Is This The Weekend UH And Rice Clinch Bowl Spots?

Categories: Sports

Hey kids, let's go bowling -- college football bowling, that is
The Texans season might just about be over, but there are still several reasons to care about football in Houston. That is if you don't mind switching your attention to Saturday afternoons. Because with the college football season at the halfway mark, the Houston Cougars (5-1) and Rice Owls (5-2) are on the cusp of earning bowl eligibility, and in this last non-playoff year of FBS college football, bowl eligibility is still what it's all about.

Both squads can get the magical sixth victory this weekend. The guarantee of bowl status will probably be easier for the Owls, but the higher rewards are within the grasp of the Cougars, if they can withstand the onslaught of tougher competition they're about to face. The Owls are in a good position to get to the Liberty Bowl, the top bowl for Conference USA schools, but the Cougars are aiming higher, higher as in a BCS bowl.

The Cougars were poised to make the trip to a BCS bowl two years ago, only to collapse and suffer a humiliating defeat in the C-USA championship game. The Cougars of that year would've been crashing the party, earning the invite over a BCS-conference school on the balance of an undefeated season and a high ranking. This time out, the team's looking to take advantage of the American Athletic Conference's automatic BCS status, (which it inherited from the implosion of the Big East) and earn the automatic bid by winning the conference.

First the Cougars must win the conference, and that might be easier said than done. UH has moved through the easy part of its schedule, deposing the lesser lights of college football despite, at times, struggling to find consistency and rhythm on offense. But except for the season finale against SMU, the Cougars schedule is done with easy teams.

The Cougars head to New Jersey this Saturday where they'll take on 4-2 Rutgers. Rutgers should offer up a bit of a defensive challenge, but UH has stopped itself more often than it has been stopped by opposing defenses -- 17 of the Coogs 37 scoring drives this season have been under 2:00 in length and the Coogs have scored in all 24 quarters this season. Rutgers doesn't offer up an offense that's of the caliber of last week's foe BYU, so the Cougars should get the win to move to 6-1 (3-0). But coming down the line are the more elite teams of the conference -- UCF, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

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Correction - the winner of the AAC (used to be Big East) automatically gets a BCS Bowl; this will not be the case starting 2014, but the automatic bid is still good for one final year.

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