As Houston prepares for a game that could quickly become a shootout of sorts with Texas Tech, the Cougars could have one more wide receiver good to go this weekend. D’Eriq King is expected to make his season debut for the Cougars this week after missing the past two games coming off an offseason knee injury.
Houston head coach Major Applewhite announced on the radio he feels his young wide receiver option is finally ready to get back at it, and it could come at no better time.
As a freshman in 2016, King caught 20 passes in 10 games for 228 yards and a touchdown. King was expected to be a contributor to the offense this season. Having a healthy receiver is going to be key against a Texas Tech offense that will not shy away from the pass.
WHO: Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
WHAT: The 25th Las Vegas Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
THE SKINNY: The Las Vegas Bowl may be the scene for one of the top bowl games in the month of December considering some of the talent to be put on display. Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State rides into their second Las Vegas Bowl on the strength of star running back Donnel Pumphrey, while Houston comes in with Major Applewhite making his head coaching debut with players like quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and All-American freshman defensive lineman Ed Oliver to count on.
Truth be told, the Las Vegas Bowl is a far cry from the New Year’s Six hopes both Houston and San Diego State had for much of the season. Houston padded their profile with a pair of victories over top five teams this season, Oklahoma and Louisville, but stumbled three times in the American Athletic Conference to fall out of contention for a second straight conference title and blocking their chance of a return to the New Years Six bowl lineup. For a program that started the season being discussed as a potential College Football Playoff contender, playing in the Las Vegas Bowl is clearly not where the Cougars wanted to be. San Diego State was in the mix for the New Year’s Six for a while as well until a blowout loss in the regular season finale all but knocked the Aztecs out of the running even if Western Michigan (who will play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl) had stumbled.
The Las Vegas Bowl will offer a contrast in offensive styles. San Diego State owns the nation’s seventh-most productive rushing offense with Pumphrey being one of just two players to rush for 2,000 yards this season (2,018 rushing yards; D’Onta Foreman of Texas being the other with 2,028 rushing yards). Pumphrey should end the season as the nation’s leading rusher as he trails Foreman by just 10 yards entering the Las Vegas Bowl. Houston will be more likely to take to the air with Ward Jr. having already passed for 3,328 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions this season. Although Tom Herman has left Houston for Texas, it should be expected new head coach Applewhite will continue the same offensive philosophies he used as offensive coordinator. Houston’s passing game will look to avoid making turnovers against a San Diego State defense that leads the nation with 22 interceptions.
This one should be good. You will want to make sure you are watching the final game played by Pumphrey and Ward Jr.
THE PREDICTION: Houston 32, San Diego State 29
Following the recent decision to hire Major Applewhite to be the head coach of the Houston Cougars, the University of Houston is going around town putting up dazzling new billboards to spread the news (and maybe sell some season ticket packages).
Houston shared an image of one of the billboards featuring Applewhite’s stern-looking look of determination via Twitter. Four billboards will be placed around the city for those traveling and around the city to see. Applewhite is being dubbed “The new leader of the H-Town Takeover,” and home games against the likes of Texas Tech, Navy and SMU are among those featured on the advertisements.
The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.
One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).
As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.
Tom Herman hasn’t fully invested himself into his role as the new head coach of the Houston Cougars, but he still found the time between his National Championship Game preparation as part of the Ohio State’s staff to hire another coordinator.
The school announced Thursday that former Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will serve as Herman’s offensive coordinator.
“Major has always been innovative on the football field with a focus on an explosive offense, both as a coach and player,” Herman said in a statement released by the school. “He is bright and has been on an elevated level in our profession beginning early in his career. Along with his offensive background, he is very well respected in the state of Texas which will provide benefits on the recruiting trail.”
Applewhite was out of football during the 2014 season after spending the previous six seasons as part of Mack Brown‘s staff. During his final three seasons in Austin, Applewhite served as the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator.
The paths of these two coaches previously crossed.
While Applewhite was a quarterback at the University of Texas, Herman just started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the program. Apparently, their mutual admiration didn’t diminish during the following 14 years.
Applewhite is already Herman’s sixth hire to his evolving coaching staff. The new coordinator joins previously named defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, co-defensive coordinator Craig Naiver, special teams coordinator Jason Washington, wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer and tight ends coach Corby Meekins.