Stats & Info: Houston Cougars

The bowl winners will be ...

December, 19, 2013
With bowl season upon us, we can project the winners of the 35 Football Bowl Subdivision bowl games using the Football Power Index.

FPI is a predictive measure of team strength that uses the elements of team offensive, defensive and special-teams performance (adjusted for opponent) that correlate most with future results.

We can use each team’s FPI and the site of the game (all bowl games are treated as neutral) to calculate the expected point differential in a matchup and the percentage chance of each team winning.

In prior years, FPI has done reasonably well in projecting bowl winners (taking the team with the higher chance as the “winner”), getting about 65 percent of games right since 2004.

There have been some lean years in the past, but FPI has been quite good in the three most recent bowl seasons, accurately projecting 70 percent of winners in those games.

FPI takes into account only a team’s on-field performance to date in the given season. It doesn’t explicitly take into account players who are out with injuries or for other reasons, coaching movement before the bowls or differing levels of motivation that are sometimes thought to exist in bowl games.

In the 2013 regular season, starting with games on Sept. 26, FPI accurately projected 74 percent of winners.

FPI believes there to be a very clear favorite (80 percent or more to win) in four of the five BCS matchups, with Ohio State and Clemson as the most evenly matched BCS opponents.

The projections for all 35 bowl games this season are below. A couple of things that stand out:

The two most-lopsided matchups, according to FPI, involve a Pac-12 team facing a Big 12 opponent from Texas. FPI has Oregon as 91 percent likely to defeat Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl and Arizona State as 91 percent likely to beat Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl.

The most-even matchup, according to FPI, is Kansas State versus Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, with the teams separated by a little more than a point in FPI (the Wildcats are 53 percent favorites). The closest “high-profile” bowl game is the AT&T Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri, with the Cowboys 54 percent likely to win, according to FPI.

The Vizio BCS National Championship is the only bowl game with both teams ranked in the top 10 in FPI. Three other games involve two FPI top-20 teams: Wisconsin-South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl; Oklahoma State-Missouri in the Cotton Bowl and Ohio State-Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

CFB fans asked, we answered

September, 21, 2012
Each week, ESPN Stats & Information will answer statistical-related college football questions posed via Twitter (use the hashtag #AskESPNStats). Feel free to send your questions along.

When has there been a college football team with the kind of stats and domination as the past 4 years of Alabama football? – asked by @MLWadester

Alabama has reached No. 1 in the AP poll in each of the last five seasons. Over the last 50 years, only one other team has done that: Miami in 1986-92.

Since the beginning of the BCS which school has spent the most time in the top 5? – asked by @garrick_rowan

It’s Oklahoma, and it’s not even close. Since the beginning of the BCS in 1998, Oklahoma has been ranked in the top five in 111 editions of the AP Poll. Next closest are USC and Florida, both with 86 instances, followed by Texas with 82. Interestingly enough, none of those teams are in this week’s AP top five even though they have a combined 10-1 record (Oklahoma 2-0, USC 2-1, Florida 3-0, Texas 3-0). Oklahoma is just on the outside at No. 6.

Who are the top 10 teams in terms of number of wins in the last 5 years? – asked by @akoehls

Here are the top 10 since 2007: Boise State (62), TCU (57), LSU (56), Oregon (56), Virginia Tech (55), Oklahoma (55), Florida (53), Alabama (53), USC (52), Utah (52).

Has Georgia Tech been the best big play offense in the country over the past four years? – asked by @rcbGT

Depends how you define big play offense, but we’ll do it a couple different ways here using the last four years as a time frame. In that span, Georgia Tech leads the country with the most plays of at least 50 yards. The Yellow Jackets have 46 such plays. Houston is next with 40. Most 50-yard plays that also ended in a TD? Georgia Tech still leads but by a slim margin. The Yellow Jackets have 28, Nevada and Baylor each have 27. If we reduce it to the most plays of at least 30 yards, Houston takes the lead. The Cougars have 134 while Georgia Tech has 127.

Has any college football team won at least 100 games in back to back decades? – asked by @Gentronamous

It has happened, but it’s important to remember that teams play many more games today than in decades past. Recently, Florida won 100 games from 2000-09 after compiling 102 wins from 1990-99. Nebraska also did it in the 80s and 90s.

Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Houston Cougars quarterback Case Keenum (7) throws in the pocket against the Penn State Nittany Lions in Sunday's TicketCity Bowl.
Case Keenum and Houston ended Penn State's difficult season by making it look easy in the TicketCity Bowl.

The Cougars jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, as Case Keenum set a bowl record for any quarter with 277 pass yards, besting the 223 yards by Louisville's Browning Nagle against Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.

Keenum proceeded to throw for 532 yards on the day, the most pass yards ever surrendered by a Penn State team, topping the 520 by Boston College's Doug Flutie in 1982.

The record does come with an asterisk, as Ty Detmer threw for 576 against Penn State in the 1989 Holiday Bowl, but bowl stats were not official then.

He threw two touchdowns of more than 25 yards, the first such touchdowns surrendered by the Nittany Lions this season. Entering the game, Penn State was the only FBS team yet to allow a pass touchdown of more than 25 yards this season.

Keenum finishes his career owning most every career FBS passing record, including yards (19,217), touchdowns (155) and 300-yard games (39).

Houston's 600 net yards in the game were actually only a yard above the team's season average, but they pushed the Cougars season total to 8,387 yards and made them the first team to rack up 8,000 yards of total offense in a season.

Houston concludes the season with a school-record 13 wins, while Penn State loses back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1975 and 1976 seasons.

The Nittany Lions have now played three bowl games without Joe Paterno at the helm, and they have failed to win all three games, tying SMU in the 1948 Cotton Bowl and losing to USC in the 1923 Rose Bowl.

AP Photo/Dave Einsel
Case Keenum, in his final collegiate game, looks to lead Houston to a win in the TicketCity Bowl.
Something has to give in the TicketCity Bowl on January 2 (Noon ET on ESPNU) when the Houston Cougars and Penn State Nittany Lions take the field at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Houston boasts the top-ranked offense in the country, ranking first in total yards, pass yards and points. If the Cougars have a big game against the Nittany Lions on Monday, they could set FBS single-season records in those same categories (see chart on right).

Penn State counters Houston’s high-powered attack with one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. The Nittany Lions rank fifth in both scoring defense and pass defense, and have held opponents to just 300 yards of total offense per game (10th in FBS).

The last time the Cougars were held to 300 yards or fewer was September 30, 2006 at Miami (FL) when they gained 276 yards in a 14-13 loss to the Hurricanes. Houston has reached the 400-yard mark in every game this season, punctuated by 753-yard effort vs Tulane on November 10.

Houston Offense vs Penn State Defense
The Cougars prolific offense is powered by the big arm of Case Keenum, who is playing in the final game of his collegiate career. Keenum owns nearly every NCAA passing record, including yards, completions and touchdowns.

The Nittany Lions have allowed just nine passing touchdowns in 12 games the entire season. Keenum, who has thrown an FBS-best 45 touchdown passes this season, threw nine in a game against Rice on October 27.

Keenum also leads FBS this season with 49 completions of 25 yards or longer and has thrown 19 touchdown passes of 25 yards or longer this season, second-most of any player in FBS.

Keenum will be tested against a Penn State secondary that has been among the best this season in defending the deep ball. Penn State has allowed nine completions of 25 yards or longer this season, tied for the fewest in FBS.

The Nittany Lions have only allowed one such pass in their last four games and are the only team in FBS who has not allowed a touchdown pass on throws of 25-plus yards.

Penn State Offense vs Houston Defense
The Nittany Lions offense has struggled for much of the season, tied for 109th out of 120 FBS teams with a scoring average of 19.8 points per game. The lone bright spot has been a running game that has piled up 165 yards per contest.

Silas Redd leads Penn State with 99 rush yards per game, but has been held in check the past few weeks. After leading the nation with 703 rushing yards in October, including five straight 100-yard games, Redd averaged just 60.7 yards on the ground in three November games.

Redd will look to get back on track against a Houston defense that is allowing 172 rush yards per game (78th in FBS). In the team’s only loss to Southern Miss, the Cougars gave up 207 yards on the ground, one of five games this season they have allowed 200-plus rushing yards.

Stats of the Game
• Penn State, which lost 37-24 to Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl, hasn't dropped consecutive bowl games since 1975-76.

• Houston has just one bowl win since 1980, a 34-28 victory over Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl.

Cougars BCS hopes dashed

December, 3, 2011
Conference USA's first-ever BCS invitation may have to wait for another year. The Houston Cougars, the sixth-ranked team in the country entering Saturday's contest, was upset by No. 24 Southern Miss, ending what had been a dream season for Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars, 49-28.

In a rematch of the 2006 Conference USA Championship Game - in which Houston won 34-20 - the Golden Eagles limited the Cougars' potent offense from the start of the game. Entering Saturday, the Cougars had played 48 quarters this season and had been held scoreless in just four of them. Houston was held scoreless in the first and last quarters against Southern Miss and never got back on track as they did in other games in which they were held scoreless in the first quarter - they scored 35 against Louisiana Tech, 49 against UTEP and 73 against Tulane...but just 21 on Saturday.

Everything went wrong for Houston in a loss that marked the second time an undefeated non-AQ team lost its conference championship game, joining Ball State's loss to Buffalo in 2008. The Cougars entered averaging 52.7 points per game; they finished with 28. They entered allowing 20.9 points per game and allowed 49 points, their most since allowing 59 to Southern Miss in their second-to-last game last season. Overall, Southern Miss held Houston to season lows in points, total offense and plays of 20+ yards in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Case Keenum entered having thrown 43 touchdowns to just three interceptions; he threw two interceptions on Saturday, including his first in the red zone since Sept, 18, 2010. It was his only game this season where he didn't throw more touchdowns than interceptions. Perhaps more pertinent, he averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt on Saturday, compared to 10.1 on the season.

Ronnie Thornton's interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter made it eight total interceptions returned for a touchdown this season for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles now hold the FBS record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season. They entered the game tied at seven with UL Lafayette this year and the previous record holder, Tennessee which set the mark in 1971. Southern Miss' win was also its first at Robertson Stadium since 2003. They were 0-3 there since.

• Cincinnati took care of business on Saturday against Connecticut, improving to 5-2 in the Big East. However, West Virginia has likely clinched the Big East's automatic BCS bid. The selection will come down to a three-way tie between West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Louisville. As of this week, West Virginia was the only team ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS Standings.
1. Baylor has accomplished something on its current four-game win streak that hasn’t been done in the history of major college football. The Bears have surrendered at least 30 points in all four of those games, becoming the first team ever to win four straight games in a single season while allowing at least 30 points in each. Hawaii was the only other team to accomplish this feat over four games, but that spanned two seasons (2001-02).

2. UCLA enters the Pac-12 Championship Game with a 6-6 record. If that sounds unlikely, it is. Entering this season, there have been 63 conference championship games played among six conferences. Of the 126 teams that participated in those games, the only other one to enter without a winning record was Miami (OH) in 2007 at 6-6 in the MAC. The RedHawks were thumped by Central Michigan in that game, 35-10.

3. After this weekend’s games, there could be four teams from four different conferences to punch their tickets to a BCS bowl game that have never appeared in one before (Clemson, Oklahoma State, Michigan State and Houston). Since the BCS began in 1998, there have been 45 different teams to appear in BCS bowls representing eight conferences (not including Notre Dame).

So which conference has had the most different teams representing it in a BCS game? The Big East with eight (Miami, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh, Syracuse , Cincinnati). The SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10/12 have all had seven different teams in a BCS game. If Houston goes this year, it will be Conference USA’s first ever BCS participant.

4. Saturday, 77-year old Howard Schnellenberger will coach his final game as Florida Atlantic hosts Louisiana-Monroe. Schnellenberger has been the only coach in the history of that program (since 2001). Entering this season he was one of four head coaches to win bowl games at three different schools, but recent coaching changes have claimed Dennis Erickson and Rick Neuheisel off that list.

So entering next season, the only active FBS coach to win bowl games at three different schools will be Tommy Tuberville.

5. With a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oklahoma will have its 32nd 10-win season in school history, breaking a tie with Alabama for the all-time lead (Alabama earned its 31st 10-win season two weeks ago). While double-digit wins aren’t anything new to these schools, there are others at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Of the current 120 FBS schools, 12 have never had a 10-win season. Which school has the distinction of playing the most seasons without a 10-win campaign? That would be Indiana (124 seasons).

Bucked from Big Ten contention

November, 19, 2011
The Penn State Nittany Lions' Big Ten title dreams remain alive while the Ohio State Buckeyes' are officially over. Penn State’s 20-14 win over the Buckeyes means that for the first time since 2004, Ohio State will not earn at least a share of the conference title.

Penn State rebounded from its tough loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers last week to give interim coach Tom Bradley his first career win. The last Penn State coach to earn a win besides Joe Paterno was Charles “Rip" Engle on December 4, 1965.

Penn State’s defense held Ohio State scoreless in the second half and forced two key turnovers. They now lead the Big Ten with 25 turnovers this season. The Buckeyes were also the seventh Penn State opponent in 11 games this season to be held under 300 yards of total offense.

Ohio State has now lost five games in a season for the first time since 2004, and has lost two games in November for the first time since 1999. They finished 6-6 that year and didn’t reach a bowl game after losing their final three games of the season.

The focus for Penn State now turns to next week’s matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers. The winner of that game will clinch the Big Ten Leaders division and a berth in the Big Ten Championship game.

Something’s gotta give in Madison next Saturday, as the Nittany Lions will bring their perfect 4-0 road record to Camp Randall, where the Badgers are 6-0 this season and outscoring opponents by more than 40 points per game.

Penn State beat Wisconsin 48-7 in its last trip to Madison in 2008, a game that was both its largest-ever win against the Badgers and the most points Penn State has ever scored against Wisconsin.

Elsewhere around CFB Nation
• The Houston Cougars improve to 11-0 for the first time in school history as they beat SMU 37-7. Case Keenum racks up two more NCAA career records, passing Graham Harrell in completions (1,427 to 1,403) while tying Timmy Chang with his 36th 300-yard passing game.

• The North Carolina State Wolfpack upset No. 7 Clemson 37-13 for their first win against an AP top-10 team since 2005 when they beat No. 9 Florida State. Wolfpack defensive back David Amerson intercepted his 11th pass of the season, tying the ACC record for most interceptions in a season set by UNC's Dre' Bly in 1996.

• The Arkansas Razorbacks defeat Mississippi State 44-17 as they improve to 10-1 heading into next week’s showdown with the LSU Tigers. Tyler Wilson (365 yards) now has 3,215 yards this season, joining Ryan Mallet as the only players in Arkansas history to throw for at least 3,000 yards in a season.

Thomas Campbell/US PresswireThe Houston Cougars are on the verge of celebrating something that hasn't been done in college football in more than 120 years
Nickel Package looks at the top five statistical storylines for the week ahead in college football.

1. The Houston Cougars are off to their best start in school history thanks to a high-scoring attack that has produced at least 49 points in each of their last seven games. That is the longest such streak by any team since Harvard did so in eight straight games in 1887. Yes, that's 1887, not 1987.

This isn't the only streak to watch for Houston. The Cougars have scored at least 35 points in all 10 of their games this season. If they can keep that up throughout the entire season, they would join some elite company.

Among teams to play at least 10 games in a season, only Nebraska scored 35 points in all of its games, doing so in 1995. That Cornhuskers team won the national championship.

2. Michigan State is the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS Standings this week at 15th. That's the worst ranking for the highest Big Ten team in the standings since Dec. 3, 2000 when Michigan was 16th.

In fact, since then there have been 85 releases of the BCS Standings and the Big Ten has had a team in the top 10 in all but six of them.

3. Oklahoma visits Baylor this week in search of remaining perfect all-time against the Bears. OU has won all 20 meetings between the schools, outscoring Baylor 749-271.

Of all the other BCS-AQ schools, there are only two other instances where a team has a perfect record against a current conference foe (minimum 10 games).
Penn State is 15-0 all-time against Indiana and Florida State is 15-0 against Duke. Both teams extended those streaks already this season.

4. Iowa State hosts second-ranked Oklahoma State on Friday on ESPN. ISU is 0-18 all-time against teams ranked in the top two of the AP Poll.

This is the first time the Cyclones will meet a top two team that isn’t named Oklahoma or Nebraska. Of those 18 losses, 11 have come against Oklahoma and seven have been to Nebraska. The average margin of defeat in those games has been 35.7 PPG.

5. Howard Schnellenberger's Florida Atlantic squad is the only winless team in FBS entering this week's matchup at Troy (0-9).

If the Owls can't get a win in any of their remaining three games, Schnellenberger will become the fourth head coach in the poll era (since 1936) to win a national championship and have a winless season.

The others?

Jim Tatum, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz .

Tatum won a championship with Maryland in 1953, but was winless with North Carolina in 1956.

Parseghian was winless with Northwestern in 1957, but later won titles with Notre Dame in 1966 and 1973.

Holtz won a title with Notre Dame in 1988, but was winless 11 years later with South Carolina.

Watch a Devine RB tonight on ESPN

September, 10, 2010
Here's some quick notes to preview tonight's college football action on ESPN:

23 West Virginia at Marshall, 7 ET on ESPN
• This rivalry is called the Friends of Coal Bowl. The West Virginia Mountaineers and Marshall Thundering Herd play for the Friends of Coal Bowl Trophy.

• WVU is 9-0 all-time vs their in-state rival, winning by 11+ in each of their last eight meetings.

• Marshall coach Doc Holliday is in his first year. He was a former Mountaineers' assistant coach.

Noel Devine, who ranks fifth in WVU history in rushing yards, is the nation’s active career rushing leader (3,492 yards).

• Marshall has lost nine straight games vs ranked opponents.

• Under Bill Stewart, West Virginia is 14-1 at home, but just 4-6 on the road.

UTEP at Houston, 10:15 ET on ESPN
• Last year’s meeting between the UTEP Miners and Houston Cougars featured a total of 99 points (UTEP won 58-41). Case Keenum threw for 536 yards and five TD.

• Houston has won a school-record 16 straight home games and is the C-USA West preseason favorite.

• Cougars' coach Kevin Sumlin’s first coaching gig was as a graduate assistant at Washington State. The head coach at the time? Mike Price, who is now the UTEP coach.