#44 Houston 2018 Football Preview

Houston Cougars
Overall Rank: #44
#4 American
 Houston Logo
Houston was so close to having a special season during Coach Major Applewhite’s first season as the head coach. Four of their five losses came by six points or fewer. The Cougars will need to find a way to win those close games this season in what should be a wide open and exciting race in the American Athletic Conference West Division.
2017 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2017 Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. Fresno State (L 27-33)
Coach: Major Applewhite (7-6 at Houston, 7-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kendal Briles
Defensive Coordinator: Mark D’Onofrio
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mulbah Car, RB, 388 yards
Passing: D’Eriq King, QB, 1,260 yards
Receiving: D’Eriq King, QB, 264 yards
Tackles: Ed Oliver, DT, 73
Sacks: Ed Oliver, DT, 5.5
Interceptions: Garrett Davis, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Courtney Lark, OL Will Noble, LB Emeke Egbule, CB Isaiah Johnson, CB Alexander Myres, K Caden Novikoff, P Dane Roy
Key Losses: QB Kyle Postma, RB Duke Catalon, WR Steven Dunbar, WR Linell Bonner, LB D’Juan Hines, LB Matthew Adams, DB Terrell Williams
The Houston offense should be much more exciting with new coordinator Kendal Briles. He will bring in an up-tempo spread offense that promises to boost their 28.3 points per game from a year ago. Quarterback D’Eriq King started the last four games of 2017 and had some promising moments. King is a versatile athlete who is a nice fit for this offense and the hope is he can be a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. King was just nine rushing yards away from being the team’s returning leader in rushing, passing and receiving. Do not expect him to have many receiving yards this season, but it does show the damage he can do when he has some space to operate and how important he was to Coach Applewhite’s plans for the offense even when King was not starting at quarterback. King will need to find some new targets, but there are some talented options if they can stay healthy. The running game has some questions too with Mulbah Car the only returning option. The addition of Terence Williams, who rushed for 1,859 yards during his three seasons at Baylor, will add some much needed experience to the group.
All-American Ed Oliver has already announced that he will enter the 2019 NFL Draft, where he will almost certainly be a top five selection. Meanwhile, the defensive tackle will spend one more season dominating the AAC. Last season he tallied 73 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Jerad Carter played well last season when healthy and the line also adds TCU transfer Isaiah Chambers. It should be a dominating three man front line. The linebackers need to replace their two most productive pieces, but Emeke Egbule and Leroy Godfrey are a solid duo to rebuild around. The secondary had some issues last year, allowing 274.3 yards per game through the air. However, the unit is experienced with seniors Isiah Johnson, Alexander Myres and Garrett Davis leading the way.
The Bottom Line:
Houston is trying to turn into the class of the AAC. Bringing in Briles from Baylor was a controversial move, but it should help a stagnant offense turn into something much, much more productive. Whether that happens immediately remains to be seen. The schedule has a couple tough early games against Arizona and Texas Tech, but those are both winnable. More importantly, those games will prepare Houston for the conference slate. And the conference schedule is pretty tough with AAC West foes Navy and Memphis both coming on the road.
Projected Bowl: Frisco Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 166.8 (63rd in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 261.3 (38, 6)
Total Offense: 428.2 (40, 6)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (65, 7)
Rushing Defense: 147.9 (45, 2)
Pass Defense: 274.3 (119, 9)
Total Defense: 422.2 (88, 4)
Scoring Defense: 23.8 (42, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.17 (83, 7)
Sacks: 1.92 (74, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (21, 4)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#1 Ed Oliver