Best case, worst case of 2023: Houston Cougars

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Spring football is ongoing across the state of Texas now that spring break is over. The 13 FBS programs in the Lone Star State are allowed to participate in 15 on-field practice sessions, including 12 involving contact. Spring games are littered throughout April with most taking place on April 15 or April 22. Houston goes first when the Cougars play their spring game on April 7. 

The 2023 season is one of change. Sam Houston is moving up to Conference USA from the FCS ranks. Houston is now in the Big 12. UTSA, North Texas, and Rice are preparing for their first season in the American Athletic Conference. 

But what is the best and worst case that can happen for each team in 2023? Here’s where we stand on the Houston Cougars. 


2022 record: 8-5

2023 schedule
Sept. 2 UTSA W 
Sept. 9 at Rice W
Sept. 16 TCU L
Sept. 23 Sam Houston W
Sept. 30 at Texas Tech L
Oct. 7 IDLE
Oct. 12 West Virginia W
Oct. 21 Texas L
Oct. 28 at Kansas State L
Nov. 4 at Baylor L
Nov. 11 Cincinnati W
Nov. 18 Oklahoma State W
Nov. 25 at UCF W

Best case: Building expectations for the first year in a Power Five Conference is tricky. Expecting the Cougars to waltz into the Big 12 and compete for a conference title in year one feels misplaced. The goal for Houston is to prove it belongs, pull a couple of upsets, and start to build recruiting classes that make the Cougars competitive in 2024 and beyond. That won’t stop the Cougars from trying to compete with the big boys in 2023. Houston is 20-7 in the last two years under Dana Holgorsen after posting a 7-13 record over his first two seasons. 

Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith arrived in the spring to take over for the departing Clayton Tune. The Cougars also welcome back star running back Alton McCaskill. That duo, combined with an offensive line led by Patrick Paul, could make them one of the best rushing offenses in the league. Any improvements on defense would be welcomed after struggling on third down last season. An eight or nine-win season feels like the ceiling for Houston in 2023. A home game against UTSA in Week 1 feels important. 

Worst case: A scenario exists where Houston doesn’t even reach bow eligibility in 2023. The season starts with a home game against a talented UTSA squad that pushed the Cougars to three overtimes even with Tune and Tank Dell on campus. The Big 12 schedule starts in Week 3 with a home game against TCU. Houston travels to Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor, and UCF in 2023. The home schedule includes Cincinnati and Oklahoma State. The offense could take a major step backwards without Tune and Dell. If the defense doesn’t return to the 2021 form, a long season could be on tap in Third Ward. 


Texas Longhorns 
Texas A&M Aggies
TCU Horned Frogs
Baylor Bears 
Texas Tech Red Raiders

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