The Houston Cougars are 5-0, riding high and scoring almost 40 points a game. But, like any team in college football the other Cougs outside of Utah have weaknesses, most of which haven't been exposed in part to a weak schedule and even weaker opposition.
Imagine BYU playing Weber State three out of the first five weeks and you have Houston's schedule in a nutshell. UH hasn't played anyone of note; the Houston Cougars first five opponents have had a combined record of 4-12.
In other words, BYU will be by far the toughest opponent Houston has faced this season, and with that responsibility comes lots of danger.
BYU will be not only the best offense Houston has played; it will also be the best defense.
That said, there are some things BYU must do to knock Houston from the unbeatens.
Prevent Houston from running
Houston's philosophy has been three yards and a cloud of dust -- which means nothing has changed since Kevin Sumlin left the Cougars' program for Texas A & M. The days of Case Keenum are still alive and well at times at UH; it's just that things are a tad more balanced now.
In addition to the Cougars throwing for over 1,100 yards they have also run for over 1,000. Nine different players have tucked the rock inside their armpit and taken off -- five to the end zone. Of those five, Ryan Jackson, a sophomore speedster has four touchdowns.
He has also run for 391 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. His best games were his last two, as a matter of fact, gaining 109 yards and one TD vs Temple and he had 120 yards vs. Southern last week.
Lest you think he's the only weapon, Kenneth Farrow has been coming on of late, having rushed for nearly 100 yards in his past two games -- coincidentally, the only two he's played. BYU will need to keep a close eye on these two.
Get to the quarterback
Houston freshman quarterback John O'Korn is not a world beater, a Johnny Football, by any stretch of the imagination -- but he does manage the game well. Having thrown just one interception all season it takes alot to get inside his head.
That's amazing for a player who has just played in five games for his college career -- but let's not give him too much praise just yet. The stiffest defense O'Korn has seen came from Temple -- and the Owls are not exactly a BCS contender. He struggled against them, throwing for just 233 yards and no touchdowns.
That said, it was the other Owls (Rice) who forced O'Korn to throw his only interception on the season. Rice also haggled O'Korn into a 15-for-31 game, which is important because when you look at the past three BYU opponents -- all three QB's were held to well under 50 percent passing efficiency. And all three were wins.
Avoid long field goal attempts
BYU looked like it was back when it came to kicking field goals after letter perfect outings at Virginia and versus Texas. Then Justin Sorensen hit a chip shot at Utah State -- and luckily the Cougars didn't need him to be too efficient in that game. Fair enough.
But then came last week against Georgia Tech, and you saw a glimpse of what BYU might have to deal with as tougher opposition comes down the pike. Sorensen nailed a 23-yarder, alright -- but he shanked the heck out of a 52-yarder, which means BYU had best get inside the red zone (or blue zone) for him to be effective.
Except for that 52-yard whiff, not one of Sorensen's kicks has been beyond 36 yards. That's right; that's nine made field goals inside of 36 yards. BYU fans are probably up nights thinking about this eventuality -- because I guarantee better teams will force BYU's hand here. It might start at cavernous Reliant Stadium this Saturday.
Make big plays
BYU's toughest portion of its schedule begins this Saturday in Texas. Often when the difference between good teams is minimal it comes down to which teams make the big plays. But, here's where the concern comes in -- if you're a BYU fan.
The Cougars haven't made big plays in the past two games. I know, BYU won both games by large margins. Yet in all of that glory, you didn't see one big play come from either kickoff return specialist Adam Hine -- nor from JD Falslev threatening to bring back a punt.
To be fair, neither the Utah State nor the Georgia Tech games had that sense of drama that made you think it was make-or-break. But, the one thing BYU has not done this season -- and the one thing it will be forced to do soon -- is make that big game-breaking play. Speaking of teams needing to make game breaking plays...
Stop opponents inside the red zone
Did you know that BYU has only denied one red zone opportunity this season? You already know about Taysom Hill going 0-for-September when it came to throwing for touchdowns -- but I'd bet you had no idea about the Cougars' inability to prevent teams from scoring once they reached the red zone.
Consider: Virginia, Texas, Utah and Utah State all scored every time they got inside BYU's 20 yard line, a combined 9-for-9. But, here's what you probably didn't know: in BYU's two losses, both Virginia and Utah each scored two touchdowns en route to victory.
So the key for BYU against Houston, a team that has scored an embarrassing amount of touchdowns and points this year? It's simple. Hold Houston to field goals inside the red zone.
BYU couldn't do that against Utah or Virginia -- and on paper Houston is arguably the best team they have faced, and vise versa. Something has to give here; both teams still have some weaknesses, and they're likely to be exposed Saturday.