October 16, 2009

Engaging The Enemy - Houston

Every week, The Wave Report gains the perspective of Tulane's opponent by talking with someone who covers the team. This week, we pick the brain of Robert Sellers the publisher of CougarsDen.com, Houston's home on the Rivals network, to gain some inside knowledge on the nation's most prolific offense.

Houston is obviously putting together the kind of season they hoped for, but dropped a bizarre game to UTEP a few weeks back. What happened there and do you think it exposed some weaknesses on what looked like an almost invincible team?

That's still a mystery. Houston lost senior starting linebacker Matt Nicholson for the year with a knee injury during the Texas Tech game, and although he was a key part of a young defense, it is hard to say one player being out caused that much of a let down.

I think Houston had played at their highest point for the two previous games with Oklahoma State and Tech and they just could not maintain that same level for a third game in a row.

It did however expose Houston's biggest hole on defense this year and that is run support. Mississippi State took advantage of the same weakness, but turnovers cost them in the end.

Winning over two Big XII teams and an SEC team has gone a long way into generating national credibility for UH, but do you think it can create a bit of a letdown against average Conference USA competition?

That is a fear a lot of Houston fans are dealing with at the moment. With Houston climbing all the way up to number 12 before the letdown in El Paso, the talk was always how can they expect to hold a ranking once the level of competition goes down?

I think the situation that has been created now is that Houston must go into all games with Conference opponents and win handedly to not lose points in the standings with the voters.

Case Keenum is putting up gaudy numbers once again. How much of his success is his ability and how much do you think belongs to the system and the guys around him? Is he an high-round NFL QB projection?

I think it's a little bit of both. As many know Houston's offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen cut his teeth under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Many also know the mantra that surrounds quarterbacks from Texas Tech once they try to get to the next level.

I think Case is a great college quarterback at this point, and there is no way he would even think of leaving after the season. That being said we'll see if he can continue to grow exponentially like he has between each season of his college career.

Another concern about the NFL picture is his size. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Not a chance he is over 6-foot-1 in thick soled shoes. On the other side of the argument though is a player like Drew Brees who has clearly not let his height stop his progression to being a high end NFL quarterback.

A lot is made about Houston's passing game, but much like Tulsa, the rushing attack can be equally dangerous. Which one makes the Cougars more dangerous offensively?

For Houston passing is always going to be option number one. Part of the value with Houston's running backs is their ability to catch all the screens and swing passes they throw to them in addition to just carrying the ball.
I think that the fact that Houston has an effective run game makes them more dangerous. It keeps teams from playing only for the pass every down. So having a good running game is more dangerous for them, but only with the passing game.

Kevin Sumlin is quickly becoming a hot name in coaching conversations. Is there a chance this could be his last year in Houston or is the UH administration prepared to match any offer?

You have now touched on the single greatest "fear" among the followers to this point. Houston fans want their team to succeed, but not at the cost of drawing attention on to Kevin Sumlin. Unfortunately for Houston fans, they go hand in hand.

Houston's administration is already working on trying to lock Sumlin up, but his ties to so many big programs and his success at each level is going to make him a hot commodity. I'm not sure if it will be after this year, but at this rate some of the big schools will come calling within the next couple seasons. The question then will fall on Sumlin as to what his aspirations are for himself and what kind of time frame he is on.

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