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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Gridiron Nation: If undefeated, Houston must get BCS berth

They have not played a ranked team all season, and their 10 opponents have combined for a 1-15 record against top-25 teams. So why exactly do the Houston Cougars reside at No. 11 in the BCS Standings, ranked No. 13, 17, 13, 16, 19 and 12 by the six respective computers that figure into the BCS formula?

In Wisconsin’s case, four of the six computers do not rank Wisconsin at all. Granted, the Badgers have lost in spectacular fashion in two road games against Michigan State and Ohio State, but how can a team that has played one opponent all year – UCLA – that has a national reputation have a shot at a BCS bowl?

If you have not heard of him yet, the answer is Cougar quarterback Case Keenum and the rest of the Houston offense.


The Cougars are ranked No. 1 in the nation in passing offense (455.7 yards per game), total offense (628.8 ypg) and points per game (54.7) this season. Call them astronomical, off the charts, videogame-like. There is no choice but to refer to this explosive offense as one clich? or another because using a simpler word or phrase just does not do Houston the justice it deserves.

The numbers of the second place team in each category are not even close. The Cougars pass for 61.5 more yards per game than Brandon Weeden and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, outgain Baylor and Robert Griffin III by 60.9 yards per game in total offense and score three more points per game than, again, No. 2 Oklahoma State.

But should gaudy offensive numbers automatically give a team the right to play in a BCS bowl game? Those five games are reserved for the teams that are supposedly the ten best in the country. It does not always appear to work out that way, but should Houston earn a berth that will likely displace another deserving team from a power conference just because it sets off offensive fireworks every week? Maybe, maybe not.

It sure is hard to overlook a non-AQ school though, when it is led by a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. It only seems fair that Keenum is making a case with the likes of Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Weeden and RG3 – though with Baylor’s far too many losses, Griffin has taken a backseat in the conversation.

Keenum has gained respect as a viable candidate nationally already. ESPN has a panel of 15 Heisman experts, consisting of actual Heisman voters, to help determine the Heisman race week by week and currently, Keenum stands fourth and within shouting distance of front-runner Andrew Luck.

Call Keenum a product of head coach Kevin Sumlin’s system if you want, but that system averages more that 14 yards per passing attempt and is a scoring machine. Keenum has already thrown for 3,951 yards and 37 touchdowns while only throwing three interceptions – Aaron Rodgers, who? Keenum even ran for two scores in last weekend’s 73-17 thrashing of Tulane, the second time this year Houston has put up 70-plus.

Perhaps the most scintillating performance by a quarterback this season, Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdowns in one game, just two shy of the FBS record 11 touchdown tosses by first-round NFL bust and fellow University of Houston alum David Klingler in 1990.

Fans at the nine-touchdown game also saw Keenum break the FBS record for career touchdown passes, with his fifth touchdown of the game, temporarily setting the record at 135. He now has 144 passing touchdowns with two regular season games, the Conference USA title game and a bowl game to play.

Aside from Keenum, Houston’s other offensive juggernaut is senior wideout Patrick Edwards. Second on the team with 61 catches, Edwards has 1,277 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, not to mention an absolutely obscene 20.9 yards per catch. He also caught seven passes for 318 yards and five of Keenum’s nine touchdowns in the quarterback’s record setting game.

So Houston’s offense is pretty good and deserving of a BCS berth, but what of the Cougars’ defense? The offense cannot just stay on the field the entire game. A worthy BCS team should at least be able to play some defense.

And aside from stellar play of senior linebacker Sammy Brown, who has 10 sacks on the season and leads the country in tackles for loss per game at 2.15, it is definitely the defense that is troubling.

Ranking outside the top-40 in the country in rush defense (184.1 ypg), total defense (393.2 ypg) and scoring defense (22.8 ppg) against relatively terrible competition, how can the Cougars expect to compete with another BCS team, especially if it came to a matchup against a team that scores almost as much as they do?

The fact that they rank No. 13 in turnover margin can only bail them out against so many teams, and it could be argued that margin should almost be higher when they are playing teams like Tulane (2-9), Georgia State (2-8), UAB (2-8) and Rice (3-7).

Offense vs. defense. Which is more important? Which should hold more weight in determining whether Houston earns a BCS bowl game berth? A Heisman Trophy candidate. Does having one give a team the right to play in the BCS?

The contrasting differences make it a tough call if one person were pulling the strings instead of a bunch of subjective voters and six computers. So the tipping point goes to 10-0 Houston and its Heisman candidate leader Case Keenum.

It is hard to go undefeated in college football. It is hard to go undefeated in Pop Warner, middle school, high school, junior college and the NFL. If the Cougars win out, their offense and spotless record has earned Houston their chance.

Without a playoff to differentiate the contenders and pretenders, the BCS has to take Houston or it undermines its own system. Undefeated must equal a BCS berth.

Brett is a senior majoring in journalism. Do the Cougars deserve a BCS bowl berth or are they just another wannabe from a non-AQ conference. Let Brett know at [email protected] or tweet him at @BAsportswriter.

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