Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. Houston was good
Houston head coach Tom Herman lived up to the hype in his first year back in Texas. The first-time head coach engineered 13 wins, an AAC title, a 3-0 record vs. power conference teams, a Peach Bowl title, and the school's first AP top-10 finish in 25 years.
It didn't take long to see how well-managed the Cougars were. They controlled field position (17th in field position margin). They figured out how to keep the chains moving when they fell behind schedule. They closed drives better than their opponent. They seemed to score on the play after every turnover their opponents gave them.
This was a smart, athletic team, and when you consider the coach, that makes sense. Herman was Urban Meyer's right-hand man as the Buckeyes went 38-3 and won the 2014 national title.
For Herman, time under Meyer was like the finishing polish. Herman had already cut his teeth in the coaching ranks under Mack Brown (Texas graduate assistant), Ron Randleman (SHSU receivers/special teams coach), David Bailiff (Rice offensive coordinator), and Paul Rhoads (Iowa State offensive coordinator), putting together his vision of a spread offense with power principles. Under Meyer, not only did he perfect that vision with one of the game's great offensive innovators, he also learned how to be a great head coach.
Houston looked like a Meyer team last year. Meyer teams dominate field position (Ohio State was first in the country in field position margin last year, fourth in 2014), they pounce on mistakes, and they know how to maneuver in close games. In Meyer's four years in Columbus, Ohio State is 13-2 in games decided by one possession. He's 33-13 overall in such games.
Close games are partially decided by randomness, but there's no question that some coaches manage play-calling and the clock better. So it's not pure luck that Houston went 3-1 in one-possession games on the way to a spectacular 13-1 season.
And when you combine superb coaching with incredible recruiting -- per the 247Sports Composite, Houston's 2016 recruiting class ranked 40th overall; no other team from a Group of Five conference ranked higher than 57th -- it's not hard to see why the #HTownTakeover hype train is charging. And oh, is it charging.
2. Houston was lucky
It's also not hard to see how things could have taken a hard turn for the worse.
- Houston recovered two of three fumbles and needed a plus-3 turnover margin and a kick return score to beat Louisville by three.
- The Cougars recovered two of three fumbles and needed a drastic field position advantage (+13 yards per possession) and a pick six to beat Cincinnati by three despite a massive yards-per-play deficit (UC 8.5, UH 4.9).
- They trailed Memphis by 20 points with 13 minutes left and were outgained by 98 yards, but won when Memphis missed a field goal at the buzzer.
Houston's win expectancy in these games (the likelihood of a win based on factors like efficiency, field position, etc.) was 24 percent, 15 percent, and 48 percent, respectively.
Last year, teams facing 15 percent expectancy went 1-10. Teams facing 24 percent ended up 1-11. UH was the only winner of each. The odds of winning all three of these games: around 1.7 percent.
Leaning on field position ... executing well when the score is tight ... these things aren't luck. But Houston was incredibly lucky to finish 13-1 instead of 10-4 or 11-3.
The Cougars recovered 65 percent of all fumbles (only Arkansas' 65.5 percent was luckier). Opponents picked off only 15 percent of Houston's defensed passes (the national average is usually around 22 percent), which was a little lucky. Add that up, and the Cougars benefited from the third-most turnovers luck in the country, about 5 points per game.
When you aren't necessarily better than your opponents on down-for-down efficiency -- Houston was 59th in offensive Success Rate+, 67th on defense -- and you have to rely on coaching and timing and the Little Things™ to bail yourself out, you're giving yourself no margin for error. Even neutral turnovers luck could have made a huge difference in Houston's record.
Consequently, S&P+ wasn't a Cougar believer. Houston ranked 44th in S&P+ last season, lower than most computer ratings, but other measures derived from play-by-play were similarly skeptical. ESPN's FPI ranked the Cougars 34th, Ed Feng's The Power Rank 33rd.
This was a flawed team experiencing a wonderful season, and while they were incredibly fun to watch, they may not have been using a replicable formula for victory.
Even without luck, Houston's turnaround was outstanding. The Cougars improved from 90th in S&P+ to 44th, and even if they had just risen to 10 or 11 wins, that still beats 2014's 8-5.
|Record: 13-1 | Adj. Record: 10-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 26 | Final S&P+ Rk: 44|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|24-Oct||at Central Florida||128||59-10||W||82%||100%||+24.5||+27.5|
|31-Dec||vs. Florida State||12||38-24||W||69%||69%||+28.7||+21.5|
|Points Per Game||40.4||10||20.7||20|
3. Zero margin for error
One last thing about last year. If you're looking for how Houston could grade out so low within the S&P+ top 50, look at how the Cougars fared against top-50 teams.
Odds favored about a 10-4 season, and the fact that the Cougars exceeded that was thrilling. But thrilling doesn't equal sustainable.
- UH vs. S&P+ top 50:
Yards per play: Opp 6.0, UH 5.4 | Average win expectancy: 60% | Likely record: 3-2 | Actual record: 5-0
- UH vs. everybody else:
Yards per play: UH 6.6, Opp 5.2 | Average win expectancy: 80% | Likely record: 7-2 | Actual record: 8-0
Of course, there are different kinds of luck. Houston couldn't keep a running back healthy; Kenneth Farrow, Ryan Jackson, and Javin Webb all missed time, which led to starting cornerback Brandon Wilson briefly changing to offense. (He thrived, rushing 33 times for 181 yards against strong Navy and Temple defenses.)
The offensive line was shuffled almost weekly, with 11 different players starting at least one game. That almost always spells disaster but didn't.
The defense was mostly stable but did lose cornerback Howard Wilson three games into the season.
And of course, quarterback Greg Ward Jr. injured his ankle against Memphis, missing a large portion of both that game and the UConn loss the next week. With a healthy Ward and these other results, Houston probably goes 14-0.
In this way, better injuries luck could offset regression in the other luck department. And an outstanding 2016 recruiting class could create impressive depth.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||43.7%||43||Succ. Rt. +||103.2||59|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||26.2||5||Def. FP+||27.3||22|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.2||10||Redzone S&P+||106.4||50|
|Q1 Rk||55||1st Down Rk||57|
|Q2 Rk||62||2nd Down Rk||101|
|Q3 Rk||33||3rd Down Rk||30|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Greg Ward Jr.||5'11, 185||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8423||232||345||2828||17||6||67.2%||25||6.8%||7.3|
|Kyle Postma||6'3, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||43||68||453||3||1||63.2%||3||4.2%||6.3|
|Bear Fenimore||6'1, 215||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8038|
|D'Eriq King||5'10, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8776|
|Bowman Sells||6'2, 182||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8574|
|Greg Ward Jr.||QB||5'11, 185||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8423||173||1253||21||7.2||6.9||51.4%||9||3|
|Kyle Postma||QB||6'3, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||24||202||1||8.4||8.1||54.2%||2||1|
|Kaliq Kokuma||RB||5'11, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8238||18||92||0||5.1||5.9||27.8%||0||0|
|RB||6'0, 210||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9155|
|Blake Hirsch||RB||6'0, 220||So.||NR||NR|
|Josh Burrell||RB||5'10, 247||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Kevrin Justice||RB||5'11, 190||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159|
|Mulbah Car||RB||5'11, 194||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8544|
4. Got a running game?
Big plays bailed Houston out of some jams. The Cougars were just 72nd in Rushing Success Rate+ but ripped off 39 rushes of at least 20 yards, second in FBS.
Ward was responsible for 16 of these rushes, including one on first down. He also had nine carries of 10-plus yards on third-and-long. He was the reason Houston ran 39 percent of the time on passing downs (often a sign of conservatism) but ranked 27th in Passing Downs S&P+. He was a major threat on scrambles and draws, and he distracted defenses enough on such downs to complete big passes, too: On third-and-7 or more, he was 33-for-52 (63 percent) for 558 yards, four touchdowns, and only one interception.
Of course, he wouldn't have had to prove himself on passing downs so much had Houston been able to run more efficiently on first down. The three primary running backs -- Farrow, Jackson, Webb -- gained at least five yards on a putrid 34 percent of their carries. They weren't typically getting stopped in the backfield, but they were frequently getting stopped for a gain of only one or two.
Now Farrow, Jackson, and Webb are all gone, as are each of the four linemen who finished 2015 with at least 12 career starts. Granted, six guys with starting experience return, and simple stability could mean more than returnees -- whoever your starting five is at the beginning of the year, keep those five guys intact.
The corps of running backs will be brand new, but there's upside. Texas transfer Duke Catalon was a four-star recruit out of high school, and sophomore Kaliq Kokuma showed the same low-efficiency, high-explosiveness tendencies as everybody else in a handful of carries. In sophomores Blake Hirsch and Josh Burrell, there are a couple of burly options, and in Kevrin Justice and Mulbah Car, there are a couple of high-upside freshmen.
Still, there are plenty of questions about the running game, and the answer can't always be "Have Ward bail you out."
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Chance Allen||WR-Z||6'3, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8463||88||56||752||63.6%||21.2%||8.5||55.7%||51.1%||1.56|
|Steven Dunbar||WR-X||6'3, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893||54||31||382||57.4%||13.0%||7.1||51.9%||37.0%||1.74|
|Linell Bonner||WR-X||6'0, 200||Jr.||NR||NR||39||25||317||64.1%||9.4%||8.1||51.3%||48.7%||1.67|
|Tyler McCloskey||TE||6'2, 245||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859||23||14||157||60.9%||5.5%||6.8||65.2%||52.2%||1.41|
|Kyle Postma||QB||6'3, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||9||6||145||66.7%||2.2%||16.1||44.4%||66.7%||2.49|
|Isaiah Johnson||WR-Z||6'4, 205||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8176||7||6||43||85.7%||1.7%||6.1||71.4%||57.1%||0.98|
|John Leday||WR||6'0, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7819||7||4||41||57.1%||1.7%||5.9||57.1%||42.9%||1.16|
|WR||5'11, 190||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9096||5||3||11||60.0%||1.3%||2.2||60.0%||N/A||N/A|
|Romello Brooker||TE||6'4, 240||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8038|
|Chris Johnson (Baylor)||TE||3||3||37||100.0%||0.8%||12.3||66.7%||66.7%||1.74|
|Alex Leslie (Iowa State)||TE||6'5, 240||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8195|
|Courtney Lark||WR||6'1, 163||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9016|
|Marquez Stevenson||WR||6'0, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8559|
|Keith Corbin||WR||6'2, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8492|
|Terry Mark||WR||6'1, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8497|
5. A ton of athletes
Chance Allen was the epitome of consistency in 2015, catching at least three passes (and never more than six) in every game and averaging a solid 8.5 yards per target. Linell Bonner had seven catches for 92 yards in the division clincher against Navy.
Steven Dunbar caught seven passes for 150 yards against Tulsa in 2014.
Isaiah Johnson had maybe the best spring game of any player in the country this April: 15 catches, 292 yards, and touchdowns spanning 48, 51, and 90 yards.
Ra'Shaad Samples was originally a four-star Oklahoma State signee.
Courtney Lark is an incoming four-star, and the recruiting ratings for fellow freshmen Marquez Stevenson, Keith Corbin, and Terry Mark weren't far behind. [Update: Tight end Chris Johnson transferred to the Cougars from Baylor.]
However the hierarchy shakes down, there will be athletes all over the field, some of whom have already proven a little bit. Losing leader Demarcus Ayers hurts, but I'm far less worried about Houston's passing game than the running game.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Alex Cooper||LT||14||28||2015 2nd All-AAC|
|Colton Freeman||RG||6'4, 300||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7633||11||11|
|Will Noble||C||6'4, 290||So.||NR||0.7685||8||8|
|Mason Denley||LG||6'4, 305||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8260||7||7|
|Marcus Oliver||LT||6'3, 295||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8042||7||7|
|Kameron Eloph||LG||6'3, 294||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8503||3||3|
|Josh Thomas||OL||6'6, 332||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8462||1||1|
|Mac Long||C||6'4, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8463||0||0|
|Josh Jones||OL||6'5, 280||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8472|
|Na'Ty Rodgers||OL||6'5, 292||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8950|
|Keenan Murphy||OL||6'2, 295||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8434|
|Braylon Jones||OL||6'3, 278||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8378|
|Dixie Wooten||OL||6'5, 322||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8326|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.8%||41||Succ. Rt. +||100.0||67|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||31.2||39||Off. FP+||30.0||62|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.0||30||Redzone S&P+||107.1||40|
|Q1 Rk||51||1st Down Rk||61|
|Q2 Rk||39||2nd Down Rk||52|
|Q3 Rk||38||3rd Down Rk||49|
6. Good luck running
Opponents didn't even try to run. Despite playing quite a few either run-heavy or balanced opponents, Houston still faced run-pass ratios skewed toward the pass. Considering the alternative, that made sense.
The Cougars allowed only 10 rushes of 20-plus yards all season, 10th-fewest in FBS. Opponents averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on first down. Just as Houston's own run game tended to produce a lot of second-and-longs, so did opponents'. So they took to the air.
Houston allowed a 61 percent completion rate and a 141.8 passer rating on first downs, and if you could work your way into Houston territory, you could find your spots. Inside the UH 40, opponents completed 55 percent of their passes with 14 touchdowns to one interception.
Houston went for the jugular, though, and it was fun as hell to watch. Not only did they create consistently unfavorable field position, they attacked the pass when an opponent's goal line was nearby. Inside their own 40, opponents threw 12 interceptions. That's a recipe for quick Houston scores, even if it occasionally resulted in big completions, too.
The phenomenon should be about the same. The front seven might be even better than it was last year, but the secondary could be worse, resulting in either conservatism or more failed gambles.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Cameron Malveaux||DE||6'6, 270||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7819||14||28.0||3.7%||8.5||2.5||0||3||0||0|
|Nick Thurman||DE||6'4, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8159||14||21.5||2.8%||5.0||0.5||0||1||0||0|
|B.J. Singleton||DT||6'4, 314||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8592||14||15.5||2.1%||2.0||1.0||0||3||0||0|
|Jerard Carter||DT||6'3, 297||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926||13||10.0||1.3%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Chauntez Jackson||DE||6'5, 280||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8463||4||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Zorrell Ezell||DT||6'1, 285||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8669|
|Zack Vaughan||DE||6'4, 270||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8429|
|D.J. Jenkins||DE||6'2, 260||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8114|
|Ed Oliver||DT||6'2, 290||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9968|
|Aymiel Fleming||DT||6'2, 284||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8077|
|Hasaun Glasgow||DE||6'3, 243||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8072|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Steven Taylor||OLB||6'1, 225||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7200||14||76.5||10.1%||18.5||10.0||2||3||2||0|
|Matthew Adams||ILB||6'1, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8308||13||38.5||5.1%||2.5||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyus Bowser||OLB||6'3, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8311||14||38.5||5.1%||6.5||5.5||1||3||1||0|
|Emeke Egbule||ILB||6'3, 230||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7826||14||10.0||1.3%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|D'Juan Hines||ILB||6'1, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8287||13||9.5||1.3%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Cameron Doubenmier||ILB||5'11, 220||Jr.||NR||NR||12||5.0||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Rasheed Tynes||LB||5'11, 220||Sr.||NR||NR||8||5.0||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Davonte Thomas||OLB||6'1, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8174|
|Ralph Harvey Jr.||OLB||6'2, 245||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Ja'Von Shelley||OLB||6'1, 230||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8023|
|Jordan Milburn||LB||6'1, 225||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956|
|Camden Ross||LB||6'2, 245||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926|
7. Even better and deeper
Losing linebacker Elandon Roberts (drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots) tackle Tomme Mark hurts. Roberts was one of the most active defenders in the AAC, with 19 TFLs and six passes defensed, and replacing that production isn't guaranteed.
That said, when that's ALL you lose, outstanding depth can overpower a lost play-maker or two. Four of last year's five linemen are back (including run-stuffing ends Cameron Malveaux and Nick Thurman), as are five of the top six linebackers. There is still an attacking presence on the edge with Malveaux, Thurman, and OLBs Steven Taylor and Tyus Bowser, and while Roberts was a unique play-maker on the interior, juniors Matthew Adams and D'Juan Hines and sophomore Emeke Egbule were still in on quite a few plays.
And then there are the newcomers. According to 247, freshman tackle Ed Oliver was the sixth-best player in the class of 2016, regardless of position. He could become an immediate presence up front, and there are five other three-star freshmen and sophomores waiting for their turn. Despite losing Roberts, it is conceivable that Houston's run defense actually improves, and perhaps by quite a bit.
Opponents will be passing again, in other words.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Brandon Wilson||CB||5'11, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8163||14||54.5||7.2%||2||0||1||8||2||1|
|William Jackson III||CB||13||38.5||5.1%||1.5||0||5||23||0||1|
|Jeremy Winchester||CB||6'0, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8391||13||15.0||2.0%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Khalil Williams||NB||6'0, 200||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8119||14||14.5||1.9%||1||0||1||4||0||0|
|Garrett Davis||S||6'1, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7985||13||5.5||0.7%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Howard Wilson||CB||6'1, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906||3||5.0||0.7%||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Joeal Williams||CB||5'10, 185||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8030||7||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|S||6'3, 220||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7926|
|Michael Eke||S||6'2, 205||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7200|
|Terrell Williams||S||6'3, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8257|
|J.J. Dallas||S||6'0, 200||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8313|
|Collin Wilder||DB||5'11, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8599|
|Patrick Rosette||DB||6'1, 195||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8197|
|Ka'Darian Smith||DB||6'0, 172||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8024|
|Javian Smith||DB||6'1, 165||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7944|
8. A new(ish) pass defense
The secondary got burned quite a bit, but for defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who could be taking a head coaching job of his own soon, the risk-reward ratio was still positive. But that was with first-round pick William Jackson III, Adrian McDonald, Trevon Stewart, and Lee Hightower.
This foursome combined for an incredible 16.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 14 interceptions, 29 break-ups, and four forced fumbles. That sets the bar awfully high for a young secondary.
There are still exciting pieces, of course. Wilson added two TFLs and nine passes defensed; he could end up at Hightower's nickel position. Likely starting safeties Khalil Williams and Garrett davis got reps last year, and Williams defensed five passes from the nickel. Meanwhile, Howard Wilson returns from injury (he had three passes defensed in just three games), and sophomore Jeremy Winchester also saw time last year. And to assure some level of upperclassman presence, Herman brought in a pair of JUCO defensive backs: Terrell Williams and JJ Dallas.
So the secondary is inexperienced ... but not really. But there's still a difference between solid play-making and the level we saw last year. If a few more big-play attempts go awry and result in big completions, that skews the risk-reward balance quite a bit.
|Ty Cummings||6'0, 185||Sr.||100||62.7||30||2||30.0%|
|Ty Cummings||6'0, 185||Sr.||51-51||7-7||100.0%||1-1||100.0%|
|Brandon Wilson||KR||5'11, 200||Sr.||23||26.6||2|
|Special Teams S&P+||62|
|Field Goal Efficiency||74|
|Punt Return Success Rate||81|
|Kick Return Success Rate||86|
|Punt Success Rate||33|
|Kickoff Success Rate||49|
9. The right pieces return
Turnovers played a large role in Houston's massive field position advantages in 2015, but at the least, special teams didn't hurt in that regard. But the strength of the unit was probably Logan Piper's high, unreturnable punts, and he's gone. That leaves kicker Ty Cummings (who was automatic inside of 40 yards but wasn't much for touchbacks on kickoffs) and all-or-nothing return man Brandon Wilson.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|24-Sep||at Texas State||120||14.9||81%|
|Projected wins: 7.7|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||9.4% (47)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||61 / 68|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||21 / 8.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+4.9|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||58% (72%, 44%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||10.2 (2.8)|
10. Two realistic paths
Despite what are sure to be lofty preseason rankings, it's not hard to see how this all goes wrong.
Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield takes advantage of a not-quite-ready secondary in the opener at NRG Stadium, Ward misses some drives in a key game (and this time, backup Kyle Postma isn't able to work a miracle comeback), and a few turnovers bounce the other way in a tricky set of AAC road games: Cincinnati, Navy, SMU, and Memphis.
Houston is going to be good. In 2016, something like a 9-3 record would be considered disappointing. This scenario plays out a lot in this sport, and it shouldn't a surprise that it's what the skeptical S&P+ ratings are projecting.
Still, it's also not hard to see this ending up like a Kansas State situation. Bill Snyder's Wildcats were lucky as hell and had no business going 10-3 in 2011; they finished 37th in S&P+ (and yes, I got yelled at a lot for that). But they stayed healthy in 2012, their senior quarterback took another step forward, and depth, experience, and confidence in tight situations moved the Wildcats forward. In 2013, KSU improved to 11-2 and sixth in S&P+.
Both options are on the table for Houston this year, and Herman's recruiting is certainly laying the groundwork for an extended run of quality.