The Cincinnati Bearcats’ opponent this Saturday, the Houston Cougars, are an awfully talented team.
Though 2-2 overall, the Cougars are definitely a bowl caliber club. Their pair of losses came against perennial AAC power UCF, 44-21 on Halloween, and BYU, who took the Cougars to the woodshed a couple weeks prior but also look to be a fearsome club in 2020.
Houston’s wins came against Tulane and Navy. In both games, the Cougars wasted their AAC opponents and demonstrated their genuine offensive firepower.
Their handsome junior starting quarterback Clayton Tune is a quintessential long tall Texan signal caller. He shows cool under fire in the pocket and is one of the AAC’s most accurate passers.
Tune had a bit of a rough outing against UCF, tossing a pair of picks and completing barely 50 percent of his passes. But the Cougars’ offensive line, which has thus far been one of their question marks, looked frequently overmatched against UCF and contributed to Tune’s less-than-stellar performance.
Overall, though, Tune has completed more than 60 percent of his passes and thrown twice as many touchdowns as INTs.
Tune has relied on a cluster of solid targets in the passing game. Senior Marquez Stevenson is a tried-and-true, Art Monk-dependable target. He’s surely one of the best receivers in the conference. Tre’von Bradley and Nathaniel Dell have also been steady contributors.
Due in part to their shaky offensive line, Houston’s running game has been only somewhat effective early in 2020. Senior Kyle Porter leads the team in rushing, averaging just over 60 yards per game.
The Cougars’ real problems can be found on the defensive side of the ball. There is not a game you can point to thus far this year in which Houston’s defense has played well.
Even against Navy, Houston’s surrendered more than 200 passing yards to Navy, which may not sound like a lot but certainly is a great deal for the club from Annapolis.
BYU and UCF simply asserted their will against the Houston defense. In particular, the Cougars’ effort against UCF was embarrassing, as a pair of UCF backs gained over 100 yards rushing while a third garnered 87 yards.
For Houston to have a season worthy of its talented roster, its defense needs to buck up both in the secondary and in the front seven.
That’s not to say that the Cougars do not have some studs on defense. Defensive end Payton Turner is a much improved from 2019 pass rush specialist, posting 4 sacks in 4 games. If a few more Cougars step on defense, this club could have a memorable season.
Nevertheless, I expect Saturday to be an old fashioned shootout between the Bearcats and the Houston Cougars.