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2020 college football preseason preview: Houston Cougars

The Coogs won’t have the quarterback they were hoping for, and are a test case for a new kind of roster management in the transfer portal era.

Clayton Tune of the Houston Cougars runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Navy Midshipmen on November 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Cougars had an idea in Dana Holgorsen’s first season at UH: let superstar quarterback D’Eriq King play only four games in 2019 so he could keep an additional year of eligibility in 2020. They actually executed on that plan for some other players that will return this season.

The problem is King was the major piece of that puzzle, and he took his talents to South Beach and the University of Miami Instead. Even the best laid plans...

So now Houston has some position battles they’ll need to fix, and will be forced to do so without one of the most dynamic players in the game. Can they get back to the top of the AAC in 2020? The oddsmakers certainly don’t think so.

Houston Cougars Stats Breakdown

Full VIC breakdown
VIC Sheet explanation

Preseason Win Total From DraftKings

Over/under: 5.5 wins
Over -121
Under +100

Key Stats

  • Quarterback Clayton Tune returns after 12 quarterback games played, including seven starts last season. He had 1553 yards on an 8.6 yards per attempt, with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
  • Bringing in Holgo from West Virginia theoretically meant better recruiting, but in this case that hasn’t really happened: the Cougars had a Team Talent Composite of 55th, but their 2020 recruiting class is just 82nd overall. It’s also the worst UH class since 2016, though smaller than some others.
  • The Cougars return 83% of their players from 2019, good for third in the nation. The defense brings back 93% of their personnel, and the only coaching changes were in amongst assignments as all assistants return.
  • SP+ Preseason Rank: Overall 63, Offense 41, Defense 81


Team (2020 Preseason SP+ ranking)
* AAC Conference Game

Rice (115)
Wash St (47)
Memphis* (22)
N Texas (111)
Tulane* (73)
BYU (53)
Navy* (55)
UCF* (18)
Cincinnati* (34)
USF* (83)
SMU* (56)
Tulsa* (88)

Analysis, Prediction

The bookies are really down on UH, but should they be? Granted they weren’t knocking anyone over last year, but they have maintained consistency of system and have plenty of upperclassmen that can contribute.

Texas transfer senior running back Kyle Porter returns after a 130-carry, 615 yard 2019. So does top receiver Marquez Stevenson, who is on NFL radars after 1926 yards receiving the last two seasons. And with a massive 43 offensive line starts returning, there seems to be the core of a team that can certainly make a bowl game in 2020.

They’ll need to be better than the SP+-projected 81st defensively, but when you return as many players as they do you tend to get better, especially if you can fill in at need positions along the defensive line. With Rice and North Texas on the schedule, you’d just need a 4-4 record in the league to get the over. The second year for an Air Raid team generally works better than the first. We’ll go hard over here with UH, and think they’re likely closer to seven or eight wins than five.

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