Fresh and well-rested after a much-needed bye week, the UConn Huskies will play their final home game of the season this Saturday against Houston. The Cougars are ranked 13th in the AP Poll and also moved up five spots in the College Football Playoff rankings to No. 19.
The game will be televised on ESPNU at 3:30 pm.
For Houston, this game has all the makings of the dreaded "trap game." Tom Herman, who has been very frank about that situation with his team, and his players have battled through two very close games against two of the best teams in the American in Cincinnati and Memphis, and will have to play a third on short rest next Friday against Navy- who might be the best team in the conference.
It will also be cold, or at least colder than the Houston players are used to, at Rentschler Field, especially after the sun goes down around 4:30 pm. The cold can make tackles hurt just a bit more and make footballs harder and tougher to catch.
Houston may also be playing with its backup quarterback after starter Greg Ward Jr. went down with an ankle injury in the game against Memphis. Backup Kyle Postma played very well against Memphis, leading an unbelievable comeback victory, but in many ways stepping into a game like that can be easier than going into a week of preparation with the pressures of being the starter, especially with the opposing coaching staff having a week to prepare accordingly.
The prevailing belief is that Houston would, understandably, rather have a full healthy Ward for the Navy game and should err on the side of caution. UConn's defense will have its hands full regardless of who is under center on the other side. The Cougars have two dangerous receivers--both juniors--in Demarcus Ayers (74 rec., 896 yards, 5 TD) and Chance Allen (37 rec., 519 yards, 3 TD) in addition to running back Kenneth Farrow, who has over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, 12 touchdowns, and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
For UConn, the keys to the game are simple, and familiar. The offense needs to show up and cannot turn the ball over or allow any otherwise destructive plays. This overall sentiment has basically been the case for every single game, except the turnover part is especially significant against Houston. The Cougar defense is one of the best in the conference, if not the country, at forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback. If UConn gets into obvious passing situations too often, it will spell trouble.
As the final home game of the season, Saturday will also be Senior Night. Those 16 players, especially the redshirt seniors, have persevered through an extremely tumultuous era for UConn Football. As I mentioned in a story earlier in the season on Max Delorenzo, that particular group has seen four head coaches (if you count their recruitment, which I do), three different uniforms, two stadium names, and, perhaps most significantly, two different conferences.
So #FillTheRent if you can make it! Do it for all the games you would have gone to over the past five years but didn't because the team wasn't very interesting or entertaining to watch.
This Saturday, our Huskies, a team left for dead by conference realignment, are hosting the No. 13 team in the country with a chance to make a national statement. The opponent happens to be in our conference, a conference which has been mostly regarded as second-class by the college football world until very recently. I'd love to see this weekend prove those haters wrong in two ways- with a loud and packed Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field and a win or impressive performance by UConn against a really good team.