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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Football

Roundtable: Surprises for the Cougars’ 2018 season


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Last year, junior Ed Oliver became the first sophomore in history to win the Outland Trophy, the award for the best interior lineman in the nation. File Photos / The Cougar

College football is loved for many reasons, one of the biggest being its unpredictable nature stemming from player turnover.

Constant changes to teams can mean a high-profile team like Michigan falling to mediocrity, and teams can come from nowhere like Boise State to challenge the blue bloods.

Here are our writers’ predictions for surprises in the Cougars’ 2018 campaign.

Staff Writer Jhair Romero

Although most college football fans will not expect it, junior Ed Oliver has a legitimate shot at winning the most prestigious honor in the sport—the Heisman trophy.

The All-American has already established himself as the best defensive tackle in his two seasons with UH. So far, he has amassed 39.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in his 25 games.

Experts have predicted he will go high in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft before the collegiate season has even started. Oliver will find difficulty in the Heisman race, though.

The only defensive player to win has been Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997. To top it off, only two defensive linemen have finished top-5 in voting since 1990.

But Houston improved its defensive line, which will help alleviate pressure at the line of scrimmage.

With more tools around him, Oliver will play even better than he did last season and go on to win the Heisman.

Staff Writer Brayley Crowe

While Arizona and Texas Tech are the high-profile games of Houston’s season, its most exciting game will come at the end of the season against Memphis.

Houston and Memphis have matched up in some of the best games in the American Athletic Conference. This season’s game on Nov. 23 will be no different.

To add to the excitement, the teams are ranked as the two favorites to win the AAC West and move on to the championship game.

The upgraded Houston defense will stifle the Memphis offense, and the offense will replicate its recent success, scoring five touchdowns in each of the last three meetings against the Tigers.

The Cougars will defeat the Tigers 34-21, earning their first appearance in the AAC Championship since its inaugural game in 2015.

Staff Writer Christopher McGehee

After going 7-5 in head coach Major Applewhite’s first season, the team will be more prepared for what lies ahead.

The Cougars have added ex-Notre Dame starting cornerback Nick Watkins and Deontay Anderson, a high-ranked safety transferring from Ole Miss,  to solidify the team’s secondary.

On the other side of the ball, new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles will help improve an offense that was inconsistent last season.

Last season at Florida Atlantic, Briles guided an offensive attack that ranked No. 9 in the nation in total offense and No. 6 in rushing offense. Briles will be tasked with rejuvenating a Houston offense that finished No. 61 and No. 72 in those two respective categories last season.

With the influx of talent showing up in Houston for this season and a mid-tier schedule, the Cougars will go undefeated in the regular season and earn a New Year’s Six bowl game.

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