This time last year, Houston entered the fifth week of the season ranked sixth in the AP poll after beating Oklahoma in Week 1 of what would be then-head coach Tom Herman’s final season with the Cougars.
Herman is at Texas now, and Major Applewhite has been tasked with leading the program. The Cougars are 2-1 under Applewhite as they enter this week’s matchup against Temple. Houston had its season opener against UTSA canceled due to Hurricane Harvey, but grabbed its first win under Applewhite a week later against Arizona. The Cougars also have defeated Rice, and most recently dropped a 27-24 decision to Texas Tech.
Applewhite isn’t the only new face in the American Athletic Conference.
Temple hired Geoff Collins in December when former head coach Matt Ruhle departed for Baylor. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Collins spent the last five years in the SEC where he was defensive coordinator at both Mississippi State (2011-14) and Florida (2015-16).
After opening the season with a 49-16 loss at Notre Dame, Temple won back-to-back contests against FCS opponent Villanova and Massachusetts. South Florida handily defeated Temple 43-7 last week in Collins’ return to the Sunshine State.
The Owls and Cougars first met in 1987, and Temple is winless in five tries against Houston. Both programs last met in the 2015 American Athletic Conference Championship Game, which Houston won 24-13.
Houston at Temple
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Houston -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Temple’s porous defense
Geoff Collins was hired in part due to his defensive prowess at Mississippi State and Florida, where his units finished the year ranked among the nation’s best and were raided by NFL teams through the draft.
Temple’s talent level doesn’t quite match Florida’s and Mississippi State's, but the Owls’ defense under Collins thus far has been lackluster. Temple’s rush defense ranks 110th nationally after giving up 208.8 rushing yards, and its pass defense hasn’t fared much better at 259.8 yards per game (98th).
Houston rolled up 317 passing yards and 110 rushing yards against Texas Tech last week, and Houston's offense as a unit averages 431.3 yards per game on the year. The Owls could be in for an exhausting night if Collins doesn’t shore up his defense this week.
2. Houston’s musical quarterbacks
Kyle Allen, once the nation’s top quarterback recruit, landed in Houston after transferring from Texas A&M. After an absence last year in accordance to the NCAA’s transfer rule, Allen began the season as Houston’s starting quarterback.
Allen’s grip on the job, however, isn’t firm.
Kyle Postma replaced Allen in last week’s loss and went 8-of-13 for 100 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Postma hasn’t exactly lit up on the stat sheet (11-for-18, 145 yards, TD) but he brings an extra element to the offense with his running ability. Postma had 52 rushing yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech.
While one can expect to see both quarterbacks play against Temple, a convincing performance could force Applewhite’s hand as to who maintains the starting job moving forward.
3. Temple DE Quincy Roche
After redshirting last year, Roche didn’t waste time in making an impact on the Owls’ defensive unit. The redshirt freshman tallied the first sack of his career against Notre Dame, and he menaced Massachusetts two weeks later with three more as well as forcing and recovering a fumble. He also added eight tackles for good measure.
Through four games this year, Roche boasts 14 tackles including 6.5 tackles for a loss.
What better way for Geoff Collins to grab a morale-building win than to break a five-game losing streak at home. The task will be easier said than done as the new-look Cougars still have a wealth of talent at numerous positions that will challenge Temple’s vulnerable defense.
Houston has proven to be a formidable opponent to this point, and just four points stand in the way of an undefeated season. Playing in front of a home Temple crowd will be tough early, but Houston should shred Temple’s defense en route to improving to 3-1.
Prediction: Houston 31, Temple 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Top photo courtesy of www.uhcougars.com)