The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the
Today at No. 42:
Coach: Tony Levine (1-0, entering first full season at Houston)
2011 record: 12-2 (7-2 in
After Houston lost in the title game, head coach Kevin Sumlin remained a highly sought after candidate for vacant head coaching positions. He ultimately landed the head coaching job at Texas A&M, which is poised to play its first season in the
Keenum, who won the
During Houston’s record setting season, the Cougars earned the prestigious right to have
Offensive starters lost/returning: 6/5
Defensive starters lost/returning: 4/7
Key losses: QB Case Keenum, RB Michael Hayes, C Chris Thompson, WR/PR Patrick Edwards, WR/KR Tyron Carrier, DE David Hunter, LB Sammy Brown, LB Marcus McGraw, S Nick Saenz
Top returnees: RB Charles Sims, OL Jacolby Ashworth, OL Ty Cloud, OL Kevin Forsch, OL Rowdy Harper, DL Dominic Miller, DL Eric Braswell, LB Derrick Matthews, LB Phillip Steward, CB Zach McMillan, CB D.J. Hayden.
Strengths: David Piland is poised to take over as Houston's starting quarterback after leading the first team offense during spring workouts. Piland started most of the 2010 season, earning honorable mention Freshman All-America honors after Keenum suffered a season-ending injury. Piland redshirted the 2011 season with Keenum returning to run the offense and enters the 2012 season listed as a sophomore. He has spent extensive time alongside Keenum, an elite quarterback who made shrewd decisions under pressure.
Running back Charles Sims, who earned first All-Conference USA honors in 2011, is a versatile athlete who the Cougars will count on to be one of the team's biggest playmakers. Receivers Daniel Spencer and Dewayne Peace had strong spring workouts and could also help the offense.
Houston returns four of five offensive line starters and seven total starters on the defensive side of the ball.
While Levine brought in a new group of assistant coaches, he is familiar with the players and should be able to provide some continuity to the program.
Weaknesses: Houston posted a 13-1 record during Keenum's senior season. When Keenum suffered a concussion and later a torn ACL that sidelined him for the majority of the 2010 season, the team posted a 5-7 overall record. And Keenum wasn't the only elite athlete to leave the program after the 2011 season. Prolific receivers Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier also completed record-setting careers. On the defensive side of the ball, the team lost a strong playmaker in linebacker Sammy Brown.
While Houston returns most of its defensive lineup, it didn't turn in an especially strong performance and proved to be particularly vulnerable against a Southern Miss team running a rapid-fire form of the spread offense in the C-USA championship game.
Finally, the Cougars will surely miss Sumlin's touch. He had a strong run as the Cougars' head coach, posting a 35-17 record at the school.
Outlook: Thanks to Piland's 2010 experience leading the offense and strong returning linemen, the Cougars should once again be competitive in Conference USA despite the departure of some elite athletes.
Sept. 1 Texas State
Sept. 8 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 15 at UCLA
Sept. 29 At
Oct. 6 North Texas
Oct. 13 UAB
Oct. 20 at
Nov. 3 At
Nov. 17 At