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Today at No. 89: HOUSTON Coach: Tom Herman (0-0, entering 1st season; 0-0 overall) 2014 record: 8-5, 5-3 in American Athletic Conference; fourth in...

college football win betToday at No. 89: HOUSTON

Coach: Tom Herman (0-0, entering 1st season; 0-0 overall)

2014 record: 8-5, 5-3 in American Athletic Conference; fourth in AAC

Look back: Expectations were high for Houston’s football program with the recent opening of a new $120 million stadium. But former coach Tony Levine was fired in December after posting a 21-17 record. He made four offensive coordinator changes during three seasons, failing to find the right formula. Inconsistent play plagued the Cougars most at quarterback, where John O’Korn was eventually benched in favor of former receiver Greg Ward Jr.

Offensive starters returning: 6

Offensive starters lost: 5

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: QB John O’Korn, WR Deontay Greenberry, DE Eric Braswell, DE Trevor Harris, DT Joey Mbu

Top returnees: QB Greg Ward Jr., WR Demarcus Ayers, RB Kenneth Farrow, RB Ryan Jackson, DB Adrian McDonald, LB Steven Taylor

Strengths: Houston welcomes a new defensive coordinator in Todd Orlando, formerly of Utah State, and will boast a new look with a three-man front. The Cougars return 13 players with starting experience, six of those with at least 11 starts apiece.

The secondary is the most experienced position group on the team, with all four starters returning. The group is spearheaded by safeties Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart. McDonald was named to the All-AAC first team in 2014 when he forced eight turnovers, five interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Stewart led the nation with 10 turnovers in 2013 and was fifth on the team last season with 56 tackles. He ranks third nationally among active players with 291 career tackles.

Weaknesses: After trading starting snaps, Greg Ward Jr. was eventually thrust into leading the offense last season and developed into one of the more productive quarterbacks in the conference. He finished third behind Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel and East Carolina’s Shane Carden in pass efficiency (138.6). He passed for more than 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the only scholarship player on the roster who has game experience at quarterback. Coaches are looking for Ward to gain more weight and increase his QB knowledge.

“Make no mistake about it. I may be an offensive coach, but this is going to be a very physical, very tough, very downhill, bloody your nose, hit you in the mouth football team,” Tom Herman told the Houston Chronicle. “There will be nothing finesse about this football team.”

Outlook: Houston nabbed Herman from Ohio State, where he led the offense and won the 2014 Frank Broyles Award presented to the top offensive coordinator in the country. Under Herman’s leadership, the Cougars are expected to be a more physically tough team on both offense and defense.

2015 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Tennessee Tech

Sept. 12 at Louisville

Sept. 26 Texas State

Oct. 3 at Tulsa

Oct. 8 SMU

Oct. 16 at Tulane

Oct. 24 at UCF

Oct. 31 Vanderbilt

Nov. 7 Cincinnati

Nov. 14 Memphis

Nov. 21 at UConn

Nov. 27 Navy

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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