Houston (5-1, 2-0 AAC) at Rutgers (4-2, 1-1 AAC)
Series History – First meeting
Houston travels to Piscataway, N.J. for its first meeting with new conference foe Rutgers. The Cougars have started strong in their first season in the American Athletic Conference, jumping out to a 2-0 conference start with wins against Temple and Memphis. Rutgers represents its toughest conference test to date as the Scarlet Knights’ only losses have come on the road against ranked opponents, Fresno State and Louisville. The winner of this week’s matchup will control its own destiny to winning at least a share of the American title, as each still has matchups remaining with the other two undefeated conference teams, USF and UCF.
Houston leads the American in scoring behind a balanced offensive attack that ranks third in the conference in both rushing yards (165.3 ypg) and passing yards (312.3). True freshman quarterback John O’Korn has spearheaded the offensive attack, completing 60.5% of his passes for 1,494 yards and 14 touchdowns in six games. The 14 touchdown passes rank tops among true freshmen quarterbacks and he ranks third in passing yards. Houston’s 40.8 points per game rank 16th nationally, although the Cougars’ two lowest-scoring outputs this season have come against the two conference opponents, Temple and Memphis. The second half of the schedule will provide more opportunity for Houston to prove itself against quality competition as it faces four teams, including Rutgers, with a record of 4-2 or better.
The Scarlet Knights rank third in the American in scoring offense and are well-prepared for a shootout, having played two games already this season with more than 100 points scored. Rutgers fell 52-51 in the season opener at Fresno State and went on the road to defeat SMU 55-52 earlier this month. Outside of those two games, the Rutgers defense has played very well, surrendering just 14.5 points per contest. The Scarlet Knights will be without leading rusher Paul James on Saturday, but can rely on junior quarterback Gary Nova, who has passed for 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns. Rutgers is also one of five FBS teams to return two kickoffs for touchdowns this season.
Extra point – Houston kicker Richie Leone (25-25) and Rutgers kicker Kyle Federico (21-21) have combined to go 46-46 on extra points this season, ranking first and second in the American.