Tom Herman exceeded all expectations in his first year at Houston, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a 38-24 win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.
The Cougars, ranked 15th in the preseason, will face their toughest opponent of the year this Saturday, when they play No. 3 Oklahoma at NRG Stadium in Houston. If Herman has any hope of leading his team to the College Football Playoff, it must beat the Sooners, which certainly won’t be easy.
In fact, the Sooners are 11.5-point favorites.
“I think OU will be ready,” Bleacher Report college football writer Matt Hayes said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They’re going to be ready for this game. This isn’t going to be a situation where it’s Houston and they’re crawling up on a Florida State team that really doesn’t care about the bowl game they’re playing in, that loses their quarterback in the first quarter. This is not going to be that situation. This is going to be a team that’s ready to play and ready for Houston. It’s not going to be like you’re playing an American Conference team, either. I think what Oklahoma has done under Baker Mayfield, not only on the field, but the way they ride behind that guy’s personality and they ride around who he is, it’s kind of changed who they are over the last year. I think that’s going to spill over into this season. You’re going to see a very similar Oklahoma team, especially Week 1. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, this is a chance for Houston to get that upset.’ No, not happening. Not happening.”
That game kicks off at 12 p.m. ET.
While Hayes expects Oklahoma to win comfortably, he’s a little less certain about No. 18 Georgia facing No. 22 North Carolina at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Georgia is a 2.5-point favorite, but the Tar Heels, who are coming off of an 11-3 season, can put up a ton of points, and the Bulldogs have some inexperience on offense, especially under center.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Kirby Smart, 40, navigates his first game as a head coach.
“I really like Kirby and I like what he’s done, (but) the reality is he doesn’t have a quarterback,” Hayes said. “He’s got a very talented true freshman quarterback (Jacob Eason) that reminds a lot of people of Matt Stafford, but Matt Stafford was a once in 20- or 30-year guy. That’s a lot to be comparing him to. Can that kid step in right away and play that first game? That’s going to be tough against a Gene Chizik defense. Chizik knows what he’s doing. He’s a very good X’s-and-O’s defensive coordinator. He will put that kid in some really tough positions. That’s why I wouldn’t doubt if Greyson Lambert starts and if Greyson Lambert plays the majority if snap in that game.
“That’s not a gimme for Georgia,” Hayes continued. “North Carolina is very good on offense. I think Mitch Trubisky is going to be a terrific quarterback for them. Like you said, I think it’s one of the most underrated and maybe the best game of the weekend actually.”
The Bulldogs and Tar Heels kick off at 5:30 p.m. ET.