Tuesday, February 15, 2011

University of Houston announces 2011 football schedule

The University of Houston has released its 2011 football schedule, as follows:

Sep. 03: UCLA
Sep. 10: at North Texas
Sep. 17: at Louisiana Tech
Sep. 24: Georgia State
Oct. 01: at Texas - El Paso (UPDATE: now Thursday 9/29)
Oct. 08: East Carolina
Oct. 15: off
Oct. 22: Marshall
Oct. 29: Rice (UPDATE: now Thursday 10/27)
Nov. 05: at Alabama-Birmingham
Nov. 12: at Tulane (UPDATE: now Thursday 11/10)
Nov. 19: SMU
Nov. 26: at Tulsa

As of right now, these are all Saturday games. It remains to be seen if the networks make any changes to it (e.g. moving some games to weeknights) as the season gets closer. After the schedule came out, three games were moved from Saturday to Thursday and the schedule has been updated accordingly.

At first glance, I think it's a good schedule. Yes, it is a bit weak on the out-of-conference side, with UCLA being the only "marquee" matchup, but since the Cougars are coming off a 5-7 season and with a defense that is still one of the nation's worst until it proves itself otherwise, this might not be a bad thing. The conference schedule is also set up nicely, although road dates against C-USA Western Division opponents UTEP (we all know what happened last time the Cougars went to El Paso) and Tulsa are not going to be gimmes. November isn't going to be particularly easy as well, with three games on the road.

Ryan Monceaux points out things he likes in the schedule: no three-game roadtrips this season, a bye week right in the middle of the season, and a three-game homestand in October. He worries that Tulane might be a "trap" game, coming right before what will be a crucial late-season matchup against divisional rival SMU, but generally thinks that this is the schedule that the Cougars need as they try to rebound from last year's disappointment:
In total, this is a schedule where you could make a run. There are no obvious holes and there are no season-killing teams on this schedule. Coach Sumlin has to like his chances in this schedule a lot more than the first three he was dealt.

I mostly agree with Ryan, although I think the North Texas game has "trap" written on it as well. No, the Mean Green have not been particularly good lately, but that doesn't mean they should be considered an automatic win. New head coach Dan McCarney took an Iowa State team that was absymsal thoughout the 80s and early 90s to five bowl appreances while he was there, so he knows how to turn bad programs into decent ones. More importantly, Houston's game in Denton is North Texas' first at their new stadium. The Mean Green will be amped up to play the Cougars in their brand-new home. The Cougars, meanwhile, will be coming off an emotional "revenge" game over their highest-profile opponent, UCLA, and depending on what happens in that game might have trouble "getting up" for North Texas.

That being said, if the goal for the Cougars this season is to put last season behind them and compete for a conference championship this season, this is a favorable schedule for them. I plan to be at all the home games and also make road trips to Denton and New Orleans. I can hardly wait!

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