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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Football

Commentary: Cougars on pace for Honolulu bowl game


Sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver takes on Memphis’ Riley Ferguson in the 42-38 loss at TDECU Stadium this season. Memphis now stands in the way of the Cougars and any shot they may have at the AAC Championship game. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

It’s been an up-and-down, tumultuous season for the Cougars, who have seen three different starting quarterbacks, the debut of a new head coach and even a devastating hurricane that resulted in the cancellation of the first game of the season.

Through it all, Houston possesses a 6-3 record. The team is bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive year and still has a chance to compete in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

But the Cougars will need a lot of help to make it to that game. They sit one game behind the Memphis Tigers, the difference being a 38-42 loss to Memphis in which the team squandered a fourth-quarter lead.

Since Memphis owns the tiebreaker over the Cougars, Houston will need to win its final two games against Tulane and Navy, and Memphis must lose its final two against SMU and East Carolina. The Cougars need a miracle for ECU, a team they just beat 52-27, to win against a ranked team they lost to, but crazier things have happened.

The Cougars have found their rhythm on offense ever since sophomore quarterback D’Eriq King took over the reins under center. They will look to continue to roll as they head into New Orleans to take on the Green Wave.

Behind a strong rushing attack led by King and running back Duke Catalon, the Cougars will most likely win 38-24 against Tulane, which has the 116th-ranked rush defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Navy, despite its early struggles, found itself offensively against SMU on Saturday. After losing three in a row, the Midshipmen bested the Mustangs 43-40. Just one opponent remains, No. 9-ranked Notre Dame, before playing Houston. It’s still a team that can be effective and play spoiler to the Cougars.

The Midshipmen rank first in the nation in rushing yards, and their triple-option offense will mostly likely confuse the Houston defense as it did last season.

Now that Navy has found new life, the team will be hungry to end the season on a high note. The Midshipmen will lose to Notre Dame but give Houston their best shot, ultimately losing 35-31.

Unfortunately, Houston probably won’t get a shot at the conference championship game because Memphis would have to constitutionally fall apart to lose to ECU. Memphis should easily secure the AAC West. An 8-3 record, however, will secure a spot in a good bowl game, and a date in the Hawaii Bowl against the Fresno State Bulldogs seems likely.

See you in Honolulu, Cougars.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included an incorrect ranking for Tulane’s rushing defense and mistook Navy’s win record. We regret the errors. 

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