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Monday, August 21, 2017

Football

Upcoming schedule leaves more to be desired


The hardest out-of-conference opponent in 2017 will be Texas Tech, who went 5-7 last season. | Navid Parsa/The Cougar

The University of Houston and Texas Southern University are in talks of a football game in the 2018 season, according to the Houston Chronicle.

While this game would primarily serve as a way for Houston to pay off debts from the basketball teams using TSU’s facilities for a year, it presents problems for Cougar football’s strength of schedule. TSU would be the easiest out-of-conference game for the Cougars in 2018, but the other contests aren’t that impressive either.

The two Power 5 teams Houston will be playing in the next two years are Arizona and Texas Tech. Arizona most recently had a 10-4 season to end at No. 19 in the AP poll in 2014, but before that, they hadn’t begun or ended a season ranked since 1998. The last time Texas Tech began or ended a season ranked in the AP poll was back in 2009. Both teams had losing seasons in 2016.

When compared to the Cougars’ 2016’s out-of-conference schedule, their 2017 and 2018 schedules pale in comparison.

The 2016 season was the perfect out-of-conference schedule for Houston. The Cougars played blue blood Oklahoma in the season opener, and later played a Louisville team with the Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. In between these heavy-hitting teams, the Cougars played Lamar, where they were able to rest quarterback Greg Ward Jr., and against Texas State, whom they beat 64-3.

It was the best possible combination of difficult and easy games. The Cougars had their chance to prove themselves against top-tier opponents without being overwhelmed.

Texas Tech and Arizona can’t be underestimated, both being Power 5 schools, but their programs will be going into the next season with a lot of doubt. Texas Tech’s star quarterback Patrick Mahomes declared for the draft, and Arizona’s 3-9 record last year is worrisome.

Cougar fans shouldn’t expect a season as epic in scale as 2016 for quite some time. It’s rare for any team in the nation to go up against two top 5 teams in the regular season, let alone beat them. Houston does play against Oklahoma again in the season opener of 2019, so another season that draws attention nationwide may be in the works.

For the next two years, however, the big games of the season won’t happen out-of-conference. They’ll happen against familiar foes in Cincinnati, Navy, USF or some other American Athletic Conference team.

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