But they continue to battle despite this adversity, and it’s the players you would expect who are leading the way.
Even with teams putting almost all of their attention on him, Ed Oliver is third on the team in tackles. His teammates have done a great job of helping him out as well. Matthew Adams and D’Juan Hines have proven to be a great duo and are tied for the team lead in tackles. Safeties Khalil Williams and Garrett Davis have been the leaders of the secondary, and are putting up the numbers to prove it. Williams leads the team in tackles for loss with seven, while Davis is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.
A youth movement took over on defense for Memphis thanks to numerous injuries, and what started as a promising season appeared to be slowly heading the other direction. That all changed last week against Navy, a game in which the defense forced five turnovers, and limited the Midshipmen rushing attack to 100 yards under their average.
Players like Austin Hall and TJ Carter had big games, and are two younger players who appear to be turning a corner. Hall had 10 tackles, two interceptions and fumble recovery on his way to AAC Defensive Player of the Week. The Tigers had a handful of players in the preseason that they could rely on, and now player like Hall and Carter are adding to that list. If Memphis can continue to improve defensively, this becomes and even more dangerous team.
Offensively, it’s business as usual for the Tigers. Riley Ferguson looked sharp for the second game in a row, and is putting his mistake-riddled UCF performance behind him. His favorite target continues to tear apart defenses at will. Anthony Miller had a career game against UConn, and could have duplicated that performance if not for a couple overthrows and uncalled penalties. Still, Miller last two games have yielded 25 catches for 314 yards and six touchdowns, giving Ferguson a reliable threat each week. The emergence of John Williams and Joey Magnifico have added depth to the receiving corps which already features Phil Mayhue and Tony Pollard.
What gets lost among the offensive fireworks is the improved offensive line play. This unit has improved significantly protecting Ferguson and opening up lanes for the running back stable. Last year, Ferguson was sacked 33 times in 13 games, while this year, he’s been sacked only eight times in six games. While the rushing attack still isn’t one of the best in the conference, it has improved behind the offensive line’s success. The Tigers are just three yards short of their seven game rushing total last year, and did so this year in six games. Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor have found more running lanes this year, and their improvement makes this offense nearly impossible to stop.
Houston is down, but not out. If this game were played in Memphis, I would be concerned for the Cougars. Having home field advantage is a big advantage for them (hence the three point favorite), but they will have their hands full. Their experience against Texas Tech should help them against the Tigers offense, but they need their own offense to score as well. Doing so against an improving Memphis defense may prove to be more difficult than expected. So while, the Cougars defense may keep the score low, the offense might not do enough to keep up.
Memphis 35 Houston 32
Who wins this AAC West showdown?
This poll is closed
Houston Cougars (4-2)
Memphis Tigers (5-1)