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Can the Houston Cougars Stay Undefeated? 3

Posted on November 13, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Greg Ward Jr. has led Houston to a perfect record both by passing and running.

Greg Ward Jr. has led Houston to a perfect record both by passing and running.

The Houston Cougars have quietly kept winning games all year long. They’re now 9-0 and poised to make a move at the getting an automatic bid to one of the six major bowl games played on December 31-January 1. From the perspective of sports bettors, Houston has been good to us, covering the spread in six of their nine games. Now they get to play some spotlight games that will be fun to watch and fun to wager on. The first one is Saturday night at home against Memphis (7 PM ET, ESPN2).

Houston has flirted with some national prominence in the past, and always on the strength of a prolific quarterback and a high-scoring offense akin to what we say in the Big 12. In recent years we’ve seen it with Case Keenum. Some of us can turn back the clock and remember when it was David Klingler or Heisman Trophy-winning Andre Ware blowing out the scoreboard lights. But this Cougar team is different.

Now it’s about running the football in Houston and both quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and running back Kenneth Farrow are adept carrying the ball. The Cougars have consistently dominated rushing yardage totals throughout the season. Their first big win, a 34-31 upset at Louisville on September 12 as a (+13) underdog was keyed by a 226-70 advantage on the ground.

The pattern has held throughout this magical season under first-year head coach Tom Herman. Houston rolls up the yardage on the ground and for the most part, they’ve done good job defending the run. There have been some trouble spots—SMU got them for 151 yards, but the Cougars control the trenches.

A byproduct of this is that Houston consistently wins the turnover battle. Running the ball is the safest way to travel, and when you can do it while your opponents can’t, it stands to reason that they’ll be the ones making the most mistakes.

This emphasis on the run doesn’t mean the Cougars can’t throw the ball though. Ward has a 70 percent completion rate and that has not come at the expense of big plays. The Houston quarterback generates an outstanding 9.1 yards-per-attempt, with his primary target of wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. This is going to be an important part of Houston’s game going forward. In two weeks they play Navy on Black Friday, and no one is going to beat the Midshipmen in a battle of ground games. The Cougars can bring some versatility to the table.

Houston’s ability to run and stop the run while still keeping an open offense has led to them not only being a good ATS bet, but being outstanding on the road. The Cougars have played four road games and covered all of them. That includes games like Louisville where they were a hefty underdog. It includes games like Tulane and Central Florida when the Cougars gave three touchdowns. You name the ATS situation, they’ve met the challenge. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Week In Review: Are They Really Back? 6

Posted on September 13, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Michigan Freshman Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a late victory over Notre Dame.

Michigan Freshman Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a late victory over Notre Dame.

Each Sunday during college football season we look at some of the big games, stories, and events from the action of the week.

Are They Really Back?
I noticed a lot of similarities between the outstanding game Saturday afternoon between Michigan and Notre Dame and the equally entertaining contest last Monday night between Florida State and the University of Miami.

Both games featured two teams with proud football traditions that have been struggling in recent years, but appear to be turning the corner back toward respectability.

After Miami turned back Florida State’s final charge in the closing seconds of the game, all post game talk was about whether this signaled the return of Miami as a football power and if FSU was also now poised to return to national relevance.
Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Sid Luckman: Chicago Bears Legend
      September 28, 2019 | 7:09 pm
      Sid Luckman

      After years of struggling to find a consistent quarterback, the Chicago Bears now hope third-year player Mitchell Trubisky will be their quarterback for years to come. As the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month we are recognizing the best quarterback in Chicago Bears history.

      Chosen out of Columbia–where he played tailback–with the second pick in the 1939 NFL Draft, Sid Luckman spent 12 seasons as the quarterback for the Bears and led them to five NFL Championship Game appearances and four titles.

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