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Houston Cougars Defense Holds The Key, Not Keenum

Bill C. over at Football Study Hall, SB Nation's new stat-filled college football blog, has a nerdgasm of numbers about the 2011 Houston Cougars. While Case Keenum's return should probably bring the offense back into it's prime, the team will likely go as far as it's struggling defense can take it. Hey, doesn't this sound like another Houston football team I know? Here's Bill C's explanation of the defense:

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Stewart has a potentially strong resume, and the future may be bright as far as we know, but the Cougs gave up far too many big plays to be effective in 2010. They attacked alright (you see that their sack rates were higher than their overall pass defense numbers), but if they didn't make a big play against you, you were [golden]. They had the worst (worst! As in, 120th!) passing downs success rate in the country, meaning any sort of relative success they found on standard downs wasn't going to make a huge difference on the scoreboard. They were just going to give up all the gains shortly.

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The Cougars will be replacing most of their defensive backs this season, which while normally a bad thing, might not be the end of the world considering just how poorly they played last season. Marcus McGraw and Phillip Steward should both be very solid in the middle for the Cougars, but they desperately need help from the defensive line and defensive backs. The Cougars have brought in a pair of Juco players from Navarro: Chevy Bennett and D.J. Hayden, in the hopes of solidifying their secondary early on. How they fare may be one of the biggest storylines the Coogs will face this year. Without better play in the secondary, Houston will continue to live comfortably below the mid-major BCS buster line. 

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Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.