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Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Army Preview

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Houston is relying on a lot of young players to fill key spots.

NCAA Football: Houston at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, December 22nd

Time: 2:30pm CT

Watch: ESPN/WatchESPN

Line: Army -4.5


Honestly, this isn’t the year that Houston imagined. One that saw its two star players deal with injuries all year, and the firing of their defensive coordinator. This isn’t the bowl game that fans imagined when the Cougars were 7-1, but this game still has plenty of importance. The Armed Forces Bowl will feature Houston, a team that was once ranked and a favorite to face UCF in the AAC Championship Game, and Army. Fans are excited for this matchup believe it or not, and the proof is in a sellout.

The game is in Forth Worth, Texas, so Houston fans shouldn’t have a tough time making the trip to support their team. It may be a shell of the team the were watching in September, but it’s still their team.

Houston has endured quite the roller coaster this season, and they look quite different than they did at the beginning of the year. D’Eriq King, Ed Oliver, Isaiah Chambers, Jerard Carter, Garrett Davis, Payton Turner and Isaiah Johnson will not be participating in the bowl game for various reasons. That’s the quarterback of the team and six starters/valuable contributors that won’t be playing. What that means is young players will get playing time in a big game.

Clayton Tune took over for King in the Tulane game after King tore his meniscus in his knee, and has shown some flashes of potential. He may not be the athlete that King is, but Tune can be a good dual threat in Houston’s system. Outside of King, the offense has almost all of its key players playing. Tune will still have Marquez Stevenson and Keith Corbin to find downfield, and Patrick Carr will join him in the backfield. This side of the ball will continue to be a strength, even if the other side isn’t.

The Mark D’Onofrio experiment failed miserably for Houston, and injuries certainly didn’t help. Losing every starter on the defensive line is tough to overcome, but Houston’s front seven needs to be better. The Cougars face a Black Knights team that is second in the country in rushing yards per game with nearly 300 yards per contest. Houston ranks 98th in the country in rush defense. So what good can come out of this?

Luckily for Houston, they’ve already faced a triple option team, so these concepts shouldn’t be totally new to them. Granted, Army is much better than Navy was this year, but the Cougars should be prepared. It all comes down to execution once again. Hopefully, with new leadership, this group can help the offense out.

Prediction

This is going to be tough for Houston. Army is a good team, and their record clearly indicates that. Stopping the option hasn’t been impossible for the Cougars lately, but that’s because they had Ed Oliver. This might be Houston’s toughest task this year, and it comes down to the youth of this team to step up in their biggest game yet.

Army 31 Houston 28