If you’re still hanging on to the Oklahoma loss and the second half struggles last week, move on. Washington State is a different team that presents different challenges but also new opportunities. Houston’s the home team this week, and it’s another chance to pull off an upset. Dana Holgorsen and Mike Leach reunite, and both should have some tricks up their sleeves. If anything, we’ll get some quality entertainment on a Friday night. It’s too early to be a pessimist, so hop on the Train of Optimism for the Houston Cougars!
Date: Friday, September 13th
How to watch: ESPN
Start time: 8:15pm CT
Line: Washington State -9.5
Location: NRG Stadium (Houston, TX)
Series: Washington State leads 2-1
Matchup to watch
Washington State QB Anthony Gordon vs. Houston pass rush: Houston’s defensive line is still figuring things out, but can make an impact in this game. It also is their toughest matchup thus far. Gordon and the Cougars offense get the ball out quick, and Mike Leach finds ways to put his quarterback in good positions. Houston’s line hasn’t made an impact in their first two games, but can change that in a big way Friday night.
Houston’s keys to success
- Let King be King: Holgorsen and King are trying to find a balance between staying in the pocket to make throws and running the ball. King’s at his best when he’s attacking the defense in whatever way possible, but it seems that he’s hesitant. A breakout game for him puts Houston in a great place for an upset.
- Force turnovers: The last couple years when Washington State’s had success, they derailed in a couple games by losing the turnover battle. Just like Oklahoma, Wazzu will win plenty of plays tomorrow night, but Houston must force mistakes. Everyone’s expecting a shootout, but a couple turnovers go a long way in swinging momentum in their favor.
- Ignore the past, focus on going 1-0: What happened in the past doesn’t matter anymore. Houston’s learned from their mistakes and moved on, and so should their fans. The only game that matters is this one, so the team and its supporters need to turn their attention solely to Friday night.
Washington State is the better team, no doubt. However, we’ve only seen them dominate extremely inferior competition. Houston gives them a new test that they haven’t experienced this year. The rotation on the defensive line hasn’t allowed for anyone to get into the flow of the game, but they have a chance to make an impact. As soon as the defense accepts that the focus will be on them, the sooner they can improve. The first two games showed promise from some players. Guys like Damarion Williams, Grant Stuard, and Terrance Edgeston (among others) played well, but more guys need to step up.
Houston’s offense is capable of shredding any defense they play. Washington State’s defense isn’t bad, but Houston should be successful all night. The transition to Dana Holgorsen’s system is taking longer than some expected, but they’re still scoring a good amount of points so far. Patrick Carr should return to the backfield with Kyle Porter and Mulbah Car, giving the Cougars another threat running the ball. King and his receivers are out to prove they’re the better group in this one. Embracing the role as the underdog will also help.
This is another game that probably won’t go Houston’s way, but a win isn’t out of the question. A 9.5 spread almost seems insulting to the home team, and I believe they’ll embrace the underdog mentality and make this one closer than the experts expect. Don’t be surprised if Houston pulls off the upset either. WASHINGTON STATE 42 HOUSTON 35