Johnson: Houston, you're next
Posted Nov 14, 2011

Johnson Week 11 thought: Boise State is out, and now the spotlight is on Houston

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Week 11  Thoughts, Nov. 14 

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- Cirminiello: Please ... a plus one!
- Fiutak: What does each one-loss team need?
- Harrison: The desperate state of the Big East  
- Zemek: Boise State's one-and-dones
- Sallee: Alabama needs to do it with style
- Johnson: Houston, you're next

By Terry Johnson 

After Texas Christian's 36-35 upset over Boise State yesterday, football fans in Tuscaloosa, Eugene, and Norman had a reason to celebrate because their respective teams remained in the national championship race.

However, the greatest celebration should have taken place in Houston. The Bronco loss opened the door for the Cougars to grab an automatic berth in a BCS game.

Houston is in position to become this year's Boise, and now the spotlight will be on. Ranked 11th in the current BCS standings, all that the Cougars need to do is win out, and they'll qualify for C-USA's first ever berth in the BCS.

If – and this is a big if – they pull it off, do they deserve the opportunity to play with the big boys?

Critics will argue that Houston does not belong because they have played a weak schedule. However, a closer examination of the season will show otherwise. The Cougars beat UCLA – the second place team in the Pac 12 South – 38-34 to open the season. Two weeks later, Houston went on the road and defeated Louisiana Tech 35-34. While the Louisiana Tech win might not seem that impressive, the Bulldogs did beat Ole Miss last week, and they took Mississippi State into overtime.

In addition, the Conference USA schedule is not as weak as it might appear. Houston's remaining conference games are against SMU (who beat TCU), Tulsa (6-0 in conference play), and a possible matchup with Southern Miss (who beat Virginia) in the C-USA title game. Based on the strength of these opponents (and their success) this season, wins over each of these teams would easily keep Houston in the Top 12 of the BCS standings.

With so many tough games coming up, why should we believe Houston could win the remainder of their games?

The Cougars have the nation's top offense, leading the nation in passing offense (455 yards per game), total offense (628 yards per game), and points per game with 55. QB Case Keenum ranks second nationally in passing efficiency, and he has established the NCAA career record for passing yards this season. WR Patrick Edwards ranks third in receiving yards per game and 9th nationally in scoring with 15 TDs.

While the offense gets most of the credit for the Cougars' ascension in the rankings, the defense has also had a fine season. Houston leads Conference USA in sacks, tackles for a loss, and turnover margin. In addition, they rank third in the conference in passing defense and third in scoring defense.

Adding these two elements together produces an excellent football team.

How excellent is excellent? Houston has defeated opponents in C-USA play by an average score of 62-23.

While it is highly unlikely that the Cougars will defeat their remaining opponents by that margin, they have demonstrated that they have the firepower on offense to keep up with anyone. They also proved that they could make stops on defense with game on the line.

Will Houston win the rest of its games this season?

Ask UCLA or Louisiana Tech.