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Saturday, December 9, 2023


Week 10 Preview: Baylor matchup “pivotal” for Cougars

The Houston Cougars will take the field on Saturday with a chance to move closer to bowl eligibility in the final month of the regular season. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Calling UH’s 41-0 shutout loss to Kansas State last week a disappointment would be an understatement. The Cougars, though, are opting to look ahead rather than backward.

“I’m not talking about it (Kansas State) much, I’m talking about Baylor,” said Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen. “I’m excited about moving on to play Baylor.”

The stakes are high: with four games left, UH needs three wins to become bowl-eligible. In the first matchup between the two Texas teams since 1995, the Cougars hope to move closer toward bowl eligibility while leveling their all-time record against the Bears at 14-14-1.

The opponent

The Baylor Bears sit at 3-5 overall in 2023, with a 2-3 record in the Big 12 Conference. A win for the Cougars would level the two Texas teams in the conference.

Similar to Houston, Baylor has had an up-and-down season. Beyond its narrow wins over Cincinnati and UCF, two of UH’s fellow first-year Big 12 programs, Baylor has dropped games to Texas, Texas Tech and Iowa State, each by more than ten points.

Against both the Longhorns and the Red Raiders, Baylor has arguably looked worse than the Cougars against the same opponents this season.

The scoring numbers look bleak for Baylor, as the Bears sit dead last in the Big 12 in touchdowns with only 19 to their name. The Cougars sit in 10th place in the same statistic, scoring 27 touchdowns.

Defensively, Baylor has allowed the second-most points in the Big 12 through eight games. With 240 points allowed and 31 total touchdowns, Houston is the only Big 12 defense weaker than Baylor. Houston has allowed 260 points and 35 total touchdowns.

Houston’s time?

After a stretch of games against some of the Big 12’s best programs, Houston’s final four games include Saturday’s matchup with Baylor and games against Cincinnati and UCF, all three games head coach Dana Holgorsen suggested were more favorable matchups for his team.

For Houston’s bowl aspirations, Holgorsen described Saturday as a pivotal game.

Last weekend’s shutout at the hands of Kansas State, the first of its kind in over two decades of UH football, felt much like a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ moment for a UH team coming off a promising two weeks of football against formidable Big 12 programs in Texas and West Virginia.

Junior quarterback Donovan Smith threw for less than 100 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Samuel Brown was the only UH pass-catcher to log more than twenty yards receiving.

The UH running game remains among the worst in the Big 12. Baylor is one of only two Big 12 teams with fewer rushing yards per game, while BYU is the only program in the conference with fewer rushing touchdowns.

Houston’s passing game has carried its offense in 2023. While it did not show out in Manhattan, Kansas, Houston’s offense still ranks second in pass completions, fifth in completion percentage, fifth in passing touchdowns and sixth in passing yardage in the Big 12 this season.

The stakes

For both teams, the time to reach the six-game threshold for bowl eligibility is running out.

Houston’s final four games are much more favorable than Baylor’s final stretch, with Oklahoma State the only team with a winning record in 2023 remaining on the schedule for Houston. Baylor, on the other hand, follows Houston with No. 25 Kansas State, TCU and West Virginia.

The Cougars hope for a win to help move towards a respectable debut Big 12 finish.

Houston and Baylor face off at 2:30 p.m. CDT at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas on Saturday.


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