By the numbers: the Coogs and Baylor

Grant Stuard looking into the backfield / Photo by Mario Puente

This is the third opener in 2020 that UH and Baylor have prepared for. The Cougars had gone deep into Rice film study before the Owls checked out in early August. Then the team turned to Memphis until that game was postponed on Saturday.

Even with a quick turnaround, the players and coaches are happy to be in game-week. To be back to normal.

The line – The Bears opened as 7.5-point favorites across the board. That seems pretty low for an 11-3 team at home over a 4-8 G5 visitor, right? Within hours it had been bet down to -6.5 and then down to 5. Now, the number has settled between -4 (Caesars) to -4.5 (virtually everywhere else), at least for now. Early gamblers see value in the Cougars here.

The over/under started at 60 and has been bet up to 63. In the first two weeks of the college football season, fully 67% of FBS vs. FBS games this season have failed to hit the over (14/21). Will either team really try to open it up in this one?

AAC Spotlight – UH at Baylor in Fox’s only game of the day. Tulane/Navy on ABC. UCF visits Georgia Tech in the afternoon ABC game. Tulsa is at Oklahoma State on ESPN. USF at Notre Dame. Never has the AAC had the eyeballs they will have this weekend.

The 11 a.m. window is basically the American Athletic Invitational. The league will be featured on ABC, Fox, and ESPN in the early window. Pretty heady stuff but it means little if the league can’t get at least two wins out of UH, UCF, Tulsa, and USF.

Navy/Tulane may be the most uninteresting (on paper) game ever put on ABC.

Memories – In his Monday press conference, Dave Aranda briefly jogged his memory from his days at Houston in 2003-2004.

“I remember the team. In particular, Wade Koehl was a great player for us,” Aranda said. “(Lance) Everson was a linebacker, so much talent, you just wanted to see him be healthy.

“Kevin Kolb, we had some great players offensively.”

Cougar Skills – Tuesday, GoCoogs did a film study on two UH offensive sets that Aranda noted. But the first year head coach discussed another: screen plays.

“Their screen game is one of the things that’s still there,” he said. “Their screen game is very effective. They do a great job of getting their linemen out in front and creating seams.

“Their skill is what jumps out at you first when you watch the tape. It’s a challenge. We’re in the process of deciding how to handle all that. Offensively, they stress you out.”

Jeremy Singleton / Photo by Mario Puente

Is Baylor that good? – BU returns 70% of their offensive production from last season. Most importantly for the Bears, they return their fourth-year starting QB as well as their top RB, #2 WR, and two starting OL (and 4 others with starting experience).

But while Baylor went 11-3, it’s a deceptive 11-3. They beat an awful Rice team by 8, Iowa State by two, Texas Tech in 2OT, WVU by 3, TCU in 3 OT. Five one-score wins (and two of their 3 losses were one-score as well). They got as much out of last season as possible.

Now with a new staff, can they do it again? Seems unlikely.

Old Wounds – Saturday will be the first time the Cougars have faced Larry Fedora since the 2011 C-USA title game. Fedora was the head coach at USM on that brutal December day when UH’s Sugar Bowl hopes were crushed. Fedora moved on to UNC and spent last year at Texas. Payback, anyone?

In that 2011 game, new BU running backs coach Justin Johnson caught 12 passes for 171 yards and 2 TDs against Fedora’s Golden Eagles. Juice spent last year as UH’s running backs coach.

Brian Stewart was UH’s defensive coordinator that year and is now on the Baylor staff as cornerbacks coach. Joe Wickline was Dana’s OL coach at Oklahoma State in 2010 and again at WVU for three years. There was chatter that Wickline would follow Holgorsen to Houston but Dana quickly moved to hire Brandon Jones.

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