A look at Houston, which hosts USF on Saturday at TDECU Stadium
Record: 6-1 (3-0 AAC)
Wins: at Rice, 45-27; Arizona, 45-18; Texas Southern, 70-14; Tulsa, 41-26; at East Carolina, 42-20; at Navy, 49-36
Loss: at Texas Tech, 63-49
Coach: Major Applewhite (second season, 13-7)
S&P+ ranking: 27
The breakdown: In last season's game at USF, Cougars 5-foot-11 QB D'Eriq King was inserted in the first quarter after consecutive three-and-out possessions, and helped Houston rally for a wild 28-24 upset (see fourth-and-24). Since then, he's 8-3 as the Coogs starter, and has emerged as the key cog in offensive coordinator Kendal Briles' veer-and-shoot scheme, which ranks second nationally to Alabama (54.1 ppg) in scoring offense (48.7). He'll enter TDECU Stadium on Saturday as the nation's leader in points responsible for (27.7 per game) after throwing for three touchdowns and running for another at Navy. Though USF coach Charlie Strong likened King (323.4 total yards per game) to Bulls dual-threat icon Quinton Flowers, King probably throws a better ball (140-for-220, 1,983 yards, 23 TDs, three INTs). In fact, his pass-efficiency rating (171.1) is tops in the AAC. Those passing chops further stress defenses, who can't cheat against the run when Houston employs its iso run schemes. Look for the Coogs to run a hearty amount of RPOs that also showcase RB Patrick Carr (65 carries, 407 yards), WR Marquez Stevenson (40 receptions, 613 yards, six TDs) and WR Courtney Lark (28 receptions), who somehow snagged King's fourth-and-24 pass in the waning moments against USF last year. Defensively, DT Ed Oliver — 2017 Outland Trophy winner — is nursing a bone bruise and may be confined to a brace if he plays. With Oliver anchoring the middle in the Coogs 3-4 look, Houston is allowing 152.4 rushing yards a game (third-fewest in the AAC). The secondary hasn't been as stout; the Coogs have the worst pass defense in the league (336.6 ypg).
Odds & ends: Houston has scored at least 40 points in each of its seven games, the nation's longest active streak. … King is one of only three players in the past decade (Marcus Mariota and Geno Smith are the other two) to record at least 25 TDs and no more than three turnovers in his team's first six games. … ILB Darrion Owens, a Miami transfer and one of only two Floridians on the Houston roster, is expected back this week after missing six games with a knee injury.
Audible: "You look at last week (against UConn), we let the quarterback (David Pindell) get loose on us, and he was able to run for (197) yards, but you can't allow King to do that. If he gets outside, he's gonna run for 200 yards, but also he's gonna be able to throw the ball effectively." — Strong