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Monday, June 27, 2022

Football

2016 could be Cougars’ most important season of decade


UH currently sits in a tie atop the West Division of the American Athletic Conference. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The Cougars aim to reinforce their stature in the 2016 season. | File photo/The Cougar

With a 13-1 record and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Championship win in 2015, the Cougars are poised for a momentous entrance to the crucial 2016 football season.

The Cougars have attracted significant national attention since the hiring of Head coach Tom Herman in December 2014. Led by the talents of senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr., the team stormed through the 2015 season with only one 20-17 loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies.

For 2016, the Cougars must be ready for the spotlight and the accompanying expectations of greatness.

That said, the Cougars have displayed an alarming pattern of inconsistency the last decade. Since 2007, each time the Cougars posted a double-digit win season they followed it with a sub .500 year.

Skeptics call the Cougars’ 2015 season a “glory run” or “one-hit wonder,” but there is reason to believe Cougars are entering uncharted territory with the nation’s elite teams. The upcoming season will be the Cougars’ audition for the nation.

Herman and his staff have shown other Texas universities that they can compete on the field and in terms of recruitment.

The Cougars recruited Houston-native Ed Oliver, a five-star player from Westfield High School, early on. ESPN 300 rankings this year said he is the only recruit in the top 50 opted to play for a Group of Five school. Many expect Oliver to be a key contributor on the defensive line this season.

The Cougars has also become a transfer destination for players such as wide receiver Tren’Davian Dickson from Baylor University and Duke Catalon, a running back from the University of Texas.

The ongoing successful off-season bodes well with what the Cougars hope to accomplish in 2016.

Another great, or possibly undefeated, season could put the Cougars in the national spotlight for years to come will render them as favorites to win the American Athletic Conference title. With Memphis and Navy losing their respective quarterbacks to the NFL, favors are leaning toward the Cougars to represent the Group of Five in a second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game this winter.

Unfortunately, the Cougars’ position outside of the Power 5 Conferences makes them seem inferior to some. The college football playoff committee made this clear when the Cougars rounded out the final week of the regular season as the No. 18 team in the country, despite winning 12 games.

The opportunity to prove themselves begins when the Cougars take on the reigning Big 12 Conference champion, the University of Oklahoma Sooners, on Sept. 3.

This year is crucial for UH. With something to prove to the playoff committee, recruits and fans, the Cougars must display consistent and dominating performances.

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