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Houston hopes to meet expectations

Coming back from a knee injury in 2018, senior quarterback D’Eriq King is set to have a good season with the Cougars. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Coming back from a knee injury in 2018, senior quarterback D’Eriq King is set to have a good season with the Cougars. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

To call Houston’s 8-5 finish in 2018 a disappointment is an understatement.

Houston started strong, going 7-1 through its first eight games, but its dismantling 45-31 loss at the hands of SMU derailed then-head coach Major Applewhite’s hopes for a successful season.

UH would go on to lose three of its next four games, including a historic 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.

It was the straw that broke the back of Applewhite’s two-year tenure with Houston.

With the hiring of Dana Holgorsen as his replacement in January, many, including UH President Renu Khator, again have high expectations for the team.

While the world of college football is unpredictable, it doesn’t hurt to analyze UH’s potential ahead of what is poised to be a crucial year for the program.

The First Third

Houston’s schedule during its first four games of the season is brutal.

Within just 18 days, Houston will face Oklahoma, Prairie View A&M, Washington State and Tulane. Only the PVAMU game will be at home.

When it comes to UH’s Sept. 1 season opener at OU on prime-time national television, the Houston Cougars and Holgorsen have a lot to unpack.

First things first, its game against the Sooners is the team’s most important and most challenging game of the year, and it’s not even close.

Both Holgorsen and Houston have recent history with Oklahoma.

During his seven years coaching at West Virginia, the Mountaineers never took down the Sooners.

Meanwhile, in the two teams’ latest matchup in 2016, then-No. 15 UH upset then-No. 3 OU 33-23 in the season opener.

Both Houston and Oklahoma have Heisman-caliber quarterbacks on hand with junior D’Eriq King and senior Jalen Hurts, respectively.

Six days later, UH will line up against PVAMU for the first time in the two schools’ history at TDECU Stadium for its Sept. 7 home opener against the Panthers.

Houston’s rough 18-day span to start the new season will then take the team to NRG Stadium on Sept. 13 for the Texas Kickoff game against, in a humorous twist of fate, Washington State, the Cougars’ namesake.

The Cougars and the Cougars have not met since 1988, when WSU beat UH 24-22 in the Aloha Bowl.

Tulane will close the first third of Houston’s schedule in New Orleans before moving on to a more forgiving portion of the year.

Calm Before the Storm

Sept. 28’s matchup against North Texas kicks off the calmest month of UH’s schedule.

Houston will head to Denton before returning to TDECU Stadium Oct. 12 to face Cincinnati.

The Cougars boast a two-game win streak against the Bearcats dating back to 2016, when an Applewhite-led team bested Cincinnati 40-16.

Holgorsen and company will enjoy a bye week before making the trek to Hartford, Conn., Oct. 19 to play UConn, which went 1-11 in 2018.

SMU closes out the second third on Oct. 24 for Houston, which must shift focus before another big game.

Shifting Gears

Two of the biggest Group of 5 schools in the country will battle it out Nov. 2 when UH and UCF go toe-to-toe in Orlando, Florida.

The Knights finished No. 11 in 2018’s final AP Poll, and ESPN has the self-proclaimed 2017 national champions set at No. 17 in its preseason rankings.

Because of an extra week allotted into the NCAA’s season schedule, the Cougars will have a much-needed bye week following the UCF game.

Once Houston returns to the field, it will oppose Memphis at its homecoming game Nov. 16.

Hopefully for the Cougars, the Tigers will not give it as much trouble as it has in recent years.

UH’s final away game of the regular season will have it pitted against Tulsa Nov. 23 then followed by the regular season finale versus Navy at home Nov. 30.

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