Houston's road trip to Florida just got even tougher.
A week after blowing a lead to Memphis on national television and falling to then-No. 25 Memphis, the Cougars will travel to No. 17 USF on Saturday to face their second ranked team in nine days.
Last week against Memphis, the Cougars led 31-21 going into the fourth quarter before the Tigers put up three touchdowns — including a go-ahead touchdown pass from Riley Ferguson — to win the game 42-38.
This week, Houston will take on a USF team riding high under new head coach Charlie Strong. The Bulls are undefeated and ranked No. 17 in the latest AP poll.
Strong's tenure at the University of Texas was marked by its lofty highs — like knocking off a ranked Oklahoma team — and disappointing lows, like a shutout loss to a sub-.500 Iowa State team that was a key milestone in staging Strong's exit from Austin.
At USF, however, Strong's start has been just that — strong. The Bulls also have what many consider the best quarterback in the state of Florida in senior Quinton Flowers. Flowers has thrown for 1,245 yards and 19 total touchdowns with only three interceptions on the season.
Flowers is shaping up to be yet another huge test for a Houston defense that has struggled in the past two weeks. Memphis passed for 471 yards against the Cougars last week and Tulsa rushed for 288 yards the week before.
Houston’s offensive performance against Memphis was promising after a lackluster performance against Tulsa in particular Kyle Postma’s play at quarterback. He completed 72 percent of his passes and rushed for 48 yards on eight attempts. It was the type of play many Houston fans have been waiting for since Postma replaced Kyle Allen as the starter.
For a Cougars defense that has given up at least 40 points in the past two games, it will be important for them and the team as a whole to maintain second half effort as Houston has been outscored 126-65 in that span this season. It won’t be an easy task as USF has the third most productive offense in the AAC.
Meanwhile Houston’s offense which boasts two of the conference’s top six receivers in terms of total yards this season in Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner will have to keep up in what will likely end up a high-scoring affair. As with the Cougars defense, this is a tall ask as the Bulls have the 18th best total defense in the country.
A win for the Cougars will keep them in the talks to win the AAC West but a loss would make it hard for Houston to come out on top of the division.