Thank Goodness For UConn
In 2018, the Houston Cougars played every team from their 2017 schedule, meaning every game was a repeat from the season before. It was an oddity that had never happened in the 73-year history of the program. But there is significant turnover from the 2018 schedule to 2019. And not only is there turnover, but the schedule gets much harder.
UH replaces six FBS teams from 2018: Rice, Arizona, Texas Tech, ECU, USF, and Temple. The outgoing 6 teams combined for a 30-45 record (.400) last season. When you eliminate FCS games, their combined record was just 26-43 (.377). Two teams from the 2018 schedule lost to an FCS (ECU, Temple).
Lagniappe: In 2018, no team on UH’s 12-game schedule won more than 8 games while nine of the 12 had losing records. The Coogs had a four-game stretch mid-season against opponents that lost 9 games or more.
The teams added to the 2019 schedule include OU, Washington State, UNT, UCF, UConn, and Cincinnati. Those teams combined to go 56-22 (.718) last year and 51-22 vs. FBS (.699). This group had almost double the number of FBS wins as the teams they replace on the schedule.
Four of the 6 teams from the 2019 schedule won 11 games or more while five won 9 games or more. UConn, always the outlier, had just a single win over FCS win Rhode Island. In fact, UConn accounts for half of the ‘new teams’ losses from 2018; the Huskies went 1-11.
Without the outlier, the new teams averaged 11 wins apiece.
How bad was it? UH’s 2018 strength of schedule ranked 126th in the country according to Warren Nolan (out of 130 teams). Playing Army in the bowl made the schedule look much better than it actually was.
When accounting for just the regular season, UH’s 12 opponents combined for 57 wins (47 against FBS).
Perspective: 47 FBS wins from last year’s 12 opponents are less than the 6 teams being added won in 2019 (51 FBS wins).
The 12 regular season opponents from 2018 had 92 total losses. No school in the country faced a schedule with more losses on it than Houston. And still, an 8-4 regular season record.
Lagniappe: If you replace the outgoing teams with the incoming teams, UH’s 2018 schedule would have ranked 41st, an improvement of 85 spots.
Not only are the incoming teams better but their offenses were significantly better as well. Five of the six new teams (UConn still the outlier) were ranked in the top 30 in scoring offense and total offense. Only two of the outgoing teams ranked as high.
Go deeper: 3 of the incoming opponents were in the top 15 in rushing offense in 2018. None of the outgoing were even in the top 30. Given UH’s rank in rush defense (115th) and rush TDs given up (T-128th), this is something to watch with the new staff. Rush defense is, by far, the biggest area of improvement these Cougars need to make.
OU, Wazzu, and UCF all lose their quarterback from a year ago. But OU and UCF should still be in the 10+ win range and the other Cougars should still win 8+. While the incoming teams likely a step back from 2018 it won’t compare to the 2018 schedule.
I thought the 2019 schedule looked harder than the year before but after looking at the numbers, it’s worse than I had assumed. Even with massive improvements to the defense, the record might not reflect improvement (and will surely cause national writers to ignorantly mock UH decision makers for making a change). My expectations for 2019 are much lower even with a more competent staff in place.
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