THE AAC REPORT.

AAC preview: With a new coach at the helm, the Houston Cougars should be one of the top teams in the conference

On the heels of another season, The University of Houston is set to begin another year of College Football on Sunday, as the Cougars open their 2019 schedule against the No. 4 ranked team in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners. While some may overlook the significance of the non-conference match, Sunday's kickoff at The Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK will mark the beginning of a new era for Houston.

After a disappointing year that saw the team go 8-5, the Cougars made some significant changes to their program in 2019, but none more important than the hiring of Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen, 48, comes to the University of Houston after severing eight years as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, where he turned the football program into one of the most respected schools in the Big 12 Conference, with a 61-41 record.

And much like his time in West Virginia, one should expect Holgorsen to transform Houston's football program into one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference starting this season.

Players to watch

QB D'Eriq King

One of the factors that could make the Cougars a dangerous team this season is the talent Holgorsen has one his team, starting with senior quarterback, D'Eriq King. The 5'11 quarterback from Manvel, Texas had a breakout season in 2018 here he recorded 2982 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, on 345 attempts. It is also worth mentioning that Kings rushed for a career-high 674 yards on 111 carries.

Since signing with Houston in 2016, Kings has always displayed the talents as a top tear quarterback, but 2019 maybe his year to finally led the Cougars to an AAC championship title. He is one of 30 quarterbacks listed in the this year's Manning Award Watch List, as well as ranked 40th overall in ESPN's 2019 Top 50 College Players in 2019. If King can live up to the high preseason expectations, the Cougars can easily become one of the top football teams in all the nation.

WR Marquez Stevenson

After a slow start to his freshman season, Houston's wideout, Marquez Stevenson, had an explosive year in 2018. As a sophomore, Stevenson posted career-highs across the boards with 1019 receiving yards, 75 catches, and nine touchdowns. Last season, he was the only receiver to record over 1,000 yards, and as he heads into his junior season, one should expect Stevenson to solidify himself as one of the top wideouts in the American Athletic Conference.

RB Patrick Carr

Houston's running back, Patrick Carr, is heading into his final year as the starting running back for the Cougars, and one should expect another great season from the Woodlands native. Last year, Carr led all players in rushing with 868 and five touchdowns. With competition for the starting position in the backfield coming from Kyle Porter, a transfer from Texas, Carr will be on high alert not to lose his starting spot in his senior season.

LB Isaiah Chambers

Despite having one of the best defensive players in Ed Oliver, the Cougars had one of the worst defensive teams in all of college football last season. It was the worst statistical seasons in school history, recording 483 points allowed, giving up 6,454 total yards, and 42 rushing touchdowns. However, under coach Holgorsen, it is safe to say that Houston's defense will undergo a major improvement in 2019, and a huge factor in their turn around will be linebacker, Isaiah Chambers.

Chambers' 2018 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury, but now healthy, one should expect Chamber to have a major impact on Houston's defense. Prior to the injury, Chamber got off to a nice start with 4.5 sacks in the first five games.

CB Damarion Williams

Another player that will make a positive impact on Houston's defense is cornerback back, Damarion Williams. Although this is his first season playing D-1 football, Williams addition to the team may be one of the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason. As a member of the NJCAA All-America First Team at Highland Community College, Williams led the nation with seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Although he will be facing a higher level of competition in the AAC, Williams' talent will be enough to keep the Cougars from giving up another 6,454 in total yards.

Key Games

  • The University of Houston at Tulane, Thursday, September 19th.
  • SMU at The University of Houston, Thursday, October 24th.
  • Memphis at The University of Houston, Saturday, November 16th

Predictions

Behind the three-headed monster of King, Stevenson, and Carr, the Houston Cougars will have one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football this season. Unfortunately, Houston's play on the defensive side of the ball will remain their Achilles heel throughout 2019. If new head coach Dana Holgorsen can help the Cougars' defense become an above average defensive team, expect Houston to be a serious contender to take home the American Athletic Conference championship this year.

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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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