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Roundtable: What do you expect from the Cougars in 2016?

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Cougar tight ends could provide the offensive line with added protection as well as a threat down the field. | Reagan Earnst/The Cougar

Less than three weeks away from the start of the football season, the sports staff gives their take on what they expect to see from the Cougars in 2016.

Staff writer Mervin Wright

This year is going to be a huge season for the Cougars on the field. Coming off of last season’s 13-1 season that was capped off by a win in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl over Florida State, UH is in the national spotlight and looking to repeat — and hopefully improve — on last season’s performance.

I feel like they’ll replicate last season’s results. On the offensive side, the biggest returning piece from last season is quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Behind a productive offensive line, Ward was able to move around and make plays on his feet when needed. That same formula should be in place this season, allowing Ward to be as productive and mobile as he needs to be.

In addition to Ward and the O-line, running back Duke Catalon is ready to get on the field and help the team win after sitting out the past two seasons.

On defense, most of the starters will return. Replacements for those who graduated should be poised to take over. From talking to defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, it seems like he is confident they’ll be able to step in and help out.

All this coupled with the fiery coaching style of head coach Tom Herman, this team will be ready for this season and they should have at least another 13-win season.

Staff writer Nicholas Williamson

Entering the 2016 college football season, the objective for the Cougars is not to improve but to maintain. The only way the team could possibly improve upon last season is by going undefeated.

Fortunately, the Cougars have the talent and schedule to produce an undefeated season. They are an overwhelming favorite to sweep the American Athletic Conference and repeat as AAC Champions. In my opinion, the only obstacle in the way of a perfect season is the University of Oklahoma Sooners.

The Cougars are considered underdogs in the season opener versus the Sooners, but should pose a healthy threat to the reigning Big 12 Champions. Behind head coach Tom Herman, the talents of Greg Ward Jr. and a revamped defensive line, the Cougars should be able to capture a win in their first game.

At minimum, the Cougars will match their 2015 season win total. An American Athletic Conference Championship will likely lead to a New Year’s Six bowl game and another 13-1 record.

Sealing the win against OU will propel the season to new heights. Barring any significant injuries, the Cougars will find themselves in the playoff decision.

I predict the Cougars will upset the Sooners in the season opener and formulate that win into a perfect season.

Assistant sports editor Jonathan Valadez

Even though the Cougars’ offense was top-20 caliber in the nation last season, there’s a chance that they can be even better this year.

Greg Ward Jr. has stepped into a leadership role and has been busy bulking up in the weight room, which will help with his ability to throw the ball down field and take a hit.

The offensive line should be vastly improved after they went through several injuries last season and were stuck playing many inexperienced players. Head coach Tom Herman has pointed out that sophomore center Will Noble has gotten much stronger since last year.

Sophomore transfer Duke Catalon has the potential to be the best running back that UH has seen in the last decade and should help lighten the load for Ward and his legs.

The defense, on the other hand, will prove the biggest question mark. It has been stressed enough how the secondary will be different this year, but the Cougars have one of the best front seven corps in the conference — and maybe even the nation — that will likely aid the secondary in coverage.

Win or lose against the University of Oklahoma, the Cougars still have the best shot of any group of five school to play in a New Year’s Six bowl. In order to do so, though, UH will have to sweep the rest of the regular season and return as conference champions.

I believe that the Cougars will finish the season 13-1 and win the conference championship after losing to OU in the first game. If the Cougars were playing OU in a bowl game, I’d like UH’s chances a lot better, seeing that their head coach “Big Game” Bob Stoops in actuality has been pretty average in bowl games.

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