Roundtable: Projecting the UH season opener
With less than a week until the much-anticipated opening to the Cougars’ football season, members of The Cougar’s sports staff sat down to discuss how the opening matchup against the University of Oklahoma Sooners will go.
Staff writer Dezmond Ewell
Everything in me is rooting for the home team, but my gut feeling can’t seem to overtake my mental thoughts that the University of Oklahoma Sooners will be just a little too much for UH.
I expect that, after a close three-and-a-half quarters, OU will find a way to close the game in their favor. My prediction: Oklahoma 31, Houston 28.
To pull off the upset, UH must play on all cylinders. It cannot give up opportunities on either side of the ball against a stout team that rarely makes mistakes. On offense, this starts with Greg Ward Jr., who must find ways to make plays while under great pressure.
OU is going to put more pressure on him than he has ever seen. If he can make smart decisions with the ball, it can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Defensively, the line is the key. If it can stuff the run early and force OU to be one-dimensional in the passing game, they can create turnover opportunities. Led by B.J. Singleton, UH’s front four must wreak havoc on OU’s redshirt junior quarterback Baker Mayfield and force him to make mistakes.
Assistant sports editor Jonathan Valadez
Last season, UH was near the bottom in the nation when it came to passing defense. The chance that the team has improved is slim considering, that it is almost an entirely new unit.
UH is going against one of the best offenses in the nation, so defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will need to dial up blitzes that will allow his dominant front seven to at least hurry Mayfield. If the front seven can put pressure on the quarterback, the defensive backs can also play aggressively. That will hopefully end in takeaways or, at the very least, incomplete passes.
I think the winner of this game is going to be the team with the better defense. Both offenses are explosive and have the ability to move the ball down the field and put points on the board.
Ultimately, I think UH’s secondary is too much of a liability, and Mayfield will be able to exploit it at least one time, resulting in a close 38-34 loss for the home team.
Sports editor Reagan Earnst
I expect a high-scoring matchup between UH and OU. Both teams are equipped with high-powered offenses that can score at will.
That said, both teams also lost key pieces from their defenses from last season, which I feel will bode well for our team.
OU has a two-headed monster at running back with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Both these backs have proven their abilities and each averaged over six yards per carry last season. Although Mayfield is a solid quarterback, I believe stopping this duo will be the top priority for OU’s defense.
OU will also have their hands full trying to stop Tom Herman’s offense.
Ward has shown improvement in each of his prior three seasons, and this season should be no different. I believe he will have a breakout performance against OU, which should thrust him into the national spotlight.
Running back Duke Catalon and wide receiver Steven Dunbar will also get OU’s defense sweating. The former will use his size and strength to barrel through OU’s defensive line while the latter has the height and wingspan to haul in passes from Ward.
All in all, UH should leave NRG Stadium on Saturday afternoon with a 41-38 victory.