When offensive coordinator Tom Herman left the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Houston Cougars program was placed in good hands. Herman was so good at his job, he designed a flawless offense around third string quarterback Cardale Jones, leading the Buckeyes to the first national championship in the College Football Playoff. While the Buckeyes have struggled on offense this season, Herman has elevated his new team immediately, and it’s a direct result of his brilliant coaching.
SMU Mustangs vs Houston Cougars
The Cougars are flourishing under first-year head coach Herman. Offensively, the Cougars are flying high, averaging 45.7 points per game, while racing out to a (4-0) record. Their best win was a 34-31 victory over Louisville, but the Cougars also defeated Tulsa by 14 last week.
Now Houston faces a much-improved SMU Mustangs squad, ready to complete a shocking upset. Although the Mustangs are (1-4), they are able to compete offensively. In addition, the Mustangs played two top five teams, (Baylor, TCU) already, so they aren’t worried about facing a third undefeated school from the state of Texas.
Cougars’ quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has been terrifying defenses this season. Since Ward became the starting quarterback halfway through last season, he’s been one of the best signal callers in the country. Always known as an accurate passer, Ward has taken his offensive ability to another level. He’s completing 69 percent of his passes, while attaining a 8/1 touchdown to interception ratio. In addition, Ward has scored seven rushing touchdowns this season, while leading the team in rushing. Finally, the Cougars will get to showcase their team to a national audience.
However, Ward hasn’t been a one man show for the Cougars’ offense. Senior running back Kenneth Farrow leads the way in the backfield. He’s never averaged under five yards per carry, and he’s well on his way to another stellar season. Still, Farrow doesn’t do it alone in the backfield. The quickness of Javin Webb, and Ryan Jackson have complemented the running game extremely well. All three players have two rushing touchdowns apiece, giving Houston 14 rushing touchdowns this season.
Just like Ward, SMU quarterback Matt Davis leads the Mustangs in passing and rushing. If things work well, he can single handedly keep the Mustangs in the game, but it will take a total team effort for SMU to pull the upset. With 14 total touchdowns, Davis has plenty of ability to attack the Cougars’ defense.
Opponents are averaging 316 passing yards per game against the Cougars. However, the Cougars defense is stubborn against the run. They have turned opposing offenses into one-dimensional units all season.
When it comes down to the trenches, the Cougars have too much in the running game. With so many options in the backfield, SMU’s defense will wear down in the second half. Therefore, they need a strong first half from the offense to stay in contention. Otherwise, the score could get away in a hurry.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.