Houston coming off their bye week with a 2-3 record, is hosting No. 25 Cincinnati Saturday at TDECU stadium, the third-ranked opponent the Cougars will have faced this season.
After the unprecedented six games in 19 days schedule, Houston got some much-needed rest, coming off of a much-needed win, with their new starting quarterback Clayton Tune leading the way.
Here are five things to watch in this weekend's AAC matchup.
Will the running game lead the way?
In both wins for Houston this year they have rushed for over 200 yards as a team. Their top rushers all average all over 5.0 yards per carry, and the team averages 251.0 yards per game.
The running game is unquestionably the strength of the offense up until this point of the season. Patrick Carr is coming off of his best game in his college career rushing for 139 yards, most coming from his 68-yard touchdown run. Kyle Porter sat out last game but was a full participant in practice this week.
With sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune starting expect the experienced group of running backs to get their chance early and often. Tune was not much of a drop off from D'Eriq King when toting the ball. In Tune's first start this year he rushed for over 100 yards.
Houston should look to establish the run early, to control the time of possession, and use the threat of the run to take shots downfield passing.
Which team will win the turnover battle?
Houston 21 straight games with a forced turnover was the longest in the FBS leading back to last season. Their streak came to an end in their win against North Texas. Opposing coaches I'm sure are still preaching to protect the ball, and make smart decisions against Houston. Through fives games, the Cougars have forced four fumbles, plus caught two interceptions.
Last week in their upset win against Central Florida, Cincinnati forced four turnovers, three interceptions, and one fumble.
Winning the turnover margin often equates to a victory in football.
Can Houston stop the run?
The achilles heel for Houston's defense is stopping the run. In two of the three losses they have given up over 300 yards rushing.
Defensive line coach Brian Early spoke earlier this week about the improvement he has seen from the group and how they try to put them in favorable matchups to succeed, "great players win one on one's," said Early.
Cincinnati's leading rusher Michael Warren gained 133 rushing yards on 23 carries against Central Florida. Warren is averaging 79.0 yards per game, the team averages 187.6 yards per game.
Win all three phases of the game.
Special teams is often overlooked at its importance in football games. Houston is one of three teams that has had a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown in the same game this season.
Senior punter Dane Roy has had a 50 plus yard punt, plus a punt downed inside the 20-yard line this season.
James Smith has had 10 punts downed inside the 20-yard line for Cincinnati. Smith is averaging 42.3 yards per punt, with four punts going over 50 yards.
Dalton Witherspoon is kicking %70 on field goals this season, 2-4 on field goals 40 to 40 yards. For Cincinnati, Sam Crosa is %66.7 on field goals this year, 1 for 1 on field goals 40 to 49 yards.