The final team on our KHOU College preview series is Houston.
The UH Cougars are riding high after exceeding expectations in 2013 season when they finished 8-5, earning a berth to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Now, Tony Levine has lots of talent coming back. Throw in a brand new stadium and you understand why some believe this UH football team can contend for a conference championship.
Just like Baylor, Houston has a new home. Everything from the city view to the #11 on the field honoring Andre Ware, TDECU Stadium is the place Cougar fans have been longing for. Now they have to win.
The offense returns 8 starters, beginning with quarterback John O'Korn. The sophomore showed flashes in 2013, but like most freshman, had his struggles as well. He threw for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns and the confidence he's gained in the offseason suggests those numbers will only go up.
O'Korn has bevy of talented playmakers at his disposal. Ryan Jackson, the Cougars leading rusher from a year ago is back. So is Kenneth Farrow. The two form a formidable duo of both Thunder and Lightning.
At Receiver, it all starts with Deontay Greenberry. The junior has already been named to numerous preseason watch lists after his 82 catch, 1,202 yard season. Greenberry is joined by Daniel Spencer, Markieth Ambles, Demarcus Ayers and former quarterback Greg Ward Jr.
The offensive line is anchored by Bryce Redman and Rowdy Harper. It suffered a big blow when it lost Zach Johnson during the spring, but they still have enough experience to give UH's playmaker a chance to put up the points.
The defense, or as they call themselves the "Third Ward D" was unbelievable in 2013. They forced the most turnovers out of any team in the country with 43 and jumped 90 spots in total defense ranks from 2012 to 2013 under defensive coordinator David Gibbs.
The Cougars defensive line got a shot in the arm when Gavin Stansberry transferred from Texas A&M to UH. Stansberry was the Defensive MVP for the Aggies so he will surely be tough to stop.
At Linebacker, Derrick Matthews returns. He totaled 118 tackles a year ago after moving inside. Efrem Oliphant who had 134 tackles and 12 for loss is on the outside. Those two alone are dangerous, but the depth at the position is also a big plus.
The secondary is still a work in progress. UH has to replace both corners from last year, but they do return their two powerful safeties in Trevon Stewart and Adrian McDonald who combined for 10 interceptions last season.
The Cougars open up their brand new stadium against UTSA. They have a tough road test at BYU on September 11th but the date most UH fans have circled is October 2 at home against reigning conference champ UCF.
Many see the Cougars winning 6 or 7 games in the American which means they could and should threaten for the title.
Houston's 2014 Schedule
08/29 vs. UTSA (TDECU Stadium opener)
09/06 vs. Grambling State
09/11 at BYU
09/20 vs. UNLV
10/02 vs. UCF*
10/11 @ Memphis*
10/17 vs. Temple*
11/01 @ South Florida*
11/08 vs. Tulane*
11/22 vs. Tulsa*
12/06 vs. Cincinnati*