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October 30, 2013

Know your opponent - Houston

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TEAM: University of Houston

LOCATION: Houston, Texas

NICKNAME: Cougars

2013 RECORD 6-1 (3-0 - American) 2012 RECORD: 5-7 (4-4 Conference USA)

CONFERENCE: American Athletic

HEAD COACH: Tony Levine (2nd year)

KICKOFF: 7:00 PM ET Thursday Oct. 31 at Reliant Stadium - ESPN

After a two game winning streak, the USF Bulls came crashing back to reality with a humbling 34-3 loss to the Louisville Cardinals last week. Not only did the Bulls lose, they barely got over 100 yards of offense. USF will start a fourth person under center this year - when true freshman Mike White starts for USF Thursday against a peaking Houston Cougar team, led by a friend of Mike's - true freshman John O'Korn from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.

The offense
Quarterback: Freshman John O'Korn came to Houston and has grabbed the job with a 159 QB rating and 19 touchdowns to four interceptions. He led the Cougars to an impressive 49-14 win over Rutgers last week and was nearly perfect in doing so. O'Korn is a pocket passer who has the tools to pick apart a beleaguered USF defense that seems to be the only hope thus far for points. If the Bulls can't get to O'Korn (who is not very mobile)- it's going to be a very long night.

Running game: The Cougars are led by two sophomores at RB - Kenneth Farrow (5-11, 195) and Ryan Jackson (5-10, 180). Jackson is the leading rusher on the team with 477 yards and Farrow missed two games earlier, but had 7 carries for 60 yards against Rutgers. Houston throws three times more than it passes. When Farrow missed two games earlier in the year, Jackson got the lion's share of carries, but was stuffed by Memphis. Jackson is more a threat out of the backfield for passing than Farrow.

Wide Receivers: Remember this name - Deontay Greenberry - you'll hear it a lot on Thursday night. Greenberry is the go-to guy for O'Korn and the 6-3, 180 pound sophomore has made the most of that - with 58 catches for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns (meaning he's scored more TD's than the entire USF offense). Daniel Spencer (6-1, 195) is a junior who's seen plenty of playing time in his three years - and has 31 catches for 543 yards and 3 scores. Houston has five receivers with 15 or more catches this year - so they like to spread it out.

The Defense
Houston has been stopping people from scoring by taking the ball away. The Cougar defense has generated 27 take-aways, including 11 fumble recoveries. The linebackers are very good and do their job - and the secondary has some serious ball-hawks.

Defensive line: - Houston plays a 4-3 defense and is led up front by DT's Joey Mbu (10 tackles, 6 assists) and Tomme Mark (6-2, 260). The ends are Eric Braswell and Eric Eiland who have combined for two sacks thus far. The Cougar front four don't put a lot of pressure on the QB - and they are susceptible to the running game (1154 yards in seven games). Keep your eye on freshman Tyus Bowser, (6-3, 226) who lines up on the weak side and has four sacks from the defensive end position.

Linebackers: Derrick Mathews is the team's leading tackler with 46 tackles, 27 assists and three sacks. Efrem Oliphant and Steven Taylor join him as linebackers and are numbers two and three in tackles and have two sacks each. Overall, Houston has 15 sacks.

Secondary : The Cougars have generated 15 interceptions from pass pressure and coverage and are led by corners Thomas Bates and Zach McMillian have combined for four interceptions, but safety Adrian McDonald is the ball hawk, with four so far.

Special Teams: Kicker-Punter Richie Leone has had three field goals blocked - so keep an eye on the Bulls special teams for a possible score. Leone has a 42.8 yard punting average and puts more than half of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Leone has missed six field goals and his longest is 40 yards..

Overview
The Cougars, under second-year coach Tony Levine, are atop the American Conference with a 3-0 record and coming off a road win over Rutgers. Levine went with O'Korn early which shows that he's committed to the younger players (several sophomores are starting) and has Houston scoring points in bunches. Houston is a ball-hawking team - winning the turnover battle by +20 (27-7). The only loss for the Cougars was to BYU (55-54)



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