What is red and white, has four legs, one of college football’s most creative offensive minds and a team capable of crashing the College Football Playoff?
If you answered the Houston Cougars, you are correct.
To borrow from Tom Hanks immortal line in Apollo 13, but College football, you have a problem!
After humbling national powerhouse Florida State in the Peach Bowl, 38-24 to put the exclamation point on a 13-1 season, Houston is set to have a year for the ages down in Space City.
In a town more known for being the headquarters of America’s space program, NASA, and the home to the second-most Fortune 500 companies–most notably oil and gas–after New York City, the 15th-ranked Cougars appear primed for launching into the CFP’s proverbial stratosphere.
In Houston, you have a potential Heisman sleeper in 5’11 185-pound senior dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who passed 2,828 yards and rushed for 1,110 yards and 38 total touchdowns. They also have a very underrated ball-hawking defense and a favorable schedule that has them facing another college football blue blood on No.3 Oklahoma in a neutral game(?) at NRG Stadium. Lastly, a dangerous 19th ranked Louisville Cardinals squad will visit Houston as well this year.
Aside from Louisville and Oklahoma, the Cougars toughest game may be in the season finale against a Memphis Tigers sans Paxton Lynch, now a member of the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
In the end, it’ll all come down to second-year head coach Tom Herman.
Herman, who cut his teeth under Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach behind the 2014 title team that snuck into the CFP Playoff after losing starters Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett and got the best out of the third-stringer–and current Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback–in Cardale Jones en route to wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. This helped Ohio State claim their eighth overall national title and sixth in the modern AP Poll era.
If anyone knows how to get the best out of a quarterback, it is Herman. If any coach knows what it takes to make a team many are overlooking, it is Herman.
If UH manages to finish the season unbeaten and win another AAC title, then the College Football Playoff committee will have a bigger problem on its hands than the fore mentioned Hanks’ Jim Lovell did in Apollo, if they are snubbed.
If that does happen, then the outcry for an expanded playoff format and inclusion of more non-Group of Five teams such as Houston, Boise State, and Central Florida will only open up a can of worms for the powers that be.
Potentially Big 12-bound, and possibly College Football Playoff bound as well, my deepest apologies to Jim Harbaugh and Bailey of the Michigan Wolverines, but Herman’s Cougars have it better than you right now.