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Monday, June 24, 2019

Football

Football to face few big-name opponents


opponents

The Cougars expect to continue their success from last season despite gaining a new head coach and replacing their quarterback. | File photo/The Cougar

The Cougar football team is primed for another great year with new head coach Major Applewhite at the helm and a favorable schedule.

The conference championship is up for grabs, and the Cougars look ready to take advantage of their home field and opponents this season. With a strong team on both sides of the ball, new coaches and a new mindset, the Cougars look to implement Applewhite’s system and get back on track in time for the start of the season.

Starting new

The team posted their best offensive output under coach Applewhite, and after a short search he was named head coach.

“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience,” Vice President of Houston Athletics Hunter Yurachek said in a December news release.

Breakout wide receiver Linell Bonner and the second coming of Ed Oliver highlight a team with many returning starters. With its new roster, UH is primed for a run at the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Strength in conference

The AAC is a fringe division filled with teams clawing and scratching to climb up the college football leader board. The only ranked team in the conference is the USF Bulls at No. 21. Based on preseason evaluations, it’s the only ranked opponent Houston will play all year.

Houston’s strength of schedule is No. 50 in the nation and the No. 3 hardest schedule among AAC competition. Memphis, at No. 43, and USF, at No. 47, are the only in-conference teams with tougher-ranked schedules.

The Cougars will face plenty of talent this year, but the noticeably tougher opponents like Texas Tech, SMU and Navy will all be played in Houston.

The home field advantage holds true for the Cougars, who have not lost a home game since Nov. 8, 2014. Since construction on TDECU Stadium finished, Houston has posted an impressive 18-3 record on its home turf.

The stadium made its debut in Houston’s 2014 season opener only to be spoiled by a disappointing 7-27 loss to the UTSA Roadrunners.

Season ahead

The Cougars will again open their season against the Roadrunners on Sept. 2, but this time it will be on UTSA’s turf. It marks the first time the teams have met since 2014.

After a pair of road games to start the season, Houston will return home to host the 41st Bayou Bucket Classic against intercity rival Rice. Houston has won the past three Bayou Bucket games and holds a 29-11 series lead against the Owls.

Last season, Houston went into Memphis coming off a dominating performance against a Heisman-led Louisville offense. Despite the big win, the Cougars faltered in a 44-48 loss to Memphis. It was a disappointing end to Houston’s emotional 2016 season.

The Cougars will look to avenge their loss to Memphis on Oct. 19. This is also the first of two nationally televised games for the Cougars. The Memphis matchup will be broadcast on ESPN and played at TDECU Stadium.

This season the Cougars will end their year back in the national spotlight when they take on Navy, the defending American West Champions. The season finale will be played in Houston on Nov. 24.

The AAC Division Championship is scheduled to take place on Dec. 2 and will be nationally covered by either ESPN or ABC.

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