2018 Houston Cougars Season Win Total Picks and Predictions for NCAA Football
2017 Record: 7-5
2018 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 8.0*
2018 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Under'
Major Applewhite struggled in his first year with the reins of the Houston program. But the former Texas and Houston offensive coordinator brought in Kendall Briles to help ramp up an offense that is coming off one of its worst full-season efforts in a decade.
Briles' father, Art, developed a big-time attack while revolutionizing the Baylor program (you know, before coming a pariah). Kendall and Applewhite are going to rebuild this offense from the ground up. And they need to start by finding a quarterback.
D'Eriq King showed flashes of big-play potential but was inconsistent. The junior will be working with a green crop of skill players, and it may take a while for this group to click.
Ed Oliver is one of the best defensive players in the nation and the anchor of the Cougars stop unit. The All-American was the youngest-ever winner of the Outland Trophy last season as a sophomore, and he projects as a Top 5 pick in next year's draft.
The rest of the defense is pretty salty, and two major conference transfers will be counted on to make immediate contributions. Houston has been a little overly reliant on turnovers the past three years, though. And the Cougars D will likely spend more time on the field this year as a result of a more quick-strike offensive scheme.
Applewhite's new systems will be tested early. Houston plays at Arizona - a team that they beat last year - in Week 2 followed by a trip to high-scoring Texas Tech in Week 3. I don't think that Houston will be equipped for the shootouts that those games will most certainly be.
Houston's AAC schedule is forgiving, though. They avoid Central Florida and get key games against South Florida and Temple at home. Road games at East Carolina, Navy and SMU are also winnable.
The Cougars lost four games by six points or less last year. And this year's group may lack the requisite experience needed to close out tight games like that. This team has more talent than a lot of their AAC opponents, thanks in large part to the recruiting efforts of Tom Herman before he split for Texas. But this is still Applewhite's first gig, and he has to prove that he can keep this team in the league's top tier.
Houston won only seven games last year. And I think that was a better roster than this year's group. I think they will match last season's win total. And if I am wrong about this total it will be because this offense clicks and they get to 10 wins. But I think the odds are better that they win seven or eight games, so I will give lukewarm support to the 'under'.
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