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Arizona vs. Houston preview: First look at the Cougars

The Cougars have one of the best defensive players in the country in DT Ed Oliver

Houston v Oklahoma
Ed Oliver
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will host the Houston Cougars on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. MST in Tucson for Week Two action.

After a dominating win against NAU, the Wildcats look to keep their momentum rolling in their non-conference schedule.

Here’s a quick look at what Houston will bring to the table:

A look at Houston

2016 Record – 9-4 (5-3 AAC)

Key Offensive PlayersKyle Allen (QB), Duke Catalon (RB), Linell Bonner (WR), Steven Dunbar (WR)

Key Defensive PlayersEd Oliver (DT), Matthew Adams (LB), Garrett Davis (S),

Houston was scheduled to start their season last week against UTSA but, due to Hurricane Harvey, the game was postponed which makes this Week Two matchup in Tucson their first of the season.

The Cougars are led by first year head coach Major Applewhite, who served as the team’s offensive coordinator over the last two seasons. Former Houston head coach Tom Herman left the program for the same position at Texas.

This is a program that caught a lot of national attention last season after they started the season 5-0 with an impressive week one win over No. 3 Oklahoma. They ultimately finished the regular season 9-3 but pulled off another top-five upset against Louisville along the way.

Houston’s 2017 squad will look different than last season’s as they lost multiple key players. Junior transfer Kyle Allen has been selected to replace dual-threat Greg Ward Jr. Allen played his high school ball in Scottsdale, Ariz. and spent his first two college seasons with Texas A&M.

He has two major weapons within the receivers group in Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar. These two combined for 151 receptions, 1,810 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. Bonner and Dunbar will provide the UA secondary with a real challenge in this contest.

In addition to the standout receivers, Houston also has two upperclassmen running backs in Duke Catalon and Dillon Birden. Catalon was the leading rusher last season and also hauled in 44 catches. Birden converted to running back from cornerback in 2016 and showed promise with his 62 carries for 289 yards and six touchdowns.

The most significant roster turnover for Houston occurred on defense. They lost All-Conference first teamers Steven Taylor (LB) and Howard Wilson (CB) as well as second teamers Tyus Bowser (LB) and Brandon Wilson (CB). However, they do return the Conference Rookie of the Year Ed Oliver (DT) and second teamer Garrett Davis (S).

Oliver was named a preseason All-American and called the “most unblockable defensive tackle in college football since Ndamukong Suh,” so UA’s o-line will surely have its hands full this week.

Oliver, a former five-star recruit, finished second nationally with 23 tackles for loss last season as a true freshman. He also led all defensive linemen in pass breakups (9).

As a whole, this matchup has the potential for a shootout and it will be a solid test for the Wildcats.

Here’s how the two teams match up statistically (using Houston’s 2016 stats):