It was a rough year for the Houston Cougars in 2010. Case Keenum went down for the season against UCLA, ending Heisman hopes and putting a big dent into the Cougars pre-season BCS buster dreams. Despite freshman David Piland driving the offense to respectability, the defense cratered, holding just two teams to under 20 points all season, and getting ravaged by Southern Mississippi, Tulsa, and Mississippi State to the tune of 146 combined points. The Coogs stumbled out of the BCS race, out of the Conference USA race, and lost their last four games, making them ineligible for a bowl game.
Neverheless, with Keenum being granted another year of work by the NCAA, the Cougars check in at No. 24 on SB Nation’s Preseason Top 25 List. Here’s what Andy Hutchins has to say about Houston:
This ranking’s contingent on Case Keenum being healthy in his sixth season for the Cougars, but it’s worth noting that Houston recovered nicely after Keenum went out for the year in 2010. The Cougars finished 13th in scoring offense after their signal-caller went out in the third game of the year against UCLA and managed to cobble together a running attack that failed to gain more than 100 yards in just two of Houston’s final nine games. Keenum gives the Cougars a chance to win shootouts the 2010 squad (which allowed 32.2 points per game) couldn’t. And yes, I do think 2011 Houston with a healthy Keenum beats 2010 Auburn on a neutral field.
Pros: Keenum gives the Cougars arguably the nation’s most polished passer, and one of the nation’s most explosive offenses.
Cons: Young, unremarkable defense will be prone to repeated implosions.
Really, that’s what it comes down to with the Cougars. The spread offense has always been a joy to watch. Can they find five or six good series on defense a game?
And when will a smart defensive mind penetrate the football ranks in Houston? Between the Coogs D and the Texans, things get awful lonely here if you’re a fan of smash-mouth football.