Cougars are the best college football team in Texas, and it may not be close

Houston Cougars Head Coach Tom Herman has his team firing on all cylinders. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Cougars Head Coach Tom Herman has his team firing on all cylinders. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Cougars continued their string of destruction Thursday night by destroying the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals. There’s not a team in Texas that can top them right now.

While many in Texas (and Oklahoma, for that matter) were already aware of the Houston Cougars, they put the NCAA world on notice Thursday night. They wasted no time jumping ahead on the #5 Louisville Cardinals and putting an end to their already fragile playoff hopes.

There was really no mystery about it. The Cougars took the reigns immediately and never relinquished them. The Houston defense completely dismantled the Cardinal attack by sacking sophomore quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson 11 times.

They made one of the top-contending teams for the College Football Playoff look like a homecoming opponent. But as other teams will attest, Thursday’s 36-10 victory wasn’t the first of its kind this season.

Taking down Oklahoma

The Cougar success story starts all the way back in week one with a highly-touted and much-anticipated opener against the #3 Oklahoma Sooners in Houston. With a potential Big XII Conference invitation in the balance, they wanted to come out making a statement. That statement ended up being, “We’re not your typical group of five program.” No, Hunter Yuracheck, you most certainly aren’t.

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Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns while junior receiver Steven Dunbar amassed 125 receiving yards. It wasn’t like the Sooners rolled over and played dead, either. They put together a nice game of their own behind Baker Mayfield. But in the end, Houston proved stronger that day and set the tone for the season.

Being taken down by Navy and SMU

Where the story takes a weird twist is in Annapolis, Maryland. Heading into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 5-0 and building playoff hopes, they fell short. The Navy Midshipmen’s 303 rushing yards chewed up too much of the clock and too much of the field and Houston suddenly felt their first defeat of the season.

While Ward had a really good game of his own, the 21 Navy points in the third quarter proved too costly and the Cougars could never recover. But what was even more stunning was what happened two weeks later.

After bouncing back to win a close game over Tulsa, the Cougars traveled to Gerald J. Ford Stadium for a matchup with the SMU Mustangs. Considering the Ponies entered that game with a 2-4 record, this one really hurt.

They never found their bearings and Ward was way off of his game that day. Call it a fluke or a matchup problem or whatever you’d like, but in the end it was a plain old flat, ugly loss. At the time, it seemed like the kind of thing that would derail the season completely.

Bouncing back

Back-to-back home games against Central Florida and Tulane brought hope back to the Houston schedule and breathed new life into the team. It began a chain of momentum that carried into Thursday night’s tilt with Louisville and it showed.

With just one game remaining to close out the season, Houston has the opportunity to finish with at least ten wins for the third time since 2011. They’re building a dynasty and it’s a shame the Big XII wouldn’t even give them the light of day.

Other Texas teams

There are really only two teams that can make a strong enough case against the Cougars for state supremacy. The first, sort of by default, are the SMU Mustangs.

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The Mustangs have the head-to-head advantage this season and will likely hang it over Houston’s head for the next 52 weeks. They should. They earned it fair and square. However, their glaring issues are their losses.

The ugliest of those came at the hands of a solid Memphis Tigers team by a 51-7 score. While Memphis is located in Tennessee, they are not actually Tennessee. Therefore, the Mustangs really have no argument. They’ve now lost too many times for consideration.

The other team with an argument is the Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M has wins over Arkansas, UCLA and Tennessee, ranked 16th, 17th and 9th at the time of the games.

But despite this, the Aggies are currently 7-3 and are in the midst of a small tailspin. Losing two in a row to teams from the country’s 20th state certainly doesn’t help things. Winning out the remaining two would certainly help things for Texas A&M, but Houston is really just that good.

In the end, the Cougars have done more with less. Head Coach Tom Herman has become a mastermind at getting the best from the players he has. That’s why his name has already begun to surface for other vacancies across the NCAA. If Houston wants to hang onto him, then they need to plan sooner, rather than later on how to go about that.

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But in the meantime, Houston is currently setting the pace in the Lone Star State. While the Aggies might “whoop” and holler about it, the best place to settle it would be on the field. Here’s to hoping the two teams get that chance. Perhaps they’ll meet in a Bowl Game to put it all on the line. If they do, it will be a lot of fun and everyone inside and outside Texas will get to watch it.