What did Houston-based college football fans do to deserve the torture being inflicted upon them this season? Why is it that neither of the two major college football teams in the city can make a tackle? Or even look like they're interested in making a tackle?
The Houston Cougars (0-3) and the Rice Owls (1-3) will face off inside Reliant Stadium on Saturday afternoon. And this edition of the annual Bayou Bucket game will be an offensive showcase. Offensive in that a ton of points should be scored. Offensive in that two inept defensive teams will be seeing which team offends the fans of good football less.
The Rice Owls offense racked up 647 yards and scored 51 points against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday. The problem was that the Owls defense surrendered 593 yards to Marshall as the Herd got the 54-51 win in double overtime. And while there are undoubtedly fans who considered the game to be fun and thrilling, most people watching the game were probably more disgusted by the inability of anybody to make a tackle. (The Cougars didn't play Saturday, which is probably the only reason they didn't lose.)
This was third of four games this season where the Owls defense gave up 49 or more points. And while the Owls are suffering from a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, no excuses could be made for the poor coaching, or for the ability of two Marshall running backs who had barely touched the ball previously this season to each go for over a hundred rushing yards against the Owls defense.
"We came into the game knowing that (Marshall's) a really heavy pass-oriented offense," safety Paul Porras said, "and we really prepared all week for the passing attack, and then they came out with the running attack."
So in that vein, seeing as how the Cougars have been a heavy pass-oriented offense the past several seasons, the Owls will probably be preparing for the Cougars to pass the ball every play. And under past UH coaches Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles, the Cougars would probably throw it every play anyway. Then again, they're gone, and so are Case Keenum and his group of wide receivers that made it possible to pass on every single play.
Current Houston Cougar head coach Tony Levine has made it known in the past that he wants the focus of the UH offense to be running back Charles Sims. The Cougars have already "resigned" one offensive coordinator for his inability to properly use Sims, so the odds are, if he's healthy, that Sims will be running the ball time after time on Saturday.
But even if the Cougars can actually run the football and score on Rice, there comes the matter of the awful defense played by UH. And as in years past, the Cougars defense is not really that good. Only now there's no high-octane offense around to cover up a UH defense that makes the Rice offense look competent.
The Owls have shown they can score on decent defenses as well as awful defenses. They have three big tight ends who can catch the ball and run after the catch. The Owls actually discovered a way to get Sam McGuffie into the end zone against Marshall. And they have a decent run attack, led by quarterback Taylor McHargue. But McHargue's status is iffy at the moment after being knocked out in the waning seconds of Saturday's loss to Marshall.
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The odds are good for the Cougars to get their first win of the season. All that they have to do is run the ball because the Owls sure as hell aren't going to tackle anybody, especially some running back busting a run up the middle. But the odds are equally good that the Owls will get their second win of the season because the Cougars can't tackle either. And for fans who like to watch good defenses, well, instead of heading up to Reliant Stadium this weekend, you should probably just stay home and watch some competent teams on television -- maybe try watching some SEC teams play each other.
The sad thing is that it's not even yet October. There are still two more months of this crap to live through. Two more months of missed tackles. Two more months of incompetent defenses making opposing running backs look like Heisman contenders. There might be a lot of touchdowns scored, a lot of offensive fireworks, but until somebody learns how to make a tackle, there's not going to be a lot of winning football.
And what's more important, lots of points or lots of wins?