Date: Saturday, September 9th
Kickoff Time: 9:30 PM CT
Location: Arizona Stadium (Tucson, AZ)
Series Record: Series is tied 1-1
Spread: Houston -1
It’s finally time for Houston to play a game! A week removed from the emotions and devastation brought on by Hurricane Harvey, the Cougars turn to football. It seems as if this tragedy has brought the community closer through this team (among others as well), and it will be nice for the players to get back on the field.
There isn’t much to say about this team other than what was said in the preseason preview, but there is still plenty to like. Ed Oliver is the name everyone knows, and I can’t emphasize enough how good he is. He will be a leader on the defense while other starters emerge. One benefit of not having a game is those depth players received more reps to learn the playbook and get comfortable with the various schemes and calls on defense.
Offensively, Houston fans anxiously await the debut of Kyle Allen. After sitting out last year due to transfer, all eyes will be on the former five star to see how wells he gels with the offense. He has numerous targets to choose from and will have a solid offensive line in front of him. The big X-Factor for this offense will be the running backs. Duke Catalon had an average season last year running the ball, and his improvement will mean great things for this offense.
Among the new faces, head coach Major Applewhite officially begins his head coaching debut (we don’t count the bowl game). Houston fans will be even happier if he can start 1-0 after his predecessor was upset in his debut at his new school. Applewhite has done an exceptional job handling the Hurricane Harvey situation, and kept his players’ best interests in mind when deciding to cancel the UTSA game. If he is as good of a coach as he is a mentor, Houston should be dangerous.
Rich Rodriguez has a fairly hot seat. After going 10-4 in 2014, Rodriguez’s Wildcats have gone 11-15 since then. If he doesn’t make a bowl game this year, it will be tough to justify his return.
Brandon Dawkins is a dual threat at quarterback, and has shown big play ability in the past. Houston’s defense would be wise to keep contain on him, and be cautious about chasing the running back on read option plays. Nick Wilson is the running back, and compliments Dawkins well in the backfield. The combo rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns against Northern Arizona last week. Wilson is questionable for the game, and injuries have been an issue for him in the past.
Defensively, Kyle Allen should watch out for Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who picked off two passes last week and added eight tackles as well. The Wildcats did surrender 24 points last week against their FCS opponent, and the Cougars are much better with more weapons to worry about.
Dawkins only threw for 89 yards last week in the blowout, and his arm will be needed more this week. Ed Oliver is going to plug up the middle, and the Wildcats better at least double team him if they want to have success. If Dawkins is forced to pass more, this could be ugly. Dawkins completed just 53.8% of his passes last year, and will have to beat a defensive secondary that include safeties Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams along with cornerback Jeremy Winchester. This could be close, but if the Cougars can shake off the rust quickly, they could run away with this one.
Houston 28 Arizone 24