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Friday, January 15, 2021

Football

The Opposition: Houston looks to get back in the win column against USF


Houston quarterback Clayton Tune scrambles with a flurry of UCF defenders in pursuit as he looks for positive yardage during a regular season game in the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Houston quarterback Clayton Tune scrambles with a flurry of UCF defenders in pursuit as he looks for positive yardage during a regular season game in the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Coming off a tough 38-10 loss to No. 6 Cincinnati last week, Houston will look to get back in the win column when it hosts USF Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.

The Cougars’ (2-3, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) last two games have shown their defensive struggles to hold off high-powered offenses both through the air and ground, having allowed 500 or more total yards in each game.

Houston now catches a break playing against teams in the top half of the conference as it prepares to face an inconsistent USF team sitting at the bottom of the AAC standings.

This is what the Cougars have to look forward to come Saturday:

The Bulls’ season so far

The Bulls (1-6, 0-5 AAC) are coming off a heartbreaking loss, losing a hard fought battle late in the fourth quarter 34-33 on the road against Memphis.

USF started its season on the right foot, picking up a 27-6 victory over The Citadel in its first game of the season under first year head coach Jeff Scott.

Since then, the Bulls are winless through six games, having been outscored 239-114, including being shutout 52-0 by No. 2 Notre Dame in their second game of the season. 

Just as the USF defense has had its issues stopping its opponent, the Bulls’ offense has had their difficulties as they rank last in the conference in scoring offense, second-to-last in total offense and third-to-last in passing and rushing offense.

USF started the season with sophomore quarterback Jordan McCloud, who has thrown for 757 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions through the first six games of the season before being benched early in its 42-13 loss against Tulsa.

Scott has now handed the keys to the offense to senior quarterback Noah Johnson, who saw the field several times early in the season before starting last week against Memphis.

Johnson has thrown for 459 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in six games for the Bulls this season.

Despite its losing record, recent weeks have shown that USF is capable of competing through four quarters, having lost two of their last three games by two points or less.

However, USF has yet to pick up a conference victory this season, making the Bulls the only winless team in the AAC.

What to watch for

As for matchups, this game favors the Cougars’ defense who, after facing two of the top four offenses in the AAC, will meet a USF offense that has struggled heavily with getting consistent production from its quarterbacks.

The Bulls offense will try to take advantage on the ground as the Cougars have allowed a combined total of 695 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns over their last two games.

Before struggling against UCF and Cincinnati, Houston junior quarterback Clayton Tune had thrown for 300 yards or more in each of the Cougars first three games to go along with seven touchdowns with two interceptions.

Tune will look to get back on track but will face a USF pass defense that ranks third in the AAC, holding its opponents to 220 passing yards per game this season.

Overall, this will be a matchup between two struggling offenses and defenses, although the numbers could lie in favor of the Cougars, especially at home.

Where to watch

This conference matchup is set to kick off at 2:00 p.m. CT at TDECU Stadium and will be aired on ESPN+.

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