No. 18 Houston eager to finish schedule strong at Memphis
Coach Tom Herman is reminding his 18th-ranked Houston Cougars to BYOJ for their regular season finale.
That's ''Bring Your Own Juice.''
The Cougars are coming off a 36-10 upset of then-No. 3 Louisville last week, a win that catapulted them back into the Top 25 . But Houston (9-2, 5-2) wraps up the schedule Friday on the road and the Cougars have already lost twice on the road in league play to Navy and SMU. Herman said part of the issue is a lot of places around the American Athletic Conference aren't like their home stadium.
''Memphis plays in a big stadium where there'll probably be some empty seats in it, and that's OK,'' Herman said. ''We've got to bring our own juice and energy. We've got to mature as a team to do that. We'll find out. That's something we've already addressed with the team, and we'll find out during pregame warm-up how well they respond to that challenge.''
The Tigers (7-4, 4-3) have won two of their last three, including a 34-7 win at Cincinnati last week and Memphis has plenty of motivation.
Memphis has lost six straight to Houston, including a painful 35-34 loss last season . The Tigers have a new coach in Mike Norvell, who took over when Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech, and a new quarterback with Riley Ferguson replacing Paxton Lynch, now with the NFL's Denver Broncos.
Right guard Gabe Kuhn said that loss is in the back of everyone's mind who was here a year ago.
''I'd be lying if I said I dropped it at the time,'' Kuhn said. ''It still hurts. That's one of those games that you just expect to win and you're in it the whole game. A lot of things fall out of place and you lose in the end.''
The Tigers can make their case for a better bowl berth if they can end the Cougars' dominance, while Houston can clinch the first back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins in school history Friday.
''There is a definitely an added incentive there,'' Houston tight end Tyler McCloskey said.
Some other things to know about Houston and Memphis:
WHO'S AT QUARTERBACK: Ferguson played only two series at Cincinnati before watching the rest of the game with an injury. Norvell said Ferguson has practiced, but both Ferguson and Jason Stewart are preparing to start. Ferguson has thrown for 2,917 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
UPDATE ON OLIVER: Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver helps anchor Houston's stingy defense, ranking second nationally with 19 + tackles for loss. Oliver is dealing with a sprained knee, but Herman said the lineman ran around with a brace and expects him to play. ''He isn't 100 percent, but he's at 90 percent, which is still pretty good,'' Herman said.
STINGY COUGARS: Houston racked up 11 sacks against Louisville last week, and the Cougars come into this game ranked 10th nationally in total defense giving up just 304.1 yards per game. They rank second allowing just 93.5 yards rushing.
MEMPHIS' TAKEAWAYS: The Tigers play some pretty mean defense themselves, and they specialize in taking the ball away. Memphis is tied for second in the nation with 26 takeaways and rank 15th nationally in turnover margin. The Tigers forced three turnovers in beating Cincinnati, their sixth game with multiple takeaways this season. They also have returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
HERMAN'S FUTURE: Where Herman coaches next has been a hot topic for weeks, giving his Cougars something other than just empty seats to ignore. Herman says the only challenge for Houston is focusing on trying to beat Memphis. ''I have very honest conversations with our team, and there are no distractions,'' Herman said.
AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis contributed to this report.
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.