Houston football schedule looks to be a good trial for Sumlin
The Cougars will open the 2008 football season at Robertson Stadium for the first time since 2003, when they beat Rice 48-14, but it’s hard to gauge where Houston will be at the end of this season because of the team’s numerous losses, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Cougars lose wide receivers Donnie Avery and Jeron Harvey and running back Anthony Alridge.
However, the Cougars’ 2008 schedule isn’t as daunting as last season. There’s no Oregon, Alabama or Central Florida, and Houston hosts Tulsa this year. Houston should bring in nine or 10 wins before the Conference USA Championships, a game it could easily host.
UH head coach Kevin Sumlin begins his tenure with Southern University coming into Houston for the two teams’ first matchup. The Jaguars finished last season with an 8-3 record and went 5-1 on the road. This will be the first time the Cougars open against an NCAA division 1-AA school since 1996, and Houston should win convincingly.
The first road game comes against Oklahoma State and Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy on Sept. 6. The Cowboys will be the Cougars’ first challenge. In their last meeting, Houston came away with a 34-25 at Robertson Stadium in 2006.
OSU went 7-6 last season, including an Insight Bowl victory against Indiana. Houston may come away with its first loss, as Sumlin may have to tinker with his offense. Expect a close game with the Cowboys coming away with a slim win.
Houston will come home to take on Air Force for the first time. The nine-win Falcons of 2007 should put up a good fight. The Cougars should be the favorite at home, but Air Force may pull one out.
The next two games are on the road against teams that played the Cougars tough last season.
First, Houston will travel to Colorado State on Sept. 20. The Cougars are 3-0 all-time against the Rams, including a 38-27 win last season. Fans should expect the same type of game this season.
East Carolina is on the schedule the following week.
The Cougars played an inconsistent game against the Pirates last season, and kicker T.J. Lawrence missed two potential game-winning field goals in the final minutes of the game to give ECU the 37-35 win at Robertson.
Banking on a consistent team, Houston should handle the Pirates on the road, opening up the season 4-1 before its only off week.
Houston will play two of its three games in October on the road, but the Cougars should enjoy a flawless month against Alabama-Birmingham, at Southern Methodist and at Marshall – all teams the Cougars beat last season. It will be interesting to see what SMU head coach June Jones will do with a program that has struggled since the Mustangs were handed "the death penalty" (the NCAA forcing a university not to compete) in 1987.
November will define Sumlin and the Cougars. Though all four games are in Houston, the Cougars will have a couple of obstacles in its path to the C-USA Championship game.
The Cougars will beat a Tulane team that is losing running back Matt Forte, the only consistent player the Green Wave has had in a while. Houston coasts the Green Wave to an easy win, but every Cougar fan and player has their eye on Nov. 15.
After an embarrassing 49-point beatdown handed to Houston by Tulsa head coach Todd Graham and quarterback Paul Smith last season, the Cougars will be waiting for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane will lose a graduating Smith, but expect them to be ready for the Cougars. C-USA West may come down to this game.
Houston had a tendency to let teams stay in the game last season, and Texas-El Paso was one of those teams. It came down to a fourth quarter, fourth down stop by safety Brandon Brinkley for the Cougars to beat the Miners 34-31. Houston should take care of business at home, but this game between Tulsa and Rice could be a trap for Houston.
The Bayou Bucket on Nov. 29 will be Houston’s regular season finale at Rice Stadium.† Houston is 25-9 all-time against the Owls, but Rice has taken games down to the wire in the past few seasons.
Houston should cap off the first 12 games for Sumlin with a close win against its crosstown rival before the C-USA Championships. If there are no injuries and the Cougars take in Sumlin’s system, Houston should win C-USA for the second time in three seasons, and receive a bid for another trip to the Liberty Bowl.