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ElViento: Sometimes, numbers can’t explain just how good a player is. Sometimes, they can. Along those lines, wrap your minds around this:

Barring major injury (*knock on wood*) Case Keenum will graduate after next season as the holder of every significant NCAA Division 1-A career passing record:

(Mom, if you are reading, and you don’t want to see me re-hash a bunch of football stats, you should skip down to the paragraph that begins with “Which brings me to the philosophical question…” You might like that part more.)

Keenum sits at 12,950 career passing yards
Current career record-holder: Timmy Chang (Hawaii) – 17,072
Keenum needs: 4,123 yards
Keenum average last two seasons: 5,346 yards
Keenum reached 4,123 yards in the tenth game of last season.

Keenum sits at 1,076 career completions
Current career record-holder: Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) – 1,403
Keenum needs: 328 completions
Keenum average last two seasons: 445 completions
Keenum reached 328 completions in the tenth game last season.

Keenum sits at 102 career TD passes
Current career record-holder: Harrell – 134
Keenum needs: 33 TD passes
Keenum average last two seasons: 44 TD passes
Keenum reached 33 TD passes in the eleventh game last season.

To put it another way, if Keenum simply matches his average from the last two years (which would mean a dip from last season’s numbers), he would end up with a career line of 1,521 completions for 18,296 yards and 146 TD, where the current records stand at 1,403 – 17,072 – 134.

Now with a schedule that’s not any tougher than last year’s, the offense returning nearly entirely intact, and another year of Keenum getting in synch with guys like James Cleveland*, isn’t the logical thing to assume that Keenum should be even better next year?

*Don’t forget, Keenum was clearly not on the same page as Cleveland for the first three games of last year, and JC missed two games late in the season with injury…and the Baytown native still finished the year with a team-leading 1,214 yards. What kind of numbers can the duo pile up this year?

So how much does Keenum need to improve to hit some the major, single-season records? To look at that, we will assume that Keenum will appear in 14 games again this year:

Keenum’s 5,671 passing yards were 162 yards short of the all-time record held by UH’s own David Klingler. To pass up Klingler, Keenum will have to improve by 11.6 yards per game.

Keenum’s 492 completions were 20 short of Harrell’s all-time single-season mark. To top Harrell, Keenum will have to improve by 1.5 completions per game.

Keenum has thrown 44 TD passes two years in a row. This will be the most difficult record to surpass, especially if Phillips likes calling running plays in the red zone as much as Holgorsen did. For what it’s worth, Colt Brennan of Hawaii holds the all-time single-season record with 58 TD passes.

Now, if forced to play devil’s advocate, I can come up with two reasons to temper my enthusiasm in regards to Keenum’s potential for mind-bending statistical dominance:

-With QB coach/offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen gone, will the transition to the Jason Phillips era be a smooth one? I believe it will be, but it is a consideration.

-If the Houston defense improves with a lot of talent returning, and a new defensive coordinator in Brian Stewart…will the Cougars be blowing too many teams out? Will Keenum be sitting in the third and/or fourth quarter of half of Houston’s games this year? And isn’t it wacky that this could be a serious factor?

In terms of winning actual games, the talent level of the 2010 Cougar football team is undeniable. The biggest question will be, how well does this team stand up to the pressure? After wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State last year, Cougar fans will expect more of the same against Tech, MSU and UCLA. Only Southern Miss returns a comprable level of talent in Conference USA, so the Cougars will have a huge target on their backs as the conference favorites.

Keenum will have an even larger target on his back, as a likely first- or second-team all-American. Not to mention the entirely possible scenario that Keenum could graduate with the dubious distinction of holding all major career passing records, and zero conference championships, competing in a non-major conference.

How will Keenum and the Cougars handle the pressure of expectations?

Which brings me to the philosophical question alluded to in the title of this post. In this space, I have previously mentioned that it is “never easy being a Cougar”. Lord knows that this season (and most of the past 20-some) have tried the patience of Cougar basketball fans.

The second part of my platitude is that “if you want easy, go buy a burnt orange T-shirt like everybody else.” But is that really true? Sure, if you don’t want to see your teams lose very often, and like feeling the smug sense of superiority that goes along with looking down on people who actually attended other schools instead of having the good sense to buy the right colored T-shirt like you did…then being a Longhorn fan is probably for you.

But would you trade all of the history and expectations if you could? I’m not sure I would. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see UH win every game, at every sport. But, as Jason Lee‘s character from Vanilla Sky would ask, is the sweet as sweet if you’ve never tasted the bitter?

Put it this way, try and think back to the last time you saw a UT-Austin fan enjoy a win as thoroughly as the Houston baseball fan base enjoyed its victory over the ‘Horns on Saturday. When wins are always expected, is any single win as meaningful? There is meeting expectations, and there is disappointment. There is nothing else.

Food for thought. And yes, this was largely an excuse to show this video again:

(Video still courtesy of S&H’s own jtdees)

P.S. More fun with stats:

-Keenum needs to throw 47 TD passes this year (up from 44 the previous two seasons) to surpass the all-time NCAA record for career TD passes at any level.

-If Keenum throws a TD pass in his first six games next year, he will break Ty Detmer‘s (BYU) all-time 1-A record for consecutive games with a TD pass. Doing so in the first 12 games would break the any-level record.

-Keenum can break Harrell’s record of consecutive 200+ yard passing games with 12 straight to begin the season.

-Keenum needs eight 400+ yard passing games to tie the all-time record for career games reaching that plateau (20).  Keenum recorded seven such games in ’09.

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ElViento: Although the Cougar baseball team’s record still stands below .500 on the season (4-5), you can pretty safely say that the season-opening sweep at the hands of Texas State, and the team’s pitching woes are distant memories.

All year, the Houston staff has shown the ability to miss bats. Through nine games, the Cougars have been outhit just once. But until the first two games of the Houston College Classic, we didn’t know just how good this staff could be if it finally started attacking the strike zone, and stopped giving up so damn many free baserunners.

Now we know.

On Friday, the Cougars brought Chase Dempsay out of the bullpen for a start, and he responded with a strong outing. Dempsay, William Kankel and Matt Creel combined on a shutout, as the Cougars scored a 3-0 victory over a Missouri Tiger team that was 4-2 heading into the contest.

On Saturday, Houston got a rare chance to face UT-Austin in any sport, and the team was up to the challenge. Before the game, I remarked that starter Michael Goodnight‘s 6.85 ERA was too high for his relatively impressive peripheral numbers (9 hits in 9.2 innings, 11-4 K-BB ratio). His ERA will come down eventually, I reasoned. Even optimistically, I didn’t expect it to come down this quick.

Goodnight was flat-out dominant. He didn’t let a couple of mystery balk calls get to him, and threw the game of his career thus far: 7 scoreless IP, 2 H, 9 K. Even if one were so inclined as to nitpick and point to his four walks, I would counter that at least three of them came on extremely questionable calls. That ERA? All the way down to 3.78.

Goodnight left after the seventh with a 1-0 lead, which came two pitches into the bottom of the first for the Coogs. Blake Kelso (who notoriously rarely swings at first pitches) cranked the first pitch of the game for a triple to center. The next pitch from Brandon Workman (brother of Cougar women’s hoopster Megan Workman) went to the backstop, and Kelso scampered home. That would be all the offense Houston would need.

The bullpen picked up right where Goodnight left off.  Ty Stuckey came in for the eighth, and struck out the first two Longhorns he faced. A two-out walk was nullified when Stuckey picked the runner off. Matt Creel came on, looking for his second save in as many games. After giving up a single and a walk to his first two hitters, Creel struck out the next two, and with two outs, pinch hitter Paul Montalbano lined out to Kelso, who made a nice, leaping grab at shortstop. And the celebration was on:

Next up for the Cougars is Texas Tech on Sunday at 2:30. The Cougars have already earned their first winning record at the Houston College Classic since 2002, and have a chance for their first ever weekend sweep of the annual showcase, which is in its tenth season.

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Both Houston Cougar basketball teams are preparing for the Conference USA tournament, and they could not possibly be headed in more opposite directions.

The Lady Coogs have won their last three games by a combined 65 points, including a 12-point victory over first-place Tulane. Houston has the #2 seed in the women’s bracket, and will play at 8:30 PM on Tuesday against the winner of Monday night’s contest between Rice and UTEP.

The men’s team had a chance to build some momentum after a dominating win over Memphis, and fell flat on its face instead, losing to SMU, barely edging last-place Rice, and losing to second-to-last place Tulane. The Coogs are the 7-seed, and face 10-seed ECU on Tuesday at noon. Should they win, they would get another shot at Memphis, on Wednesday at noon.

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The Cougar softball team’s three-run seventh inning rally wasn’t enough on Wednesday, as they lost 6-4 to #19 Texas A&M. The ladies have a home double-header against the Southern Jaguars this Wednesday, starting at 5:00. It’s the team’s annual Striking Out Breast Cancer game(s), so come support the team, and breast cancer research.

Plus, the shirts they’re giving out are going to be hilarious. Trust me.

That’s all for me for now. Hope to see you at Minute Maid tomorrow! Go Coogs!

(Video courtesy of Scott & Holman‘s own jtdees.)

(Just for fun, if you’re looking for your favorite S&H personality, ElViento is in the first row, with the red shirt and blue/white hat. Bobb-o is in the jeans and red jacket, no hat, and comes over and leads the “Whose house?” at the end. jtdees, is, quite obviously, behind the camera.)

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ElViento: You can look at all the numbers you want, but when previewing a game, sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. Here’s what my gut is telling me about Saturday’s game:

Talent-wise, and coaching-wise, I think the two teams are pretty closely matched. There are obviously differences between the teams – Houston has a better run game, Tech has some more talent on defense. But ultimately, I see this game coming down to the intangibles.

How will Houston handle its newfound success? They played great as the underdogs against Oklahoma State, but now they are the ranked team. They have the target on their backs. They are the favorites, albeit only by a point or two. Can Houston handle the success?

Texas Tech is coming off a hard-fought 10-point loss in Austin. Will there be a letdown? Sure, it’s not a program-defining victory, like Oklahoma State over Georgia, but it’s not an anger-inspiring buttkicking, either. How does Tech play coming off of that game?

Speaking of which, Houston is coming off a program-defining victory. Yes, they had a week off to get their minds straight, but one can’t help but wonder if there will be a letdown from the biggest Cougar victory since before I was born. (Yes, I will define everything by myself.)

Now, we can’t know the answers to these questions until kickoff on Saturday. But what’s the point of writing a blog if not to speculate? Here’s my speculation, what my gut tells me.

I think no matter how much Texas Tech talks up Houston, this game cannot possibly mean as much to them as it does to us. Looking at the lines to get student guest tickets for the game (and yes, the players noticed), it is obvious that this is Houston’s Super Bowl, even more so than the Oklahoma State game was. Yes, the Cowboys came into that game ranked #5. But this is an elite Texas team. This is at home.

A loss on Saturday means people will see Oklahoma State as a fluke. The top 25 ranking will be gone.

A win paves the way for bigger and better. For an (shh, don’t say the words) undefeated season. It proves that the Cougars are for real. Maybe some of those new fans who will come out for their first game of the year on Saturday will come back. Maybe the city of Houston gets behind a winner, and starts selling out home games with regularity.

Playing a team like Southern Miss at home this week would scare me more than Texas Tech. Not to say that the Golden Eagles are a better team than the Red Raiders, but it would be very hard to take them seriously after the OSU win. Tech is a team that Houston is 100% focused on. Oklahoma State is a distant memory.

A friend of mine encountered a Cougar football player on campus this week. He simply told him, “Beat the hell outta Tech.”

The player’s response? “We intend to.”

It’s not cocky. It’s confident.

Houston was confident heading into OSU when nobody else in the country was. They outplayed the Cowboys, and they won.

In my gut, I expect the same on Saturday.

(The player from the above anecdote? I won’t say who, but his name rhymes with Base Bleenum.)

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ElViento: Welcome to week two of Scott & Holman College Football Pickin’ & Grinnin’. This will be a weekly feature, which will consist of a four-way contest between your three S&H writers, and a group of guests. A new guest will be selected to go up against the writers every week. The guests, as well as each writer will have their picks tracked, and a champ will be crowned at season’s end. (Editor’s note: This does not imply an actual crown of any kind. It’s just an expression. Nobody’s going to actually win anything.)

Each week will feature 15 picks: one from each of the eleven NCAA Division 1-A conferences, one from the Houston Cougars’ game, and three of my own choosing. The picks themselves could be anything.

The Rules: ElViento will pretty much make the questions up off the top of his head with minimal research, and will force all contestants to answer the questions on the spot, again, with little research. Any interesting/funny reasoning behind any of the picks will be noted.

The Standings so far:

  • SarCoog: 12/15
  • ElViento: 9/15
  • Guests: 8/15
  • Bobb-o: 5/15

Please welcome week two guest picker JewMike, aka awesome foam hat guy.

foam hat

Onto the picks…

Cougars: Allow Oklahoma State to rush for over/under 6 yards per carry?

  • Over: ElViento, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Under: Bobb-o

ACC: Straight up: Duke @ Army

  • Duke: ElViento, Bobb-o, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Army: None
  • Duke lost their 1-AA opener. Army beat their 1-AA Eastern Michigan.

Big XII: Straight Up: Iowa @ Iowa State

  • Iowa: Bobb-o, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Iowa State: ElViento
  • “I may be sacrificing myself on this one, but I’m not picking against my dad’s alma mater.” –ElViento

Big East: Pick the spread: East Carolina (+6.5) @ West Virginia

  • East Carolina: Bobb-o, SarCoog
  • West Virginia: ElViento, JewMike

Big Ten: Straight Up: Notre Dame @ Michigan

  • Notre Dame: ElViento, Bobb-o, JewMike
  • Michigan: SarCoog
  • “Can I cheer for injuries?” -ElViento

C-USA: Who keeps the game closer: Tulane vs. BYU, or Marshall at Virginia Tech?

  • Tulane: ElViento, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Marshall: Bobb-o
  • “Tulane just because it’s a home game, and BYU has offensive issues.” -SarCoog

MAC: Over/Under 1.5 conference wins vs. 1-A opponents on Saturday?

  • Over: Bobb-o, JewMike
  • Under: ElViento, SarCoog

MWC: Straight Up: Air Force @ Minnesota

  • Air Force: ElViento, Bobb-o, SarCoog
  • Minnesota: JewMike

Pac-10: Straight Up: USC @ Ohio State

  • USC: SarCoog
  • Ohio State: ElViento, Bobb-o, JewMike
  • “Mr. Vest has to win one for the ‘shoe.” –JewMike

SEC: Do any SEC teams lose at home on Saturday?

  • Yes: ElViento, SarCoog
  • No: Bobb-o, JewMike
  • “I have no idea who will lose, but I feel one upset coming on.” -ElViento

Sun Belt: Riley Dodge (North Texas) over/under 300 yards of total offense against Ohio?

  • Over: Bobb-o, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Under: ElViento

WAC: Can the WAC beat a Washington team on Saturday (Idaho @ Washington, Hawaii @ Washington State)?

  • Yes: Bobb-o
  • No: ElViento, JewMike, SarCoog

Lucky Thirteen AKA The Bobb-o Special: Will Dez Bryant have over/under 150 yards receiving on Saturday?

  • Over: Bobb-o, JewMike, SarCoog
  • Under: ElViento
  • “Apparently I’m the only person with faith in the UH secondary.” –ElViento.
  • “It’s lonely, isn’t it?” –SarCoog

The “What level of football is that?” question: It’s Orange County, California high school football! It’s Brea Olinda @ ElViento’s alma mater, Troy High School!

  • Brea Olinda: JewMike
  • Troy: ElViento, Bobb-o, SarCoog
  • Starting UCLA halfback Derrick Coleman is a Troy alumnus.

The “Really, you’re going to end on that?” question, AKA the non-football question: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United on Saturday. Who ya got?

  • Spurs/tie: ElViento, Bobb-o, SarCoog
  • Man U: JewMike
  • “Going out on a limb for the spurs, praying for a tie.” –ElViento

Think you can do better than JewMike? Click on the “Contact Us” tab at the top of the blog, and shoot us an e-mail telling us why you should be the next guest picker.

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ElViento: Friday, September 4th means…tomorrow is Cougar Football!!!!

What else is there to say? It’s all been said. So just sit back, watch this video, and get pumped, people.

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ElViento: Wednesday, September 2nd means three days to Cougar football. Today, we take a look at #3, Justin Johnson.

Johnson was a Rivals.com three-star recruit coming out of Berkner High up near Dallas. He was a running quarterback in high school, and led his team to a state final four. He was also a standout basketball player.

Despite being recruited by some BCS-conference schools, Johnson chose to come to UH. Moved to running back for his physicality, Johnson has seen a number of running backs move around in front of him on the depth chart. He now finds himself Bryce Beall’s co-backup, along with Charles Sims. Both Sims and Beall are younger than Johnson, making it unlikely he’ll get to start in the near future.

Much like I have said about Andre Kohn in the recent past, you have to admire that a kid who was such a “big deal” in high school would be willing to come to a Conference USA school and be willing to just help out any way he can, instead of pouting about not getting the starting job. The coaches even reportedly gave Johnson a look at tight end this off-season.

When it comes to kids having the right attitude about being a Cougar, I can’t help but think about Blake Joseph. After losing the starting QB job to Case Keenum twice, Joseph willingly moved to wide receiver in 2008, in order to help out the team. After graduating from UH, Joseph had a year of eligibility left, and chose to enter graduate school at Sam Houston State, in the hopes of getting to start for a year. If the football karma gods are paying any attention, he’ll get the shot.

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ElViento: Obviously, I’ve been bogged down with work and personal crap, but I’m back on the countdown. Let’s get caught up as quickly as possible.

Monday, August 24th meant 12 days to Cougar football. Last year, junior punter Chase Turner dropped 12 punts inside the opposing team’s 20. That’s not a huge number, but consider that Turner didn’t even have enough punts to qualify for any punt yardage lists. Darn the Coogs and their effective offense. Had Turner qualified, he would have been fourth in the nation in punt average.

Turner has been something of a novelty since his sophomore season in ’07. Then-Chron beat writer Michael Murphy started “Hangtime’s” legend by raving about the punts the kid could pull off in practice. But when the bright lights turned on, Turner shanked ‘em. Every once in a while, the Cougar faithful would be treated to a boomer, but it was obvious throughout the year that Turner didn’t have it all figured out upstairs.

Enter a new coaching staff, one that thought it might actually be beneficial to hire a special teams coordinator. Entire Tony Levine, a guy with a bunch of special teams coaching experience at the collegiate and professional ranks. While the coffin corner kick is still, admittedly, the weakness in Turner’s game, his accuracy with dropping punts inside the 20 went up from 13% in 2007 (6 of 45) to 29% in ’08. The punt average increased from 42.7 to 45.5, as well.

And let me just say that a very underrated football moment is when your punter just absolutely booms one, and you get to watch the opposing team’s return man’s body language as he suddenly realizes that the punt is way over his head, and he has to turn and sprint to try and get to the ball.

If Turner can have some more of those, and continue to improve his accuracy with putting opposing teams deep inside their own territory, he’s a guy who could end up playing on Sundays. Not bad for a recently-converted soccer player.

Tuesday, August 25th meant 11 days until Cougar football. While I absolutely love following the Cougars, my secondary love is all other teams on all levels of football. Every fall, I take in as much high school, college and professional football as I can, because I absolutely love watching teams go 11-on-11.

While sports like baseball and basketball have been popularized first in America before taking off across the globe, football is one sport that has remained distinctly American. And while I love the international flavor of basketball, there’s something very rewarding about, say, watching an NFL draft and not worrying about how some skinny European kid will transition to the American game. For that matter, I like that there will never be a controversy about letting high schoolers enter the NFL draft. First you have to dominate at the high school level, then you must prove your chops at the college level before you have a chance to start over proving yourself on Sundays. So while people complain about the Michael Crabtrees of the world holding out before they’ve played an NFL down, I find that sort of thing infinitely preferable to one-and-done college basketball prima donnas.

Writing the college football previews for Scott & Holman has only increased the number of teams I have some knowledge of, and given me even more secondary rooting interests to the Cougars. It’s going to be a very fun year to be a college football fan.

Wednesday, August 26th meant 10 days to Cougar football. Today, I’d like to suggest that the Houston Cougars’ offense actually underachieved in 2008, and if they can fix some miscues, there’s no reason that the Cougars can’t lead college football in nearly every meaningful offensive statistic.

Everybody knows that the Cougars had the #2 offense in terms of total yardage last year, but did you know that they were only #10 in terms of scoring? Some red zone turnovers haunted the team at times, as it was occasionally apparent that, for all the gaudy numbers the team put up, they didn’t always “get” Kevin Sumlin and Dana Holgorsen’s offensive systems.

All accounts are that the players have a better grasp of the offense, nearly every significant offensive player returns (exceptions include Andre Kohn, Mark Hafner and Sebastian Vollmer), and there are talented newcomers who will contribute, such as JC-transfer wide receiver James Cleveland and true freshman running back Charles Sims.

Even with a tougher non-conference schedule this year, teams like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech aren’t expected to have shutdown defenses. The Cougar offense will put up numbers in those games, as well as against ho-hum Conference USA defensive groups.

Number one in yards and points this year for Houston? It’s definitely within the realm of possibility.

Thursday, August 27th meant 9 days to Cougar football. So why not take a look at John Skladany, now on his 9th football coaching job?

The Cougar defensive coordinator started his coaching duties way back in 1978 at Utica High in Ohio. He soon took a job at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, before taking his first division 1 job at Maine in 1981. When he got his first DC job at Iowa State in 1996 under Dan McCarney, his consistently strong defenses helped kick off one of the strongest periods of football in that school’s history. He helped direct the Cyclones to five bowl games in ten years, before McCarney was canned, and new coach Gene Chizik stupidly decided to let Skladany go.

Skladany had a one-year stop at C-USA rival Central Florida in 2007, where all he accomplished was leading the team to a conference championship, when his defense stonewalled the high-flying Tulsa offensive attack in the championship game, a 44-25 UCF victory.

And so Skladany ended up at Houston. While his defense was inconsistent in year one, it had some very impressive showings, like holding Tulsa to 30 points in the Cougars’ epic stomp of the Golden Hurricane. While Skladany – who also coaches the safeties – has a very inexperienced defense to work with, his track record suggests that he knows what he’s doing. He may be the biggest reason for optimism on the Cougar defense this year. Well, aside from guys like Marcus McGraw, Matt Nicholson and C.J. Cavness.

Finally, Friday, August 28th means (it’s so good to use the present tense) 8 days until Cougar football. In 2008, the Cougar special teams managed just 8 yards per punt return. (Actually 7.8)

That’s a surprisingly mediocre number for a Cougar kick return corps that is loaded with talent and track star speed.

While the Cougar offense can’t possibly get a whole lot better, the kick/punt return game could be poised for a breakout season. Special teams always seem to turn the tide in at least one game every year. I’d love it if Houston pulled out a narrow win over the likes of Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, and had a punt return TD from Tyron Carrier to thank. Why not?

That’s all for me for now. Thank God I’m caught up. I promise, you will never see a blogger work as hard as I will for the rest of this countdown to get my articles up on time. You will never see…okay, sorry, my inner Tim Tebow was coming out on that one. Let’s just end this with a GO COOGS!

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