The Houston Cougars just may be the best coached team in all of college football.
The No. 1 team in the Underdogs Poll for the first time all season (following Navy's beatdown of Memphis over the weekend), Houston is the last undefeated team outside of the power conferences. And while the team on the field is responsible for the wins, the credit belongs on the shoulders of first-year head coach Tom Herman.
Saturday's game vs. Memphis will be almost 11 months to the day since Houston announced Herman would be coming onboard, and almost nine months after Herman helped lead Ohio State — where he was still coaching at the time — to a national title.
In that time, Herman has somehow transformed a team in the midst of an identity crisis into a Group of 5 juggernaut.
The Underdogs Poll is a weekly venture in which SB Nation's blogs on non-power schools vote to rank the top 15 non-power teams at the moment.
|Dropped out: Georgia Southern, Cincinnati | Others receiving votes: Georgia Southern (4), Air Force (2), Cincinnati (2), Arkansas State (1)|
I'm not going to sit here and tell you Houston, which still has to play Memphis and Navy in its final three games, is definitely going to go undefeated. (After all, my track record for doing so lately is less than stellar). There's a very real shot that the Cougars don't even make the AAC Championship game — did you see how Navy looked against Memphis? And even if they do survive the regular season, the Cougars will likely have to face a brutal Temple squad in the title game.
These next three to four weeks have the potential to be incredibly rough for Houston. But even if they are, what Herman's Cougars have accomplished in a few months is nothing short of amazing.
Under Herman, Houston has increased its offensive output by nearly 20 points a game. He's also somehow managed to improve on a defense that finished 11th in the nation in points allowed per contest in 2014.
Herman turned Greg Ward Jr., a 178-pound former wide receiver, into one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks. He's turned the commuter school back into a mid-major power. And imagine what he could do with a full year under his belt.
Cougar fans can only hope he isn't gone before year 2 comes around.
Believe in the Midshipmen
Keenan Reynolds: The Navy quarterback did not record his 78th career rushing touchdown Saturday in Memphis, which would have secured the NCAA career record. Instead, Reynolds showed off his leadership abilities while taking down the unbeaten Memphis Tigers. With under four minutes to go in the game, Reynolds had a shot at the endzone, but instead pitched out to a Desmond Brown for the clearer play. Reynolds may not have reached the endzone on his legs — which is rare — but that just may have been his best performance yet.
Chris Swain: Reynolds' fullback made up for the QB's lack of scoring with three touchdowns of his own in Saturday's win. Swain was a battering ram and helped prove just how dangerous all of the Midshipmen's runners are. When your fullback is putting up three scores, your backfield is loaded. I don't care what kind of system you run.
Kenneth Dixon: Reynolds is getting the attention for the record-breaking season, but this Louisiana Tech running back is right there with him. One of Montee Ball's other records is most total career touchdowns by a non-quarterback (83). Dixon currently has 81 (70 rushing, 11 receiving). He's also tied for the NCAA lead this year in rushing touchdowns and is averaging more than 6.2 yards per carry. Dixon has been a complete workhorse since his 28-touchdown freshman campaign in 2012. This sticker is long overdue.
Larry Rose III: We're in love with the running backs this week, and rightfully so. Rose III, like Reynolds, plays in a triple option attack. But unlike Reynolds' Navy, NMSU was winless as of two weeks ago. In the two weeks since, Rose III has rushed for more than 400 yards and six scores to help lead the Aggies to consecutive Sun Belt wins. Honorary helmet sticker to head coach Doug Martin, who seems to finally have the Aggies making forward momentum.
J.T. Jones: Listen, yes, it was against EMU. And yes, Jones hasn't even appeared in half of Miami (OH)'s games, but four sacks in one game against any team is impressive. Even more so for a 235-pound defensive lineman.
THREE TO WATCH:
Toledo at Central Michigan, Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2
Bowling Green at Western Michigan, Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2
Memphis at Houston, Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2