Here's Who UH Needs to Win and Lose to Look Like the Best Possible Football Team
Greg Ward and the Cougars have College Football Playoff dreams.
We are only two games into the college football season, but in those two games, Tom Herman and the University of Houston Cougars have fast-tracked themselves into the College Football Playoff conversation, thanks in large part to a 33-23 win over Oklahoma in their season opener. Most bowl projections by pundits, perhaps anticipating a Cougar steamrolling of the American Athletic Conference over the next three months, are plugging the Coogs into the four-team playoff and not looking back.
Of course, if you've watched college football for longer than the last few weeks, you know that nothing comes that easy. Hell, a Thursday night road game in Cincinnati is no picnic, and on short rest, that's what the Cougars have in front of them this week.
However, I can tell you, as someone whose school spends one out of every three or four years in the playoff (formerly BCS title game) conversation, one of the underrated parts of being in the postseason mix is the fact that so many OTHER games have an impact on your team's future. It makes for lots of stressful, but fun football watching throughout the weekend!
Thus, since you Coog fans will be done watching your team by late Thursday night, I figured you may need a guide for this Saturday as to whom you should be rooting for in many of the games on the schedule. The outcomes of these games going UH's way are not crucial, but they are helpful.
So let's take a look at the games that I deem as "worth watching" for UH playoff purposes this weekend, along with a brief rationale for why the game makes the list...
Iowa State at TCU, 11:00 a.m. (FS1)
When it comes to playoff resume, one of Houston's best friends is Oklahoma, and in two weeks, the Sooners travel to Fort Worth to play the Horned Frogs. TCU's losing to Arkansas at home Saturday was a hit, but OU (and in turn, UH) needs TCU to look as strong as possible headed into that October 1 OU-TCU matchup. A win over Iowa State and then SMU next weekend would have TCU safely back in the top 25, allowing for Oklahoma to win a big time matchup. (Of course, OU has business on its own plate this weekend, more on that in a moment...)
#2 Florida State at #10 Louisville, 11:00 a.m. (ABC)
The only other game on the Cougars' schedule with any national cachet this season is the November 17 game against the Cardinals. The more juice the Cards have, the more juice that game will have. An undefeated Louisville will have beaten FSU and...
South Carolina State at #5 Clemson, 11:00 a.m. (ACC)
...Clemson to have gotten there. (This is my convoluted way of saying root for Clemson to stay undefeated so Louisville looks as strong as possible on November 17.)
Temple at Penn State, 11:00 a.m. (BTN)
Temple is an AAC school, so having them knock off Penn State (again) is good for the conference. Also, since Penn State seems hellbent on celebrating Joe Paterno's memory at this game, a Temple win would be good for mankind.
Kansas at Memphis, 11:00 a.m. (ESPNU)
Memphis is on the Coogs' schedule later this season. No Paxton Lynch and no Justin Fuente, so it's certainly not your slightly older brother's Memphis team, but still, you don't need the Tigers losing to the Jayhawks.
Virginia at Connecticut, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Connecticut comes to TDECU Stadium later this month, and is the only team to emerge victorious over Tom Herman as a head coach. They can't go losing to a team that lost to Richmond by 17 points two weeks ago.
Colorado at #4 Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (BTN)
The Big Ten has four teams in the top 13, so the sooner some of those teams are eliminated from the clutter near the top of the polls, the better. So "Go Buffs" in this rematch of the classic Kordell Stewart "Hail Mary" game in 1994. (NOTE: The Buffs will lose by 40.)
#1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Conventional wisdom would say "root for Ole Miss to knock Alabama out from in front of the Cougars." However, I think when it comes to the SEC, it may be best to have one team just steamroll the rest of the conference so there's no danger of having a one-loss non-SEC champ lurking in the mix. Roll Tide... right through the rest of the conference, like a hot knife through butter.
South Florida at Syracuse, 2:30 p.m. (ACC)
South Florida could be the Coogs' opponent in the AAC title game in early December. Don't need them losing to a mediocre Syracuse team.
Maryland at UCF, 6:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
UCF is on the Coogs' schedule, so they need to win. (Good luck with that.)
#12 Michigan State at #18 Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. (NBC)
Michigan State still has Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State on the schedule, so there's a loss in there somewhere. Meanwhile, Notre Dame's only game against a ranked team the rest of the way is a home game in a few weeks against Stanford. The Irish, despite their loss to Texas in their opener, are still lurking in the playoff weeds. The Spartans' elimination of them here would get rid of a potential headache down the road.
#3 Ohio State at #14 Oklahoma, 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
Of all the games not involving the Cougars this weekend, this is the one that's most important to them. Supposedly, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called Herman this week to get advice on how to beat the Sooners. Hopefully, Herman heel turned and planted a lot of bad advice with Meyer.
USC at #7 Stanford, 7:00 p.m. (ABC)
The Pac-12 turning into a pile of two- and three-loss teams (like 2015!) would be beneficial for the University of Houston. USC beating Stanford would be an unplanned aid.
BONUS: Tom Herman Watch games
Here is the "sidebar" rooting guide in games that will allow you to breathe easier about keeping your head coach...
#17 Texas A&M at Auburn, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Mississippi State at #20 LSU, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
#11 Texas at California, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Gig Em... Geuax Tigers.... Hook Em...
And if all of these games don't get you juiced for this weekend, my Best Bets will drop online tomorrow morning. When in doubt, gamble!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.