No. 6 Houston is still flawless to start 2016. That should stay the case this week, when the Cougars host Connecticut in a second Thursday night game in three weeks. Two weeks ago, they came back to beat Cincinnati with a relentless fourth-quarter onslaught, and they moved to 4-0 with a 64-3 demolition of Texas State last week.
The Cougars are pretty well into a soft spot in their schedule, so a lot of their work in remaining a Playoff contender is just not tripping up. They play Louisville on Nov. 17, and that shapes up like one of the games of the year. But to stay unbeaten until then, the Cougars just need to not make a terrible mistake against a Connecticut, a Navy, a Tulsa, an SMU, a UCF, or a Tulane. They'll be a significant favorite every week, but they can't afford not to be locked in.
Connecticut is 2-2. Its wins have come against Maine and Virginia, and every UConn game has been a close one. If they Huskies don't play their game of the year against Houston, that'll change.
A subplot: LSU's firing of Les Miles means the spotlight on Houston coach Tom Herman is already extra bright.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. The broadcasters are Dave Flemming, Jesse Palmer, and Laura Rutledge.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Houston opened as a 24.5-point favorite, and that spread has grown.
Make friends: SB Nation's Underdog Dynasty covers the American.
Three big things to know
1. Houston's got ample reason to take UConn seriously, because it's been less than a year since the Huskies upset UH at Rentschler Stadium. The Cougars went to Connecticut ranked No. 13 last year and lost 20-17 in mid-November, and it stood up as UH's only loss of the season. Houston wound up making and winning the Peach Bowl, but the Cougars have had plenty of time to wonder about what might've been if not for the UConn game. They don't want a sequel.
2. The Cougars are about defense. That's easy to miss, because they're scoring 45 points per game. But it's even more important that they're only giving up 11, ranked fourth in the country. That number is deflated because of games against Texas State and FCS Lamar, but even against Oklahoma and Cincinnati the Cougars have allowed a combined 39 points, which is more than solid. They're ranked eighth in Defensive S&P+ and look extraordinarily hard to beat. They also really like to hit people.
3. If UConn can't win on turnovers, an upset repeat isn't happening. The Huskies are minus-four in turnover margin through four games, and they're not good enough to beat Houston without doing better in that department. Houston puts a heavy emphasis on this, and the Cougars are plus-2. UConn's had some bad turnover luck, and it's important that turns. If not, it's hard to see any way the Huskies keep up.