Cougars confident heading into next contest

Since their fifth victory of the season, a ranking in the top 25 has dangled just outside the Cougars’ grasp.

UH was undefeated and receiving votes for the first time since the 2012 preseason polls before BYU earned a 1-point win on Oct. 19 at Reliant Stadium.

But after traveling to New Jersey to defeat a good Rutgers team and taking care of business against a bad USF squad at home, UH has a chance to force Harris and Associated Press poll voters’ hands.

Greg Ward

Freshman quarterback Greg Ward’s dual-threat skill set keeps defenses off-balanced. | Justin Tijerina/ The Daily Cougar

Beginning Saturday, the Cougars have matchups against ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. Wins against UCF and Louisville would almost assure a spot in the top 20.

The Cougars haven’t held a spot in the top 25 since placing No. 18 in the final 2011 AP poll, but national recognition is not something that motivates the team, said senior offensive lineman Rowdy Harper.

“We’re used to not having much buzz at all, so we’re fine with that, really. We win for each other, and we win because we hate to lose,” Harper said. “Our goal was always to win conference, so this next game we play is another step to try to win conference.”

Defeating UCF on Saturday and Louisville the following week would mean more than an inclusion in the fodder of national media pundits, though. Wins would put the Cougars in the driver’s seat of the American Athletic Conference and in position to visit the Bowl Championship Series for the first time in the program’s history.

“We’re in control of our own destiny, and it’s how we’ve worked up until now to get that chance to do that,” Harper said.

But defeating Knights and Cardinals on the road in consecutive weeks is no easy task.

UCF has already defeated Penn State and Louisville on the road and nearly defeated Southeastern Conference championship contender South Carolina at home.

The Knights are led by junior quarterback Blake Bortles, who has 15 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, and junior running back Storm Johnson on offense. Both made several plays in UCF’s come-from-behind win against Louisville. The defense only allows 19 points per game.

“When you put on the video and look at their statistics and look at their depth chart, obviously, know who’s coaching them, there is no glaring weakness,” said head coach Tony Levine. “You don’t say ‘Well, they’re deficient in this area.’ They’re extremely well-coached across the board.”

The Cardinals have Heisman trophy candidate and possible first overall NFL draft pick Teddy Bridgewater behind center, but the Cougars are confident all that matters is what occurs inside the locker room.

“We’re going to do what we do — tackle, play good defense and get turnovers,” said senior defensive back Thomas Bates.

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