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September 4, 2008

Scouting the Cougars: Tough weekend ahead?

Game one of the 2008 season is behind us.

Saturday's win got Oklahoma State off on the right start, but what now? Well, the 1-0 Cowboys come back home to play inside Boone Pickens Stadium for the first time this season. They'll square off against another pack of Cougars, this time from Houston. And like Washington State, UH is breaking in a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin. But unlike Wazzu, UH won its first game of the season.

Some fans are wary this might be a trap game. Could this be the one that derails a potential 5-0 start?

COUGARS AT A GLANCE
Location:
Houston
2007 record: 8-5 ( 6-2; T-1st Conference USA West)
Game time: 6 p.m. Saturday in Stillwater
Last week: A 55-3 win over Div. I-AA Southern
Current ranking: Preseason No. 49 by Lindy's and picked to finish second in C-USA West by both Lindy's and The Sporting News.
Facts of the week: The University of Houston was founded in 1927 and has just over 34,000 students, in total. … Notable alumni include Tom Landry, Carl Lewis, Jim Nantz, Dennis and Randy Quaid, Robert Wuhl and Brent Spiner.


THE BIG THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…
… the Cougar offense:
It's a Texas Tech clone. At least, that's what the coaching staff wants it to be. Dana Holgorsen brings what he learned from eight years in Lubbock to the Bayou. He spent the last three years as an offensive coordinator, so he has experience running an offense. And as a guy who has worked so closely with Mike Leach, he's been able to pick his brain about that style of offense. So the Cowboys might see some familiar things. Case Keenum enters his second year as the starter at quarterback. Last season, he passed for 2,259 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In the first game of this season, he passed for 392 yards and five scores. Look for tight end Mark Hafner to be a key target. Six different players combined for 148 total yards, so a clear rushing threat has not been established.
… the Cougar defense: They've only allowed a field goal this season. Of course, that's just one game, so we really don't know what this side of the ball is about yet. But eight starters return (four in the secondary), including defensive end Phillip Hunt, who had 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2007. This year the team is moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme.
… the coach: Many reading know all about Sumlin from his time at Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The Purdue alum is a well-respected mind on offense and now gets his first shot at a head coaching job. He's got some big shoes to fill, as Art Briles led the program from three wins in 2004 to eight last season, including three-straight bowl trips.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
Many are high on the Cougars' chances in C-USA and they're one of the better mid-major programs out there. It will be interesting to see how Sumlin and the new staff handle things in their first true test of the season - and on the road, too. This could definitely be a trap game for the Pokes. Sandwiched between a big season-opening road trip and a game against a Div. I-AA opponent (not to mention Troy looming) might make it easy to overlook this matchup. But this could be a stout test. OSU will win, but it will be fun closer than expected in the first half. OSU 38, Houston 27.


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