Entering the season with dark-horse College Football Playoff hopes that hinge on going undefeated, No. 15 Houston kept its dreams alive with an emphatic 33–23 victory over No. 3 Oklahoma in Houston. Here are three thoughts on the Cougars’ win:
1. Houston is for real.
I know this is not exactly a thought that’s going to earn me a Ph.D in football, but beating then-No. 15 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl and No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday is an accomplishment. I don’t care if the Cougars are in the American Athletic Conference. I don’t care if their schedule is comparatively weak to Power 5 teams from here on out. They are a contender, and they deserve real consideration for a playoff spot come December if they pull off an unbeaten season.
2. Greg Ward Jr. is, too.
I have a hard time inferring much from a lot of Week 1 games; I watched Louisville score 70 points and Lamar Jackson throw for 286 yards on Thursday night against UNC-Charlotte, and I’m not ready to crown the Cardinals much of anything. However, I’m willing to use this game as justification for this being the Year of Greg Ward. He threw for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns (on a less-than-stellar 57.5% passing), and even if the accuracy wasn’t quite there, it’s hard to discount Ward as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
3. Baker Mayfield was great, which makes Houston’s performance even more impressive.
It’s easy to overlook that Baker Mayfield had a pretty good afternoon. He went 24 of 33 and was certainly more accurate than Ward. Mayfield’s fourth-quarter fumble was critical, but really, I have to give credit to the Cougars’ defense. There’s no debating that Oklahoma’s offense will be a force this year, so Houston and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando deserve serious credit for holding the Sooners to three touchdowns and limiting their top two running backs, Joe Mixon and the temporarily injured Samaje Perine, to a combined 78 yards. I know I’m a little high on the AAC after one game, but Houston’s last half-season, plus this game, makes this hype deserved.