The Houston Cougars will get their second shot at the Texas State Bobcats in a three-year span as the two teams open the 2012 season at Robertson Stadium in Houston. Saturday's game will be the Bobcats' first as a member of the Bowl Subdivision. When the two teams met in 2010, the Cougars ran away with a 68-28 victory.
The Bobcats return a lot of their core group of players from last year, but last year saw them go 0-2 against FBS opponents, losing by a combined score of 95-20 to Texas Tech and Wyoming. More experience, and a watered-down WAC schedule could spell a decent debut FBS season for Texas State, but have they come far enough to hang with a team like Houston? I could just say "probably not", or we could take it by the matchups. Let's do the latter.
Houston offense vs. Texas State defense
The Bobcats succeeded in holding eight of ten FCS opponents under 30 points a year ago, but as mentioned, got torched by their two FBS foes. Texas State surrendered 45 points to Wyoming, their high total for the year, and 50 points to Texas Tech, their second-highest total for the year.
Houston's advantage starts in the trenches, where the Cougars have a talented, experienced offensive line, and Texas State loses its top defensive playmaker in graduated defensive end Michael Ebbitt. With stud running back Charles Sims running behind a line that should be opening up huge holes all day long, the Cougars should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground all day long.
If Texas State is going to slow down the Houston offensive attack at all, they'll have to shut down a young receiving corps with their experienced secondary. Granted, Houston's passing attack and Texas State's pass defense were playing on very different levels a year ago, but the Cougars are graduating most of their playmakers, and Texas State is bringing most of theirs back.
Texas State offense vs Houston defense
The Bobcat offense was very run-heavy a year ago, as Texas State averaged 195 yards per game on the ground, and 150 yards per game through the air. Against top level competition, the Texas State ground attack had mixed results. Wyoming shut down the Bobcats, allowing just 77 yards on 34 attempts, but Texas State actually did rack up 256 rushing yards against Texas Tech. Both halves of the Bobcats' two-headed quarterback attack in Shaun Rutherford and Tyler Arndt return, and the early reviews suggest that both have improved their passing. Both are expected to play on Saturday.
Of course, an offense that still figures to be run-oriented means that the Bobcats will have to do a decent job in the trenches, and that might be an issue. Texas State graduated three of five starters on the offensive line last year, and had to bring in junior college transfers and move over a couple of defensive linemen to provide depth. Still, a running offense with two mobile quarterbacks will give Houston a good warm-up for future opponents like UCLA and Rice that use read-option principles.
The Bottom Line
Texas State will certainly be amped up for its first game after moving up divisions, but the Cougars have much more talent, and many things would have to go wrong for Houston to not run away with Saturday's contest. If the Coogs struggle with turnovers, or struggle to slow down Texas State's run offense right out of the gate, the Bobcats might be able to shorten up the game and provide a scare to the Houston faithful. But by the second half, will Texas State still be hanging with UH? Probably not.